He's just being stubborn!
May 21, 2010 -
Let’s say you and I are in a room together with a chair in it and I tell you I’ll give you $100 if you sit in the chair. Give me 5 reasons you might not sit in the chair. Back hurts?
Let’s say you and I are in a room together with a chair in it and I tell you I’ll give you $100 if you sit in the chair.
Give me 5 reasons you might not sit in the chair.
Back hurts? Chair broke last time you sat in it?
There’s a spider on the chair?
You don’t need the money and would rather stand?
You didn’t hear me?
You didn’t understand me?
I bet you didn’t say because you’re stubborn.
That would be silly right?
Turning down $100 to sit in a chair because you’re being stubborn?
Merriam-Webster defines stubborn as: “unreasonably or perversely unyielding.” So, how is it that “stubborn” is almost always the first reason people turn to when their dog doesn’t do as he’s told? Do these people really think the dogs are unreasonable and perverse? It’s a little mind boggling really. Imagine you are trying to teach your small dog to lie down. In our classes, which are held on concrete floors and with all sizes of dogs, we use a food lure to teach a down. I cannot count how many times I’ve been working with a small dog that won’t lie down and the owner keeps commenting on how stubborn the dog is. Clearly, the dog can’t be “being stubborn” if he has no clue what we want. Usually the dog is trying hard to get the treat and would gladly lie down if he knew that’s what we wanted.
Sometimes though, the dog has figured out that lying down gets him the treat, but he finds the hard floor uncomfortable or is intimidated by the other, bigger dogs. Being uncomfortable or scared and refusing to do something is not unreasonable. So let’s assume that the dog has previously demonstrated that he understands the command, does not appear to be intimidated, scared, uncomfortable, etc., and yet still he does not do as he’s told. I’ve found that the problem is almost always a “reward value” problem. What I mean by that is, if the dog is busy sniffing around or not paying attention and you’ve got yummy dog treats that he normally likes but he’s not interested in today, if you will up the value of the reward (i.e. use cheese or chicken or something great) you will almost always see the dog comply. If a dog is not doing what you want, the problem is either: you are not making it worth his while, he doesn’t understand/didn’t hear you/hasn’t been trained for it, or there is some other unknown (but reasonable) excuse for his non-compliance.
Positive reinforcement training is about rewarding the behaviors that we like. As long as we have a good enough reward, your dog will not disobey solely to “be stubborn”. They just don’t think like that. So next time you ask your dog for something and he doesn’t do it, give him the benefit of the doubt and figure out why. Your training, your dog’s compliance, and your relationship with your dog will benefit from it!