Tips to Train a Disobedient Dog
Lack of comprehension is sometimes mistaken for disobedience. If your dog is not responding to a command, it might be that he’s simply not sure what it is that you want him to do. That’s not a behavioral problem; it just means that you need to spend some more time together in training. You should find the following tips to train a disobedient dog useful!
Actual disobedience takes place when your dog deliberately ignores a command or request, even though he has full knowledge and understanding of what it is that you’re asking him to do. (You will be aware of this because he’s performed it reliably many times before.)
You might see this as a fairly minor annoyance; however, it’s much more serious than it seems. Not only will it adversely affect your relationship with your dog, it can also be dangerous for him (for example, if he’s heading towards a busy road and ignores your “Come here!” command).
Disobedience has its Foundation in Disrespect
When your dog deliberately ignores your commands, he’s saying, “I don’t respect your authority enough to do what you want me to do”. If you allow him to get away with this, he will easily be able to form the habit of passive aggression. This is not a problem that you can just leave to rectify itself; if you leave it, it will worsen, rather than improve.
It’s crucial that your dog understands that you are above him in the social order of the household.
In order to maintain a healthy, functional relationship with your dog, you need to understand the concept of alpha status. From a human point of view, it may sound callous but your dog is happier when he knows that someone else is in charge of all the decision-making. This includes his obedience levels and his daily behavior.
It’s not possible to have a good dog/owner relationship if your dog does not understand that you are the unequivocal authority figure; he must know that he is beneath you in the chain of command.
How to Overcome Generalized Disobedience
The first step you should take towards dealing with generalized disobedience is to re-establish your supremacy.
Here are some tips you can follow:
- When you leave your house or your car, always exit before your dog. He will see this as unmistakable alpha behavior – to a dog, the alpha always leaves first. If you allow him to leave ahead of you, you’ll be saying to him, “You’re greater than I; you should go first because you’re the decision-maker”.
Inside doors are not so important but, whenever you go outside of the house or car, you should make him wait for you to go first, then you can release him from the wait with an appropriate release word.
- Let him wait for his food. You and your family should always eat before him; it won’t hurt him at all to wait an extra half hour or so for his meal. When you put his food down for him, make him sit and wait until you release him to eat. Vary his feeding schedule to make him aware that you’re in charge of his food. Don’t give him a chance to form expectations of when he should be fed.
- Don’t allow him free, unrestricted access to the entire house. The house is your den; you’re allowing him to be inside. Remind him that it’s a privilege, not a right, to sometimes be allowed into your den and that he must expect to sometimes be sent outside for half an hour or so. Also, keep special places in your house out of bounds to him (such as your bed, certain items of furniture or some rooms.
- Never let your dog initiate play. You might think it’s cute when he nudges you to start a game or get some attention but what he’s really saying is, “I’m the boss and I want you to play with me right now”.
If he starts troubling you for attention, ignore him for a little while; go off and do something else. Wait until he’s given up, then initiate the play yourself. Playing together is a great way to bond with your dog; however, it should be done on your terms, not his.
- On your return home, don’t rush straight over to him and smother him with affection. That is quite contrary to alpha behavior. When an alpha dog arrives home, he doesn’t go over to the other members of the pack and say, “Here I am, I missed you guys – let’s have a cuddle!”. He’ll ignore the others and relax for a short while, perhaps have something to eat, and will only interact with them when he’s good and ready.
Even though you’ll most likely be good and ready to interact with your dog the moment you arrive home, it’ll make more sense to him – and affirm your authority – if you ignore him for just a few minutes after returning home.
Another excellent way to counteract disobedience is to establish – and maintain – a basic obedience-training plan. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant or super-challenging: just ten minutes a day of enforcing and learning commands. You can reduce this to five minutes a day once your dog is completely familiar and reliable with the commands.
Tips for a good obedience-training program:
- Never give a command that you cannot reinforce immediately if your dog chooses to disobey you. Every time you give him the opportunity to ignore your command, he’ll become more aware that it’s both easier and much more fun to ignore you.
For example, if you have him out in the park where he’s happily playing with some other dogs and you call for him to come, the choices are straightforward for him: he could cut short his playtime and come to you, or he could ignore you and continue to have fun (which is easy, since you’re some distance away).
Until your dog is completely reliable with commands, he should be on a long line or retractable leash so that you can enforce your commands, if necessary.
- Remember to use your voice to the best effect. You should give praise in a light, cheerful tone of voice. Smile at the same time, if you can – it’ll make a difference to your tone of voice. Most dogs will also study your face to make sense of your expressions.
You should voice corrections in a stern, take-no-nonsense tone; there’s no need to shout but your voice should be low and authoritative.
- Don’t repeat a command. Remember, you should be training with a long line or leash. If your dog ignores you, give him a sharp flick on the lead to remind him that you’re present and in charge. Repeating the action will only teach him to wait for your repeated command at least once before taking action to obey you.
- Up to 15 minutes a day is ample time for training. If you exceed this in one sitting, your dog’s concentration is likely to lapse. When your dog is concentrating hard on what you want, fifteen minutes of intense training will be enough to make even the most energetic of dogs want to take a nap afterwards.
Once your dog has mastered these training basics, you can move on to more advanced training if you wish, but it’s not something you should consider essential.
- Another fine option is professional obedience-training classes. They are an excellent way of getting your dog to socialize. He’ll be able to interact with other dogs and their owners. He’ll also learn to concentrate on what you want, despite the many distractions taking place around him.
It’s also very helpful to have face-to-face contact with a trained professional; he or she could take note of any mistakes you might be making and advise you accordingly on brushing up your dog training techniques.
For more information on typical canine behavior, including a superb resource for training “how-tos” and tons of information on preventing and overcoming dog-behavior problems, you can’t do better than check out Secrets to Dog Training.
Written by a professional dog trainer, it’s an engrossing guide that encompasses every subject that a responsible dog owner could ever want to know about: