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Doesn’t come when called or Stubbornness

by on January 10, 2012

By: Gail I. Clark, Ph.D.

Q: Why is my dog so stubborn, and ignores me when I call him?

“My dog knows what to do, he is just being stubborn” is top of the complaint list from new clients. Owners are quick to label their dogs “stubborn” if their dog refuses to follow a command or perform a task he has done before, “he knows this, he is just being stubborn.” Dogs are not stubborn; they refuse to obey commands because they are fast learners who haven’t had enough practice to accurately learn the task, slow learners who need more practice to learn the task, or dogs who have learned response resistance and know they don’t have to respond to your commands.

The fast learner who picks up the concepts quickly, and responds correctly after you show her once or twice what to do, hasn’t learned the lesson, rather, she got lucky and guessed the correct response. She won’t always guess correctly and is therefore labeled stubborn.

The slower learner is not stubborn about coming, she needs more practice to learn the correct response because she has a low success rate for guessing correctly or chooses not to guess.

Regardless of your dog’s learning style, fast or slow, after they learn the lesson and the correct response pattern is fixed in your dog’s brain, she will quickly learn response resistance if you do not enforce or follow through with your commands.

Learned Resistance.
Learned response resistance develops in dogs when people don’t follow through with enforcing their commands. Dogs discover very quickly they don’t have to respond, because you either won’t or don’t know how to back up your commands. Even if stubborn were part of the equation, you simply need to be more stubborn and enforce your commands. You must follow through or enforce your commands consistently and persistently to avoid your dog learning response resistance or “stubbornness.” Teaching your dog to obey your command on the first request may mean the difference between life and death for her if she accidentally gets loose and runs out in the road.

Enforcing your commands is good leadership and imperative for building a healthy and rewarding relationship.

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