Understand Why your Dog just ‘Won’t Listen’ and 3 Easy Ways On How to Work On It

By Divya Sanbhwani, Dog Trainer & Co-Founder at All Ears for Animals

Back in the day, receiving a call to train a dog for a case of aggression or reactivity was a phenomenon trainers and experts were familiar with, it would be a classic case of miscommunication between dog and parent of their respected roles, and with the right kind of guidance and letting go of any kind of treats to train or a crate to restrict, we were able to bring back the harmony at home and strengthen the relationship imbibing mutual trust, love and respect.

Here’s where it gets interesting, last month we received a query with behavioural concern listed as “My dog is stubborn, he just doesn’t listen” – well, considering that this wasn’t the first of its kind, I said to my colleague – it seems like this is our new normal!

But how did it come into being? Where is the loyalty our dogs were always known for? Time to dig deeper and find out! As per Psychology Today, our dogs experience six primary emotions presumed to be largely instinctive and biologically based such as—anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise, along with other 16 secondary emotions. In this entire list, both primary or secondary, there is no mention of stubbornness – so how is it possible for such a trait to reach our homes in today’s day and age?

The answer to this question is simple, we confuse persistence with stubbornness. Always remember our dog’s inherent pack leader behaviours, even though some studies may show otherwise or talk about positive enforcement is the way to go, when how is it so that when a pack of community dogs are observed in their most natural state, they are all trained to follow the pack leader! Not just during hunting or guarding – but even following their emotional and spiritual state of mind – every pack leader ensures all members are aligned to his mind, body and spirit and hence you notice the pack is united in their thoughts and actions.

So if you ask yourself- who would you trust more? Are your neutral observations learning about dogs from dogs themselves, or a Google searched science experiment written by another human? That is for you to answer.

Persistence. What we add a negative connotation to that, “Look, what a stubborn dog!” – at the same time a dog would add a positive connotation to it thinking to himself, “If I am persistent enough… I am sure I will able to convey the message of doing it my way!”

And oh, they do and how! While they showed their side of persistence, a move that a pack leader would play to guide the pack the way he thinks things need to be done around here, at the same time, when we as a pet parent succumb to it – that leads to a pack member’s ideal trait – surrender.

If you have heard yourself go, “Aaah, fine – take it, take it here you go” or “OMG, I know you will never listen, I give up”

For a dog, that’s not a win… it’s a return on investment. Think of it this way – a dog invested in persistence, repeatedly over and over again to communicate to you through body language THIS is what I wanted – and all that lead to? That’s correct, you are giving them exactly that in return.

So the next time your dog wants something from you, easy peasy! They have studied you thoroughly to know how patient or persistent you can be, and if they see you give in easily, then buddy – that’s when you will drop a message to us with a behavioural concern, “My dog is stubborn, he just doesn’t listen”

Now that we have established it is Persistence that we are working with, it’s time to jump right into learning three straightforward ways how to work on it,

1. Identify the difference between needs vs. wants

There is a simple rule we follow in training which says – a need can be served and a want can be ignored/corrected. Each time, you notice your dog being persistent about something ask yourself – is it a need or a want? Does he need to run with my slipper or does he want to? Does he need to pull me on a leash in this direction or does he want to? Accordingly, you establish your need and enforce it through body language.

2. Learn to work on the root cause rather than focusing on only the symptoms

If your dog is persistent about something and you do understand that it’s a need to serve, for example choosing not to eat the meals you serve them – then it’s important to get to the root cause – the seed that has been sown. It’s easy to pluck the fruits that the tree bears thinking the problem is solved, unaware that the roots are still strong it will bear those same fruits again. At any time, you feel your dog is exhibiting certain behaviour, ask yourself… What is the reason for my dog to feel this way? How can I help them by listening, understanding and serving them better? When both of you are on the same page – that shows your mind is aligned with each other.

3. Persistence is a beautiful quality, use it wisely

Just because you are a pack leader, does not mean your dog HAS TO listen to you. But when you practice as a calm, compassionate and consistent pack leader, he loves to listen to you. That’s the difference, your actions speak louder than words, just like how your dog didn’t have to walk around with a sign that says “stubborn” or say it verbally to you – you could observe it through his behaviour, similarly, they see it in our behaviour too. With great power comes great responsibility.

To conclude, the only thing that can help your dog let go of their persistence is when yours tops theirs, in simple words, when they find it easier to surrender because they trust and respect your word over theirs.

To know more about training dogs without treats or chains, instead focusing on body language and understanding them through communication, connect with us at www.allearsforanimals.com

Author :

Divya Sanbhwani is a Canine Behaviorist and specializes in training techniques without treats or choke chains. She has been in the field of working with animals since 2016 and believes she wouldn’t have transformed her passion into a profession if it wouldn’t be for the four paws paving her path and leading the way.

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