Top 10 Most Untrainable Dogs: Sound familiar?
The first thing you hear or read about when researching primitive dogs are their stereotypes and how difficult they are to share your life with. Articles frequently start with “The insert primitive breed here is one of the most untrainable dogs. "Stubborn," "hard to train," "dominant," and “hard headed" are the labels that tend to make everyone around you question why you would ever get a dog like this. These are the people that ask why you didn’t get an “easy” breed like a retriever. Hint: they also have their own issues.
It seems that all of the information on them point to all of their negative qualities, and less about their wonderful qualities. Why is this?
Many people, including dog trainers, don’t understand these dogs or what motivates them and are quick to give up on them rather than learn how to work with them.
Owning a primitive dog is one of the most rewarding experiences, you just need to know the secrets to living with them.
If you buy into the stereotypes, then yes, you are likely to end up with a dog who is "stubborn" and "hard to train." Kind of like a self-fulfilling prophecy, some owners create a mental image of how their dog is going to be and end up training them to fit the image. It’s easy for primitive dog guardians to chalk up their dog’s undesirable behaviors as them being a stubborn primitive dog, instead of re-evaluating what motivates the dog and working on the issue.
Many guardians still follow the outdated and frankly stale “traditional,” punishment based methods of training. These methods just make your primitive dog resistant to training, which ends up leading to the rabbit hole of stereotypes. The dog just learns that it isn’t worth dealing with the demands and chooses to tune them out because it isn’t a job worth doing. Similar to a poor paying job with a controlling boss, it’s not fun going to work and becomes a dreaded means to an end.
These dogs are independent thinkers that have been doing important jobs for thousands of years. People in history would not have kept them around if they were worthless. Village dogs kept predators away and ate garbage, guardians protected their flock, and others helped by hunting. Now, though, we give them unrealistic expectations of our modern lives without thinking about what they were doing for years before us.
That is why they are slapped with all of the stereotypes.
Instead of settling for what the internet or your non-primitive dog owning neighbor, or maybe even what your trainer tells you... start setting realistic expectations about your dog. Primitive dogs may not seem as biddable at first, but once you find what motivates them and earn their trust, things will change. They will become your teammate and love to work.
The three key pieces that will set you up for success are the following:
Nothing in life is free. You will need to put the work in to train your dog and find what motivates them.
Many owners are against using food rewards, especially high value ones like chicken, cheese, and other yummy treats. Food is a primary reinforcer for dogs, something that they rely on to survive. They value these rewards heavily, which is what motivates them to want to work with us.
When we use food in training, it is a means of currency.
We don’t want to work for free and neither does your dog. Praise them when they have done the correct behavior with verbal markers and valuable rewards and you will be amazed at how easy it is to train these dogs. They want to do a job, it may not be the one that they were doing for thousands of years but it will keep them busy and let them live a fulfilling life.
You need to work as a team or you will break the bond with your primitive dog. Once the bond is damaged, they will be resistant to work with you. You can prevent this or repair the bond between you and your dog if you see where they are coming from. Finding the root of why they are being resistant will help you grow together and overcome their lack of enthusiasm with training.
Is your dog not responding because they are fearful of something? Or that the training style doesn’t fit them? Or that the motivator isn’t worth it to them?
It may sound silly to ask some of these questions, but when you fix it, you will come together as a team and be able to move on. For example, the reactive dog who has been told “no” and punished for barking and lunging at other dogs is coming from a place of fear or anxiety. Once, you make them feel more comfortable through positive tools, your dog will feel more secure with you. Your primitive dog wants to work with you, not for you.
In our society, everything is at the edge of our fingertips on demand. Remember, you’re working with a living, breathing animal that has their own needs and wants. These dogs relied on their independent thinking for thousands of years, they want to work with you. As with any skill, you don’t become an expert overnight or without practice. The more effort and repetitions that you put towards your goals over time, the more progress that you will see. You will master that trick, learn that dog sport, or overcome the behavioral issue. The best part of the process is seeing the progress that you are making together!
You shouldn’t get a primitive dog if you aren't ready to make the commitment to a teammate and work together towards your goals, understand where they are coming from and work on it at a pace that they are comfortable. Once you are ready to work with their potential then the two of you will be able to conquer amazing training goals together!