How to Train a Stubborn Puppy


When a puppy doesn't listen, many owners believe it is because they are stubborn. However, many dog trainers believe that this is one of many dog training myths. Instead it is possible that your puppy doesn't understand what is being asked of him, is hyper and easily distracted or is so frightened that he shuts down in the environment.

Determine Motivation

To properly train your puppy, you must first understand your puppy's motivation:

  • Decide when your puppy is behaving stubbornly. Maybe it is happening only in strange environments or around food.
  • Observe your puppy's body language. If her tail is tucked or ears back, she is showing indicators of fear.
  • Maybe your puppy is easily distracted or underexercised. If so, you may be seeing this behavior only in strange environments or on days when she has missed her walk. You might notice her looking around frantically, indicating your puppy is hyper rather than stubborn.

Put Your Puppy to Work

Make your puppy work for everything he likes. If your puppy is getting lots of free attention and treats, he may not have any motivation to learn what you want him to do. Instead, only reward him when he does things you like. This is often referred to as the nothing in life is free program.

Hand-feed your puppy his meals for two weeks while doing training. Give him a command and then reward him with a small handful of food. Do this for every meal. If he refuses, put the food away and feed him again during his next meal.


  • There are many reinforcers other than food that you can use to reward your puppy. Make a list of all the things your puppy loves, such as belly rubs, tennis balls or cut up hot dogs. Make him work for all these things.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Your puppy may seem stubborn because she doesn't understand your commands. Just because your puppy knows how to sit in your living room when you are holding a treat doesn't mean she knows how to sit at the park with lots of dogs running around.

Practice in the environments in which she struggles. Start in a moderately distracting environment. You can't go from your living room to the park. Practice in your backyard, your front yard or quiet neighborhoods. Use high value rewards and gradually build up to working in the park. If your puppy struggles, move to a less distracting area and try again.


  • Don't use physical punishment during training. You don't want to get into a physical confrontation with your puppy, especially if he is just fearful or distracted. This will not build a relationship of trust. Focus on training before introducing punishment.

Take a Class

If you are struggling with your training, enroll in a basic manners class with a professional dog trainer. These classes will teach you how to teach your puppy basic commands and develop a stronger relationship. This can help spark your training program and get your puppy back on the right track.

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