Stubborn as a mule?
Just like humans dogs come from many different backgrounds, different genetic heritage and have different learning styles. All of these factors affect your dog's ability to learn and their ease of training. The hardest to train dogs are not a specific breed, although breed profile does affect some aspects of behaviour and willingness to learn but more so learning styles. This is the cause of many owners coming up against training struggles with their furry friend. How do you train a dog which has no interest in food or you as an owner, does not listen, is manipulative, stubborn, and has bundles of attitude on top? Before you continue reading I would like to inform you that I completely sympathise with your frustration, I currently own a stubborn as a mule dog. she is constantly testing my skill set as a trainer and behaviourist, and I am constantly having to find little tricks and adjust my teaching theory in order to get results from her. one of the many training problems I have had with our stubborn as mule dog was that it took me six months using various different methods and tricks to get her to come in from outside. she would simply sit there, stare at me as if to say "no thanks, mum I'm happy out here". No two dogs are the same, and depending on age, bread, family environment will impact on a dogs behaviour profile. If you have had your dog from puppy you will of come against various different developmental milestones which would have affected your dog's attention span and tolerance levels.
If like me you have had a stubborn mule form the beginning, then in some ways it is easier to adapt. It is harder for owners in situations which have always had the ideal behaved pooch which suddenly decides a few years down the line that it no longer wishes to abide by the rules and boundaries previously set out, and oh by the way who are you?
The main struggles owners have with a stubborn as a mule dog is getting them to respond and listen. The dog does not comply with your training despite your best efforts and everything you have been advised or read about in books just does not work. So what's the answer? there are many different components you need to look at within the dogs every day to day, you need to look at the type of relationship you have with them ( possibly you don't have one given how much hard work he has been). what have you tried so far, how did dog react to certain training?
Relationship breakdown: it is exhausting having this type of dog, you try and try but get nowhere, you are left extremely frustrated and as a result, there has been a complete break down in your relationship with your dog. you may have had many a moment where you have considered rehoming your beloved pooch. The break down in the relationship is not helping your situation right now, and although you may feel like or already have given up, dig deep within in yourself to find a way to rebuild your relationship. Dogs feed off trust and confidence in their owner, if they don't trust you then they are unlikely to listen to you.
Find your dog's learning style: yes every dog has one, just like humans. some dogs learn best through games some learn best in an intense training environment, where the learning is quick paced. Try different styles and see which one your dog reacts best to.
Environment: set your dog up for success, do not try to train a new exercise in the middle of the woods, where there is deer scent, squirrels running across the path, smell of boar etc. How can you expect a dog to learn a new skill when he has all these distractions around him.
Get them excited: humans are ruled by their emotions which feeds into our dogs. If we approach a training exercise and use the same boring tone for the cue and the praise, the dog has no idea you are pleased with him. likewise, if you are stressed or anxious your dog is not going to feel comfortable and is, therefore, going to find it hard to concentrate on training.
Reward: so you've tried food, but was it of high value. So many clients come to me and stress that their dog won't train for food when I ask what food treat they use they respond saying "kibble from his daily diet". well, could that be any more boring? you want your dog to be eager to learn, for that you need high value. A high-value reward is a food type which the dog does not receive on a regular basis, it needs to smell strong, taste strong and be easy to swallow. Things such as Frankfurt sausages, cheese, liver cake, chicken are all good reward foods.
Food still not working: Try a toy, choose a toy which is to only be used in training, and which your dog is not allowed access to any other time. To make the toy more irresistible you can spray it with some animal scent.
Hands off: piling on the pressure with these dogs does not work, you just force them into shut down and more resistance. Through trial and error and with the assistance of a behaviourist and trainer find some hands-off methods which get you the result you require.
Patients: You need the patience of a saint to cope with these dogs. They will constantly test your patience. you need to be prepared to put the work in.
Above all don't feel like you have failed your dog if you require some help and support. as mentioned these dogs are extremely hard work, and you have tried your hardest. Take the pressure off your self by getting some expert advice. Sometimes it is hard to see to the sun behind the clouds, but with the guidance of a behaviourist and trainer, you will soon find what works for both you and your dog in order for you to live in harmony together.