First we need to make the difference between disobedience and incomprehension. If your dog does not obey you simply because he does not understand what you are asking of him it is not behavorial problem. In this case you just need to train a little more together and maybe you need to learn the methods needed to make him understand.
When your dog really disobeys you deliberately, he knows what you mean but ignores you command. If your dog has already performed the command several times before but refuse to do it now then you can be sure the disobedience is deliberate.
This might seem like a minor inconvenience but is actually quite serious. It can be dangerous for your dog (imagine if he is running across the road and ignores your “come” command) and it is also detrimental for your relationship with your dog.
A disobedient dog is disrespectful. When your dog deliberately disobeys you he is saying that he does not respect your authority and does not consider you superior to him. You must not let him get away with this but must immediately establish yourself as the leader of your household. The same goes for the rest of the family. The other members of your family should also be superior to him.
It is important to understand the concept of the alpha dog. This is important in order to keep a healthy and functional relationship with your dog. It might not seem appealing from a human point of view but a dog is much happier when someone else is taking the decisions for him. A lot behavior problems with dogs, relate to this.
A dog suffering from separation anxiety for example, often does this because she thinks she is in charge of the family and has to protect them. When the family leaves with out her, she gets worried because she can not see them and therefore not protect them. When someone else is in charge she will relax, knowing that protection is not her task. So to maintain a healthy relationship with your dog, you need to be his/her superior.
So the first thing you need to do in order to deal with disobedience is to re-establish your authority
– When you leave your house or car you must leave before your dog. Among dogs, the Alpha dog always leave first. So never allow him to exit first, by doing this you are telling him that he is the decision maker an that he should go first. Doors inside your house are not that important but the front door of your house or your car is. You should go out first and then give him the command to follow.
– You and your family should eat before him. It does not matter if he has to wait half an hour for his food. Make sure you and your family eat first. When serving your dog, let him sit first and then give him the command that he may eat.
– Don’t give him free access to the entire house.
The house is your den and your rules apply. Restrict access to certain parts of the house and certain pieces of furniture, such as your bed and maybe your sofa. If you give access to your sofa, make sure he only jumps up on it when you have given him the command to do so.
– Your dog should not be allowed to initiate play. A dog who is nudging you for attention or if he wants to play a game might seem cute and affectionate, but what it really means is: I am the boss and I am telling you to play with me. If he bothers you for attention, ignore him until he gives up and then take the initiative to play with him. Playing is a great way to bond with your dog but make sure the game is on your terms and not his.
– When you get home don’t run to him to give him attention and affection. This is not the behavior of an alpha dog. When the alpha dog get home, he does not go over to the other dogs to cuddle with them. He ignores them, maybe he relaxes for a little while or have something to eat and when he is ready he will go over to the others. You might be ready to cudde with your dog directly when you get inside the door but to your dog it will make more sense if you ignore him for a few minutes. This is the behavior of the Alpha dog.
Another great way of working against disobedience is to to create a basic obedience training plan and then maintain it. It does not need to be fancy or demanding. You just need to do this 10 minutes a day and this can be dropped to 5 minutes a day when your dog executes the commands reliably.
-Some important key points:
– Don’t give commands that can not be obeyed immidiately Every time your dog ignores your command he learns that it is easier and more fun to ignore you. If for example he is at the other side of the park playing with other dogs he would most likely prefer to ignore your command and keep playing instead of coming to you. This would be easy, as you are so far away. Your dog should be kept on a long line or retractable lead so you can control him as needed.
– Use your voice as a tool. When you praise your dog your voice should have a light, cheery, happy tone.; Smiling at the same time will make it even better as dogs often study your face and check the expressions of your face. too. When correcting your dog your voice should have a stern, brook-no-nonsense tone. No need to shout but your voice should be authoritative and low.
When you’re verbally stopping your dog, it works better to shout “OI or Ah Ah Ah instead of No, these sounds will be more clear cut and effective.
– Do not repeat a command. Remember, you should be training on a leash or a long line: if he ignores you, he gets a short, sharp tug (some call it a ‘flick’) on the lead to remind him that you’re present, and you’re in charge. Repeating yourself teaches him to wait for the command to be repeated at least once before he obeys you.
-Keep training sessions short.
A dog is not able to keep its concentration for too long. A training session between 5 and 15 minutes every day is enough. Many dogs are exhausted after a 15 minute training session and head for their beds to take a nap,
If you feel like it, you can move on to more advanced training after your dog has mastered the basics but from an obedience point of view, this is not necessary.
– Formal obedience training classes is another option. They are a good way of socializing your dog as he gets to interact with other dogs and their owners. It will also teach him to concentrate on what you want, despite the many distractions taking place around him. It is also helpful to to have personal contact with a professional dog trainer. He or she can give you feedback on your progress and give you advice on your training techniques.
If you want to learn more
If you want to learn more about dogs behavior and psychology I would suggest that you take a look at Secrets to Dog Training. It is written by a professional dog trainer and gives you all information you need to train your dog, to prevent and solve and dog training problems you might have. Here is a link to my review of Secrets to Dog Training.
Another option would be to take a look at the Online Dog Trainer. It is a video based training site where you learn how to train your dog by watching videos. There is also excellent support in the site’s forum, where questions are answered by the dog trainer, Doggy Dan himself. Here is a link to my review of the Online Dog Trainer