'Stubbornness' Is Not The Reason
Sometimes we see people labelling their dogs as ‘just stubborn’ or as ‘awkward’ when the dogs seemingly ignore the human’s cues. This is not fair and also inaccurate. Here we are going to look at reasons why a dog may not respond to a cue in the way their people want.
They have not learned the cue reliably
Coaching a cue to the point where the dog understands what is being requested from them consistently is a process, and it takes time and practise to get the dog able to be able to do what is asked of them every time. This is complicated by the fact that, just because a dog knows what ‘sit’ means in their garden at home, they don’t automatically know that ‘sit’ means the same at the park or on the path through the woods. Dogs are not good at ‘generalising’ cues to different environments without help. This is why we need to ‘proof’ our cues, by coaching them in a variety of different places so help our dogs understand that ‘sit’ means the same thing wherever it is asked of them.
There might be distractions in the environment around them
This follows on well from generalising cues as distractions in the environment are something we must be aware of. During the proofing process the number of distractions around should be gradually increased so that the dog is given the best chances of success at being able to respond to our cues. Returning to our example of a dog who knows and can follow a cue to ‘sit’ in their quiet garden at home is not going to be able to concentrate the same way in a public area where there are dogs playing within sight. Keep an eye on what is going on around when out with the dog to make sure it’s fair to expect them to do as they are asked, and pre-emptively plan for how to deal with the situation if the distraction levels are too high. Maybe use a long line attached to the dog’s harness if their recall might be a bit hit and miss in a higher distraction environment.