A strong-willed puppy can be a challenge to train, but investing the time and teaching your pup obedience can lead to a positive and rewarding lifelong relationship. Just like people, puppies have different personalities and temperaments, and some breeds are more high-strung and energetic than others. You may have to alter your training approach to your dog’s unique personality, trying different approaches until you find the one that works best.
Develop a training program you implement on your own, or with the help of a certified dog trainer or obedience school program. The sooner you start training your strong-willed pup, the more ingrained good habits will become. Begin by using a clicker and rewarding treats to teach basic commands. Start by giving your puppy a treat every time you use your clicker and then move on to associating the clicker and treats with commands like "sit," "stay" and "come."
Utilize crate training to get your dog comfortable with being crated, and use a collar and leash from the start of training to get your dog accustomed to the feel. Early and consistent leash training will also help you physically correct unwanted behaviors and reinforce positive behaviors. For example, if your puppy constantly runs off and ignores you, use the leash to bring him back to you and set your dominate role, teaching him the hierarchy of your pack.
Even though training a strong-willed puppy is often a matter of trial and error, once you find a technique that your pup responds to, stick with it consistently. This will reinforce positive behavior, decrease unwanted behavior and establish boundaries and expectations for your dog. A strong-willed puppy can also benefit from a regular routine, so try to stick with a schedule as much as possible.
A strong-willed puppy wants to be in charge, but it's important to establish yourself as the pack leader and encourage your pup’s respect and obedience. Be firm with every command and don't let your pup try to deviate from expected behaviors. You may have to repeat commands and go through basic obedience training motions over and over again until he begins to obey. Speak in a firm and commanding tone and praise often, but don't yell at your puppy, as this can frighten him and diminish trust.
Some dog owners utilize aversion training with strong-willed pups, in particular, choke chains and shock collars. This is a controversial training method, and The Humane Society of the United States notes that such methods have the potential to physically harm your dog. If you have tried firm obedience training methods with no luck, consult your vet or a certified trainer about more aggressive training methods and review the pros and cons of each.
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