Stubborn or Simply Unmotivated?

They would like their two dogs to be more cooperative, to be less demanding for attention and for English Bulldog Winston, age 3, to stop toileting in the kitchen at night time.

Winston is stubborn

Stubborn English Bulldog

Winston

Or so they feel. For the purpose of my story I will concentrate on Winston as apart from being too excitable, their other dog Dylan, an adorable one year old Pug Jack Russell mix, tends to take his lead from Winston. We can probably make a significant change to Dylan’s excitability by changing away from Bakers Complete dog food. (It’s tasty of course, but who would feed this stuff if they knew what it contains)?

Winston’s taxing behaviours are symptoms of the same thing. I would call it mainly lack of motivation. He’s not being stubborn for the sake of it.

Acting ‘stubborn’ gets results. He is under-stimulated both mentally and physically.

He dislikes his harness being put on. Possibly he’s a little intimidated by how it’s used. Possibly he likes the effort his humans have to make in order to get it on him!

Once the harness is on, he may refuse to go to the door whereupon he is dragged, half-carried by the harness. He is put on a flexilead. Once outside, he may not walk. He will simply stop. Once again he is dragged/carried forward in the hope that he toilets before bedtime.

Why does he do this?

I immediately noticed that the dogs took little notice if they were spoken to or called.

When they call Winston or want him to come or to sit, they repeat it over and over and even then he may ignore them.

How can they motivate Winston to be cooperative?

Food!

I gave him a small bit of food so he knew I might be worth listening to, and then a started to call him over to me. Even when he was lying down he would get up and come to me after just one call. I asked him to sit, once, and waited (trying to stop the family repeating the cue because he wasn’t yet doing anything). He had heard me. Half a minute later Winston sat. I rewarded him.

It was mid evening and already dark. I suggested we rehearsed the bedtime outing to see how stubborn Winston really is.

Because he immediately walks away and lies down when he see the harness, we started there. For now they will still need to approach him, but soon, when he realises that having the harness put on is nice, he will come over when asked I’m sure.

We used grated cheese: the man took harness to him-cheese, put it over his back-cheese, did up one clip-cheese, did up the other clip-cheese.

Now comes the crafty bit! Winston will now expect the whole ritual of trying to get him out to start but we walked away and left him.

We need to abandon that flexilead. This will always make him feel restricted as it has a spring and it’s vital he feels that he has a choice, that he’s free. My lead is 8 feet long. We walked to the door calling him as we passed. He got up and followed us. No stubborn dog yet!

We popped the lead on and walked down the path to the village green opposite. As we walked Winston had praise and, at the man’s side, food.  We walked across the green in the dark. the lead went tight and the man stopped. He patted his leg and called Winston to him. Winston came. Reward.

It’s so important to engage with the dog.

The man asked ‘what do I do if I want to turn around?’. I took the lead, walked away from Winston to the end of the eight feet but keeping it loose still and then called him, sounding exciting. I fed him and praised him and made it fun to be with me. Simple!

We had a lovely short walk. If walks are like this every time, Winston won’t be stubborn for long!

What should the man do if Winston still goes on strike and refuses to move? Call his bluff. If one invitation to move is refused, turn around and go home. No walk for now. Try again later.

One reason the evening walk in particular is so important is Winston’s frequent toileting in the kitchen, both pee and poo. They leave a pad on the floor and he always aims for that which makes me feel he’s not marking and that he simply needs to go. There is no evidence of anxiety of any sort.

I know he is a Bulldog with a Bulldog’s body, but to my mind (and looking at Winston’s ‘waist’), I feel he is fed too much. They will cut down, bearing in mind the rewards he now will be eating. They will also try him on another food. The better the food, the less waste will pass through the dog.

Dylan lying at my feet

Dylan lying at my feet

He may refuse to walk, but he constantly demands attention in various infuriating ways, mostly when the lady has her attention on the baby! He is a bored dog. He’s also a clever dog. They do their best, having a dog walker twice a day but because of his being ‘stubborn’ he is usually left at home and Dylan is taken by himself.

The only exercise Winston gets apart from irregular walks that start by car and which he loves, is spasmodic high-energy football out in the garden with the son which isn’t the right sort of thing for a Bulldog at all.

He needs more brain work, more sniffing, more exploring – and motivation.

I’m sure he will soon be joining Dylan for the two daily walks with the dog walker. The family will do less over-arousing stuff and give him more breed appropriate activities and brain stimulation. They will be working hard on teaching him to come immediately when he’s called.

Life should be a lot better for everyone, particularly the lady who, trying to care for a young baby, has found herself spending time upstairs during the day in order to escape from two demanding dogs.

At the end of our three months together: “Both dogs are much better and we’ve come a long way in our ability to train and work with them. We’ve not had a single kitchen accident from Winston since seeing you, the walking is much better and so is the barking. Evenings are also quieter.”
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Winston and Dylan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

No Motivation, No Training

Tricolour Cavalier KC on sofa

Jack

In an interview Jean Donaldson says, ‘no motivation, no training’.

The family I went to yesterday describe their seven-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Jack, as stubborn. I would call him unmotivated. That little face says it al!

Motivation really is just the drive that makes him want to do something. It can be inspired by gaining something rewarding, like fun, food or appreciation – or by avoiding something he doesn’t like.

So far as our relationship with our dogs is concerned, the choice is a no-brainer. Reward not fear.

When the lady wants him to go to his bed, she has to lay a trail of treats to bribe him because otherwise he takes no notice of her (the little monkey will go to bed for the four-year-old daughter!). He likes to pinch the children’s toys and then, when the lady tries to take them off him, he growls and may snap. I noticed that if she calls him he ignores her unless she tries very hard. However, when the man tells him to do something he does it straight away and he simply takes things out of Jack’s mouth with no trouble at all.

I suspect that Jack is just a little wary of disobeying the man but knows the lady is powerless to make him do anything he doesn’t want to do. Refusing is fun as it gains him so much attention.

If he takes a child’s toy, it leads to a somewhat scary game where he will ‘treasure’ the item and if he could speak he would be saying, ‘I dare you to come and take this’. What’s in it for Jack to give the item up straight away or, more importantly, not to take it in the first place?

Blenheim Cavalier King Charles

Charlie

So far as going to his bed or coming in from the garden is concerned, what’s in it for him, after all? Not complying gets the best results.

It is really so easy to get our dogs to cooperate if we motivate them with plenty of positive reinforcement and appreciation for doing what we want. It’s so important to show them what it is we do want. Different things motivate different dogs so we can experiment. Rewarding is a lot different to bribing. Calling him to his bed and rewarding him when he gets there is a lot different to throwing treats into his bed and luring him there.

Jack is a plump little dog and probably seldom really hungry, so I say he should be fed a lot less and earn some of his food. He can earn special stuff for special things like exchanging or dropping something he has nicked. If this is approached with a sense of humour and all confrontation is avoided, the problem should disappear. Jack never damages the item so they can safely ignore it. At the moment it’s a bit dangerous as the young children may try to take one of their toys off him and the parents are constantly on edge.

The family can do plenty of exchange games – always exchanging for something better (to him) than the item he’s got – the rule being nobody, ever, should force anything off him. He will then find the ‘pinching and treasuring’ game not worth playing anymore. They can teach him that if he picks something up, it’s a far better game to bring it to them instead of ‘possessing’ it.

For the lady’s attention to have value to Jack, attention shouldn’t be constantly available on tap – whenever he demands it. He needs to be taught to earn her attention whilst giving her his full attention when asked. For food to be of value there should be less of it and rewards a little more tasty.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Jack, which is why I don’t go into exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).