Downeast Dog News

There Are No "Stubborn" Dogs

Twelve Steps to Becoming Best Friends for Life
By Don Hanson, ACCBC, BFRAP | Jul 01, 2022
Photo by: Debra Bell

Steps 8 thru 12

Last month, I told you that I believe dogs are never "stubborn" but simply misunderstood. In this month's column, I discuss steps 8 thru 12 in my program for having a wonderful dog.

Step #8 – Gently teach your dog how to live harmoniously in your world. When we bring a dog into our world, we are responsible for teaching the dog how to live in a foreign culture. You need to start by learning its welfare needs and language. Then you need to patiently teach it by rewarding the behavior you like.

Behaviors that are rewarded will be repeated, and the more they are repeated, the stronger they become. Please do not hesitate to reward your dog for being calmly by your side, even if you did not ask for that behavior. Remember, Behaviors that are rewarded will be repeated, and the more they are repeated, the stronger they become. For every second you spend correcting your dog, spend 100 hours rewarding it. That is the key to success.

Manage your dog and its environment to prevent undesirable behavior. Understand that teaching a dog is a process and will take time. Remember, your parents spent 18+ years teaching you. It is unrealistic to expect your dog to learn everything it needs to know in a couple of months.

Training a dog also requires knowledge and skills. A credentialed professional dog trainer or canine behavior consultant can provide that knowledge and teach and coach you on those skills.

Step #9 – Accept your dog for who it is. Dogs are living, sentient beings, and their personalities are just as variable as those found in people. Not all dogs are extroverts and like every other person or dog on the planet. Neither do people, and that's okay. Not every retrieving breed likes the water and retrieving, nor does every herding breed like to round up livestock. No matter what breed or mix of breeds you have in your dog, you will not always get what you want, and you need to accept your dog for the wonderful canine it is. If you need help, seek a credentialed professional dog trainer or canine behavior consultant.

Step #10 – Ensure that everyone interacting with your dog follows rules #1 thru #9. Unless you're a hermit with no family, many other people will interact with your dog throughout its life. That can include friends, family members with ages from 1 month to 90+ years, co-workers, neighbors, and a wide variety of pet care professionals such as veterinarians, daycare and boarding facilities, groomers, pet sitters, dog walkers, dog trainers, and behavior consultants. You must help all these people understand and accept rules 1 through 9. If other people are not kind to your dog, it can negatively affect your dog's behavior around other people. Remember, your dog cannot always stand up for itself, and that is up to you.

Step #11 – Do something fun with your dog every day. Often, the strongest relationships involve two parties doing something together that they both enjoy. Find that special something that you and your dog both love doing together, and then make the time to do it daily. Don't overthink this. There can be more than one thing you both love, and sometimes it can be as simple as your dog sitting in your lap snuggling while you read or watch your favorite show on TV. Activities like going for walks, [ as long as you allow your dog to sniff and explore] playing fetch, going for car rides, or just dancing in the backyard all count. The important thing is finding those activities and making time for them. If you do, you and your dog will both benefit, and your bond will become stronger.

Step #12 – Enjoy your journey together. The saddest part of sharing your life with a dog is that that journey ends too soon. So instead of striving for perfection, focus on the joy you feel when together. Commit to making every moment count so that when the journey ends, you can both say, "Thank you for this wonderful time together! I'll miss you until we are reunited on the other side!"

I hope that I have convinced you that your dog is not stubborn and to give my program a try. From personal experience and feedback from my clients, I know that it will help you and your dog become best friends for life.



Don Hanson lives in Bangor, Maine, where he is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( ) and the founder of, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. He is a Professional Canine Behavior Consultant (PCBC-A) accredited by the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB) and a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), where he serves on the Board of Directors and Steering Committee and chairs the Advocacy Committee. He is also a founding director of Pet Advocacy International (PIAI). In addition, Don produces and co-hosts The Woof Meow Show podcast, available at, the Apple Podcast app, and Don's blog: The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©22-Jun-22, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved