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I got Oscar as a puppy and trained him using standard positive re-enforcement techniques. He would do something I wanted (like potty outside) and this resulted in praise and treats. I would take time every day and sit on the floor "at his level" and issue a command, then when he did it, praise and treats. Stopping him from doing things that I didn't want him to do, usually involved a gentle "Nope" or in rare cases a very loud "NO!" followed by directing him to the right thing (say "NO!" at chewing shoes then giving him a chew toy after a few seconds). I say this to demonstrate, that I have some experience and success with positive reinforcement. Oscar is well trained happy, and well balanced dog.

Now we got Shalio, as a puppy. Oscar is still around. We have tried the same exact technique. And while she responds well 60% of the time, she is extremely stubborn. If she doesn't want to do a thing, then she won't. Not even for awesome treats like lunch meat. This is ok, not ideal, be we can simply try training during different times of the day, or in shorter sessions, after she is worn out from playing etc. till we find a time where she does want to follow the commands. However, once she decides she wants to do a thing, nothing short of physically stopping her and making it impossible will work. For example, like most young dogs she likes to chew paper. If she decides that she want's that paper in the trash, then nothing short of taking it away from her, and putting it out of reach (or putting her in her crate) is going to stop her.

The problem is that we are going through this phase where she "can't do anything right". When we try to play, she will get distracted by something and end up in trouble. When we try to groom, she gets distracted and in trouble. When we try to sleep, she gets distracted and in trouble. There is almost no chance for positive reinforcement.

In short, if she decides that she wants to do something, then she is either going to do it, or push so far that you have no choice but to isolate her from what she wants to do, and she has a habit of only wanting to do things that get her in trouble.

What other modifications can we make so that she has at least some time doing good things, instead of being in a situation where she is either asleep or in trouble?

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Oh, this does sound familiar. (Only, I am envious of that 60% responding well. I have a saluki. Sometimes her responding well felt like it was down at the 5% mark. )

There will be people who will tell you you need to be 'firm', by which they mean you should shout at your dog, jerk your dog about by the neck, or hit her. I have owned/fostered a number of second-hand dogs where people have tried that and it has not worked out well, so personally I try not to do that and it sounds like you don't want to either, which is great!

Instead, I try to imagine how I would manage this if she was, say, a large bear. I do not think anyone would suggest being firm with a bear, or expecting him to understand the word 'no'. Instead, you set things up for success, manage the environment, reward the good choices and use your giant human brain to advantage.

It sounds like you are most of the way there, only your previous experience is with a dog that worked out what you meant by 'no'. It really is pretty common for dogs to not get this, so you need to take out the requirement for it.

Set things up so that if she ignores you, nothing bad can happen, and if she pays attention, you have rewards ready - not just at designated training sessions, but all the time. Be calm, even when she's being naughty.

If she steals things from the bin, put the bin in a place she can't get at, or buy a dog-proof bin. If she steals things from the kitchen surfaces, practice the 6-foot rule and put everything below that into a cupboard. If necessary, put locks on your doors. Make sure she has regular exercise and isn't left hungry. Use the crate BEFORE she gets into trouble, not once she has done so.

Ideally, you want to look at every form of mischief she gets into, and work out a way for that not to be a problem.

Never take anything from her without providing a more-awesome swap - not after you've given a command, but before: you need to give her the idea of swapping first : impulse control comes much later. If she won't swap, take it as a learning experience and don't put the stolen item where she can get at it next time.

While you are managing the environment to prevent your life being shredded, work on getting an awesome relationship. Be the source of all amazing things. Be trustworthy. Use your human brain to keep your stuff safe and at the same time make her life amazing. Give her choices, but make sure all the choices are right choices. If she makes a wrong choice, that's your problem really - you put her in a situation where the wrong choice was tempting.

And after a while, you find you have a dog who is genuinely responsive, who you can communicate with on quite a deep level, way beyond 'yes and no'. And after a while you no longer need to put things on high shelves or hide your shoes, because your dog no longer wants to make those choices.

For dogs that are 'stubborn', this approach works really well. I appreciate it sounds a bit like 'giving in' but it really isn't. It's just using your advantages - your big brain and ability to manipulate the environment should be able to trump her paws, speed and teeth every time.

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Be persistent. Dogs will test you over and over. The trick is to not give up.

  • And be consistent. If you are too tired to correct or stop the puppy sometimes, the behavior is being reinforced. – jalynn2 Apr 7 '16 at 17:48
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    It might be helpful to do a real dog training class. A friend of mine found she needed that to train _her to be "more Alpha" so the dog would respect her authority. – keshlam May 7 '16 at 17:33

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