Dogs have varied personalities, just like people do. While some are quiet, eager to please, and patient, others are stubborn, willful and plain difficult. If you have a difficult dog, you may be struggling to get even the basics of training down. Don’t despair—there are many steps that you can take before you need to call in the professionals. Here are four big tips for training a difficult dog.

1. Discover what Motivates Them

Those who have owned a dog in the past may be surprised when their new dog doesn’t respond well to their training methods. Different dogs are driven by different rewards and finding the right one for your dog can make training go much smoother. Here are some ideas:

  • Food: If your dog is not motivated by the treats you have, try higher-value treats such as salmon skin and dried liver. However, some dogs are just not motivated by food.
  • Retrieving: Labradors and Golden Retrievers can be easily rewarded with a game of fetch.
  • Play objects:Not all dogs know how to fetch, and others don’t enjoy it. However, you can reward your dog by giving them a toy when they do well. Try tug-of-war toys and squeaky toys. Remember, they only work as a reward if your dog doesn’t have normal access to them. Take them away after a bit.
  • Your attention:Some dogs are most motivated by your physical touch, praise, and even eye contact. Try to ignore your dog when they are doing wrong and reward them when they do right. Briefly placing a dog that is misbehaving in another room can work as a punishment. Just remember that their memory is short—a few moments of time-out is enough.

2. Understand Their Instincts

If you just can’t get your dog to stop doing a certain behavior, it may be that their instincts are driving them to do it. It can be challenging to fight these natural behaviors:

  • Hounds: Hounds may howl, bark, and dig holes.
  • Sighthounds: Sighthounds may chase things for long periods of time.
  • Herding dogs:Herding dogs may bark and alarm and may attempt to herd animals and people.
  • Terriers: Terriers may bark an alarm and may dig holes.
  • Retrievers: Retrievers may bring you objects.
  • Huskies: Huskies may run for long periods of time.
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To control this behavior, you can limit the situations where the dog is tempted to do it. For example, keep sighthounds on a leash and don’t let terriers outside unsupervised. Giving a dog a safe outlet for their behavior may also help. If you absolutely need to work against their instincts, you may need professional help.

3. Get Professional Help with Professional Tools

There are many tools that professional trainers will use when other methods have failed. However, using these tools incorrectly can do more harm than good. If you want to try one of these tools, we suggest that you get an expert to show you how to use them first:

  • Choke collars
  • Shock collars
  • Heeling sticks
  • Whistles
  • Clickers

4. Be Patient and Consistent

Stubborn dogs may need more training time and more consistency, but almost all can become the happy, well-trained pet that you want. As long as you’re patient and consistent, you should see improvements.