Why Your Dog is Non-Compliant

It is generally understood in our human-centric world, that animals don’t get a say in much. We know what’s best for them and they should be thankful for all we do for them. I hear this often. Probably a few times a week. The people saying this are self-described animals lovers. Probably so are the people reading this.

It is almost a sin for an animal, especially a “domestic” animal, to show any kind of response that can be interpreted as non-compliant. Be it aggression, or simply being uncooperative. If a dog does something “wrong” their entire identity is branded with a label like biter, aggressive, vicious, stubborn, dumb, rude, or just… rescue. Yes “rescue” is a branding which tends to be used as an exception, a kind of “get out of jail free” card for non-compliance that protects the dog’s “character” and the adopters ego from the other harsher labels, but it is a brand none the less. That the dog “doesn’t” know better. That they are recovering from some kind of hardship.

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In reality, these brands/labels are forms of projection. They are an act of defense protecting our egos and social identities from the errors of our ways. They are a way to shirk responsibility.


When a dog is non-compliant we reflexively blame them for the outcome when we were the ones in control of the success and failure. Since we are in control of all of our dog’s freedoms, experiences and sustenance, we can shape almost any outcome. But we are generally in too much of a hurry to consider the steps required let alone achieve the result we want. Few people are willing to see the steps that must be taken prior to success. This is not just a problem we have with dogs, but with all animals (humans too!).

Reality Check:

A biter: a dog who has had previous attempts at defusing an uncomfortable situation ignored and whom was finally pushed to the point of defending themselves.

Aggressive: a dog who is continuously provoked in a way that makes it feel increasingly uncomfortable and is given no way to escape or otherwise control the situation.

Vicious: a dog who finds interactions directed towards them to be too unsafe and too unpredictable to not always be on guard and defensive.

Stubborn: a dog who finds the outcome of a cue, command, or interaction to be of no value, confusing or punishing.

Dumb: a dog who disregards interactions with humans until the outcome is clear and very much in their favor.

Rude: a dog that has learned that the only way to receive attention and physical contact is to initiate it themselves with as much gusto as possible.

Rescue: a dog whose forms of communication are continuously ignored or responded to inconsistently, who feels unsure, scared or uneasy, and is not receiving the support they need to develop resilience and confidence.

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The lesson to take away from this is that we are responsible for our dog’s successes and failures. We can take the time to help our animals have a positive successful experience. All dog’s start in a different spot and have some skills that will be easier to develop than others. But to ignore their non-compliance as anything other than a failure on our parts to communicate and create a partnership is a complete and utter failure on your part. Step up, drop the labels, and train your dog.