Dealing with a Resistant Dog

Why are some dogs resistant to obedience training?


The most common cause of resistance in adult dogs is lack of leadership for most of the dog’s life. If you have seen any of my previous posts on puppies and adolescent dogs, you may have already encountered the concept of “pack leadership.”


Pack leadership is the most important aspect of obedience training.


All breeds of domestic dogs run on the same genetic codes that require them to follow a social structure (the pack) and an absolute authority figure (the pack leader). When a dog is part of a pack and is led by a good pack leader, it is often calm, submissive, balanced and a worthy companion for humans.


Submissiveness is not a negative canine trait!


A dog is only calm and submissive if it knows that it is part of a pack and there is a pack leader around to keep it alive and secure. Rules and boundaries within a pack formation are equivalent to survival. So the next time someone tells you that dogs need “friends” and not leaders, you already know what to say to this person.


Sadly, not all dog owners are aware of this or are willing to give the necessary time and effort to become the pack leader of their dogs.


What happens when a dog doesn’t have a pack leader?


There are several possible scenarios that you may have to contend with when your dog does not recognize you as a pack leader.


Scenario 1: “You’re Just Another Member of the Pack”


This is the most common situation for many dog owners. Since they did not act the part of a pack leader for so long, the dog now sees them as a regular member of the pack and not as an alpha dog. It doesn’t matter if you’re the one feeding him several times a day.


You’re not the leader and therefore, your rules don’t count. When an owner finally wants to become his dog’s leader, it takes longer to teach the dog that he has to follow the new alpha dog.  


Scenario 2: “I Belong To Another Pack”


If you have other dogs at home or if your dog regularly plays with neighborhood dogs, it is possible that your pet sees another dog as a pack leader.


Your dog may be living under your roof, but its mind is conditioned to follow the boundaries of another dog living somewhere else.


You won’t know it’s happening by just watching the dogs play. Dogs communicate purely through body language and it will take hours of observation to see how a new pack’s social structure is forming.


It would be a sad day indeed to see your dog acting as if it weren’t part of your human pack. There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing your dog bonding with other dogs and ignoring you or your family members.


Scenario 3: “I’m the Pack Leader”


There are some situations where a dog becomes self-centered and it becomes absorbed in its own desires and predilections. Some dogs begin to see themselves as pack leaders or as a “pack of one” where they make all the rules and no one can order them around.


A self-centered dog is often called “spoiled” by some dog owners because they don’t know exactly what went wrong with the dog’s mental conditioning.


Self-centeredness is actually a problematic mental state because your dog may decide to do dangerous things in the future and you would have little or no control over it when the time comes, simply because you’re not the dog’s natural leader.


What is the first step in resolving a damaged relationship with a dog?


Dog trainers like to call the teaching process “parenting” because ideal dog owners are not only interested in teaching their dogs to follow commands and positive behavior patterns; they want their dogs to be happy and healthy, too.


In short, you’re the type of pack leader who showers pack members (e.g. your pets) with affection but at the same time, are firm when it comes to discipline and boundaries, you’re in a good position to repair you relationship with your dog.


Adult dogs may be more resistant to training, but that doesn’t mean that they cannot be taught anymore. The learning cycle that typically closes after adolescence can be reopened by the owner in order to teach the dog new concepts and behaviors.


If you succeed in reopening the learning cycle, the behavioral issues that you have been encountering as of late will gradually diminish and your dog will be the lovable and dependable part of your family again.

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