You probably have heard that “consistency” is essential in dog training. And it is. Just as important is “persistence” – especially when you live with a dog who many people would call “stubborn”. Many dogs are great at waiting you out, especially if you’re a bit of a pushover. They learn that they often get their way if they just hold out long enough.
Whether you call it being persistent, patient or stubborn, sometimes the most effective strategy when dealing with your dog is to simply wait him out. Once he understands that you can always outlast him, he will learn that his persistence does NOT pay off.
I’ll give you an example of what I mean. This experience was with my first Greyhound, Gunner. He was a great dog, but he definitely was not the soft, submissive type. He would test the boundaries at every turn and look for any cracks in my resilience. He knew what he wanted and he was not shy about helping himself when an opportunity was presented.
We did a lot of walking. We religiously walked twice a day, and one of those walks was generally one to one-and-a-half hours long. We did lots of exploring of all the neighborhoods around us. Some days I would allow him to choose the direction we went, simply because I was curious what his choices would be. If I decided the route, he would usually have no problem following.
One day, we arrived at a T in the road where we either had to go left or right. I decided to go right. Gunner decided to go left. Neither of us wanted to change our minds. I could certainly have pulled him and forced him to go my way, but I just wasn’t in the mood for that. I wanted him to choose to walk with me willingly. He decided he was not going to go willingly. We were at a standstill.
He clearly was not going to change his mind, so I sat down on the sidewalk and said something like: “Let me know when you are ready to change your mind.” He waited as well. Perhaps a minute or two later, I stood up and tried walking to the right again. He tried going to the left again. Not ready yet. I sat back down. He waited again. I probably sat there for another five minutes. Tried again. Still not budging. Sat down again. Several minutes later, I tried again.
Now, it’s been many years since this happened, so I don’t recall exactly how long I sat there, but I am certain it was AT LEAST a good 10 to 15 minutes. Finally, he realized I was not going to give in and he chose to willingly walk my way. We went right. And we never looked back.
I wasn’t mad at him. He wasn’t mad at me. We worked through our differences, and got on with our lives. And we never had another “sit-in” again. Gunner was certainly a challenge in some ways, but I loved him dearly and still miss the guy.