The Hardest Dog Breeds to Train: Working with Difficult to Train Dogs

Behavior & training
Beagle in a field

Our dogs are like family, but let’s be honest – some are among the hardest dog breeds to train. Ah, the joys of dog ownership! Furry companions, unconditional love, and... the occasional bout of head-scratching frustration during training sessions. Yes, while our canine friends are undeniably family, some breeds truly test the limits of our patience and positive reinforcement skills. It's not that they're bad dogs – far from it! It's just that their unique personalities and quirks can make them, well, let's say strong-willed learners. 

Tackling the Training Challenge: The Hardest Dog Breeds to Train 

We’ll explore some of the hardest dog breeds to train, helping you understand what to expect and how to navigate the training process. Whether it's the stubbornness of a Beagle or the independence of a Siberian Husky, we're here to guide you through the ups and downs of training these unique breeds, then you can decide if their furry cuteness is worth the struggle. 

1. Beagles: A Challenge in the Hardest Dogs to Train Category 

A Beagle has a nose for everything - literally. This breed's exceptional sense of smell often leads them to be easily distracted by scents, making training a challenge. If you own a Beagle, make sure your home is spotless because they like to rummage through anything they can get their paws on. Most Beagles have high amounts of energy, which is why they are hard to train. They are independent and take longer to get used to commands, but with consistent training and a lot of patience, training a Beagle is certainly achievable. 

2. Rottweiler: More Than Just a Tough Appearance 

This one is a bit controversial, but here’s the breakdown on this breed. The first impression most people get with a Rottweiler is their intimidating appearance. However, they are usually extremely loyal to their owners, especially when properly trained. The key to training a Rottweiler is early socialization and consistent, firm training. They can be stubborn and become overly protective if not trained correctly. This breed requires an owner who understands the importance of establishing clear leadership and boundaries. Built like tanks and bred for pulling carts and guarding livestock, Rottweilers demand a firm hand and a big heart.  

3. Siberian Husky: Beauty and the Beast of Training 

Most people would agree that the Siberian Husky is a gorgeous dog. Siberian Huskies are known for their gorgeous appearance and high energy levels. Because they’re a very active breed, they need dedicated training. This breed will act out if they get bored. You could pair this dog with another of the same breed, but you take a chance on it not working out. They are intelligent and independent, which can make training a challenge. These dogs need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation to prevent boredom, which can lead to destructive behavior. Training a Husky requires patience, consistency, and a good understanding of how to channel their energy positively. 

4. Basset Hound: A Nose for Trouble 

Basset Hounds are adorable but can be stubborn, especially when it comes to housebreaking. Their keen sense of smell often distracts them during training sessions. Positive reinforcement and patience are key with this breed. Celebrate even the smallest successes with treats, enthusiastic praise, and playful interactions. This builds trust and motivates them to learn. Thankfully, they are extremely food motivated, so just keep some treats handy during training sessions. 

5. Chinese Shar-Pei: Cuddly Yet Challenging 

Don't let those irresistible wrinkles fool you! While Chinese Shar-Peis have serious cuddle potential, their unique personality might not be the best fit for every family. These independent pups can be a bit aloof with strangers and territorial over their loved ones. For families who understand and respect their boundaries, Shar-Peis can be incredibly loyal and devoted. They just require a confident, experienced owner who can establish themselves as the pack leader. Consistent, gentle but firm training is key. Remember, patience and positive reinforcement go a long way with these sharp minds! 

6. Afghan Hound: Independent and Unpredictable 

While this dog is known to be highly intelligent, they make training quite tough. Afghan Hounds often do what they want, when they want. Afghan Hounds are known for their beauty and intelligence, but they are also one of the most independent dog breeds. They can be aloof and often choose to listen to commands on their own terms. Building a strong bond is key to training an Afghan Hound. Trust, mutual respect, and a healthy dose of humor will go a long way. Embrace their independent spirit, channel their intelligence, and discover the loyal and loving companion beneath the regal exterior. With patience and the right approach, you'll have an Afghan Hound that not only listens when they want, but also chooses to do so out of love and respect. 

7. Basenji: The Independent Thinker 

Basenjis are known for their cat-like personalities, being both independent and intelligent. This breed is notoriously difficult to train due to their stubborn nature. They are curious and easily bored, requiring creative training techniques to keep them engaged. Their natural curiosity and playful spirit just mean you need to get creative. Ditch the boring drills and unleash your inner dog whisperer with puzzle toys, scent games, and maybe even a mini obstacle course. Early socialization and consistent, positive training methods are key. Despite their challenges, Basenjis are incredibly loyal and affectionate with their families. 

8. Chow Chow: The Aloof Guardian 

Chow Chows are not just distinctive in appearance but also in personality. They tend to be aloof and very independent, which can make training a challenge. Chow Chows are not naturally inclined to obedience. Instead, they're independent thinkers who value autonomy. Think of them as furry philosophers seeking understanding over blind commands. Turn their autonomy into an advantage. Encourage them to problem-solve during training sessions instead of simply following commands. This breed requires a patient and experienced owner who can establish leadership without being overly harsh. Early socialization and consistent, firm training are essential to prevent them from becoming overly protective or aggressive. 

9. Shiba Inu: The Spirited Furry 

Shiba Inus are small in size but have a big personality. They are known for being strong-willed and can be quite stubborn when it comes to training. This breed requires a consistent and firm training approach from an early age. They respond well to positive reinforcement techniques but need an owner who can be patient and persistent. Forget marathon training, your Shiba's attention span is a sprint! Keep sessions short and sweet, around 5-10 minutes. Use playful lures, quick bursts of fetch, and a sprinkle of surprises (like changing activities mid-session) to keep their clever minds from wandering. Celebrate those quick wins and be consistent – repetition over long sessions is your secret weapon to unlocking their adorable stubbornness! Despite their training challenges, Shiba Inus are loyal and can form strong bonds with their owners. 

10. Bull Terrier: The Mischievous Muscle 

Bull Terriers are energetic, playful, and sometimes mischievous, which can make training a bit of a challenge. With their egg-shaped heads and boundless energy, bull terriers are captivating bundles of fur and mischief. But training these playful goofballs can sometimes feel like wrangling a whirlwind. Don't try to suppress their enthusiasm, channel it! Use their love of play for positive reinforcement during training. Games, fetch, and obstacle courses are your allies. They are known for their strong determination and willfulness. Consistent and firm training from an early age is crucial. This breed thrives on structure and routine, and they respond well to positive reinforcement. An owner who can provide firm guidance and plenty of exercise will find a loyal and affectionate companion in a Bull Terrier. 

Understanding Your Dog's Training Needs 

Every breed has its own set of training needs! Take Border Collies, their herding instincts mean they crave mental stimulation. Think puzzle toys, intricate commands, or even sheepdog herding classes to keep their sharp minds focused and happy. Meanwhile, calm Saint Bernards need a different approach. While they enjoy walks and playtime, their gentle nature thrives on calm companionship and quiet training sessions. 

Golden Retrievers, bred for retrieving, crave activities that utilize their natural skills. Engaging them in fetch, flyball, or even scent work taps into their playful spirit and reinforces desired behaviors. On the other hand, a Beagle's nose knows no bounds! Their curious nature and incredible scenting abilities require mental stimulation beyond basic obedience. Scent detection games, treasure hunts, or even walks in areas rich in new smells keep their minds sharp and prevent boredom-fueled mischief. 

But remember, each dog within a breed is an individual! One Border Collie might love agility, while another might excel at nosework. Your Saint Bernard might adore snuggles, while another prefers long, leisurely hikes. Pay close attention to your dog's unique preferences. Do their eyes light up during training games, or do they perk up at the sight of a hiking trail? Does their tail wag furiously when you mention fetch, or do they curl up contentedly with a chew toy? Understanding your dog's individual quirks and interests is key to tailoring your training and strengthening your bond. 

So, embrace the different training needs of your dog's breed, but don't forget to celebrate their unique personality too! By catering to their specific preferences and individual quirks, you'll unlock their full potential and build a truly special connection with your furry friend. Remember, a happy and engaged dog is a well-trained dog, and their loyalty and love will be the best reward for all your efforts! 

The Role of Positive Reinforcement in Training 

While some breeds possess a natural inclination towards obedience, others, often labeled as "challenging," require a tailored approach to training. Research suggests that positive reinforcement, instead of traditional dominance-based methods, offers a transformative solution for these dogs. 

Studies at the University of Cambridge demonstrate the effectiveness of positive reinforcement in building trust and strengthening the human-animal bond. This approach utilizes treats, praise, and playtime as rewards for desired behaviors, establishing a foundation of mutual understanding and respect. This, in turn, fosters a more cooperative training environment, as evidenced by research published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior. 

Beyond trust, positive reinforcement fuels motivation and engagement. Studies highlight how positive reinforcement techniques, instead of creating anxious or frustrated learners, activate a dog's natural curiosity and intelligence. Dogs actively participate in the training process, experimenting and problem-solving to understand the desired behaviors. This not only leads to more effective training outcomes in the long run but also cultivates a more independent and confident canine companion. 

Therefore, for breeds often labeled as "challenging," positive reinforcement serves as a key to unlocking their true potential. By embracing this evidence-based approach, trainers and owners can foster a joyful and productive training experience, building a strong, harmonious bond with their furry friends. The result is a well-adjusted, confident canine companion and a testament to the transformative power of positive reinforcement in challenging breed training. 

Conclusion: Training, Understanding, and Protecting Your Pet 

Successfully training the hardest dog breeds to train is a journey filled with challenges and rewards. As you navigate through the ups and downs of training, it's important to remember that understanding and patience are key. However, beyond training, there's another crucial aspect of caring for your pet: their health and well-being. 

Certain breeds may be predisposed to specific genetic conditions or behavior issues. For instance, breeds like the Siberian Husky are known for their high energy levels, which can sometimes lead to injuries during vigorous play. Similarly, breeds with a strong sense of curiosity, like Beagles, might ingest foreign objects, posing a risk to their health. This is where dog insurance steps in, offering a safety net for those unforeseen incidents and health concerns. 

With Embrace Pet Insurance, you can focus more on training and bonding with your pet, knowing that you have support for their health needs. Our comprehensive coverage ensures that whether it's a genetic condition specific to your breed or an unexpected health emergency, you're prepared. In the end, training your pet is just one part of the journey; ensuring their overall health and safety is equally important for a long and happy life together.