Why is my dog so disobedient?

It’s not necessarily that your dog doesn’t know what you are asking them to do.  It’s not necessarily even that they are choosing to ‘disobey’ you.  Simply put if your dog isn’t doing what you are asking of them, it doesn’t feel that he/she should.

disobedient dog
Disobedient, or just following his/her instincts?

Humanise it for a moment.  If someone askes you to do something and you don’t do it, what would your reasons be?  Most likely one or a combination of:

  • It just didn’t feel that important to you.
  • There was something else to do, and you had to choose which was more important.
  • There was something else to do which was preferrable.
  • You don’t believe that you need to do what is being asked.
  • You believe that doing what you are being asked is going to set some kind of precident.
  • You planned to, but forgot/hadn’t got round to it yet.

Ultimately you didn’t do it because you have free will, right?  So why would we expect any different of our dogs.  Dogs were not put on this earth to be obedient to us.  In fact, in my training when we talk about how to ask dogs to do something, I call it a “request” rather than a “command”.

We have, however, been conditioned as a society to believe that our dogs should do what we ask, and therefore think that there is something wrong when they don’t.  I’ve got an ulternative way of looking at this situation.  Instead consider this question…

What do I need to do, to convince my ‘disobedient’ dog, that following my request is a good idea…?

You need to do a couple of things:

  • Understand what is going on for your dog.  When you can empathise with them, you have more compassion for why they may not choose to do as you ask.  Then your requests will be friendlier and with less pressure on you or your dog to get it right.  More on this shortly…
  • Convince your dog that they can trust your decisions.  When your dog knows that you are taking care of the pack, their instincts tell them that on the whole it is in their interests to do what you ask.  This is all about leadership, and this is what I teach my clients how to achieve.  Check out other blog posts for more information.
disobedient on a lead
On a lead it’s difficult to protect yourself and the pack…

What is going on for my disobedient dog?

Your dog understands two very important things.  Survival of the pack is the first priority.  This comes before all other things.  So if they perceive an issue which pertains to survival – that will come over what you are asking them to do (unless they are clear that your suggestion renders their ideas unnecessary).

Secondly, hierarchy needs to be defined and understood.  This very closely links to survival, because it is the leader who works the hardest to ensure the survival of the pack.  So if your dog isn’t doing what you ask, but it doesn’t seem to be related to survival (e.g. they’ve run off with a sock and won’t bring it back), then they may be choosing to be ‘disobedient’ to maintain their status in the pack as higher than yours.  Doing things on their terms, rather than on yours.  They will see this as important behaviour to clarify the hierarchy and confirm whether they need to look after you or not.

Sound complicated?  It’s not really…

What it is though is different.  It’s a paradigm shift from what we’ve been brought up to believe about our dogs.  Once you understand this, then learning what to do and applying it consistently is all that’s required.  That’s where I come in.  I provide in home consultations for people with disobedient dogs (and all sorts of other behaviour problems).  I’m based in Leigh on Sea, and cover the surrounding area, including Southend, Rayleigh, Basildon, Chelmsford.  Plus slightly further afield outside of Essex.  Get in touch if you would like to know more about how I can help you.

I can also strongly recommend that you have a read of the book “The Dog Listener” by Jan Fennell.


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