Every dog is an individual. Personal history combined with physical capabilities partially determine training ability, but studies1 have shown that breed also plays a role. It’s important to note that some dog breeds have behavioral issues that can make training a little more difficult, although it is possible. Interestingly enough, some of these issues may contradict themselves. For example, the easygoing nature of the Bulldog and the enthusiastic energy of the Australian Shepherd both result in harder trainability. However, as canine trainers will tell you, almost every dog is trainable with patience, persistence, and positive reinforcement. Here are 15 dogs in alphabetical order who like to think they’re the alpha dog and may be harder to train as a result.
The 15 Hardest Dog Breeds to Train
1. Afghan Hound
With its elegant snout and sleek long hair, the Afghan Hound appears like it recently emerged from the beauty parlor on a daily basis. Whether or not it’s aware of its dazzling appearance is up for debate, but the dog certainly acts like a beauty queen. You might have a hard time training this dog because they act a little aloof, although they’re certainly not hardhearted. An Afghan Hound will loyally stay by your side, even if they don’t always do what you say.
2. Australian Cattle Dog
This working dog rounds up high energy and high intelligence into one muscular package that can easily become destructive if they don’t have a job. Hailing from Australia where it herded sheep, the cattle dog isn’t made for lounging around indoors. You’ll likely need to engage this dog in robust daily exercise and early training to produce the results you desire. Given its strong herding instinct, the Australian Cattle Dog is also known to nip at heels unless they’re trained not to.
3. Australian Shepherd
The Australian Shepherd is considered one of the smartest dog breeds in the world. And yet, training isn’t always an easy task since they’re full of energy. Try to start with small, frequent training sessions to keep this pup engaged.
Although this dog breed has been around since ancient times, it’s unlikely that you’ll find a Basenji on every block. They’re a relatively rare breed that “yodels” instead of barks. Basenjis tend to be highly intelligent and mischievous, so you’ll need to set boundaries while they’re young to curtail any negative behaviors. As with any breed, a bored Basenji is more likely to become a barker or destructive dog, so make sure they’re receiving enough exercise in the day to tire them out.
5. Basset Hound
The epitome of laziness, the Basset Hound might not do anything you tell them to do unless it’s their idea, such as chasing a squirrel in your neighbor’s yard. Thankfully, they’re easily motivated by food. Just be sure to use small training treats during your sessions with them because they have a heightened risk of becoming obese.
A skilled hunting dog, the Beagle has a predisposition for barking and chasing if they’re not trained. Daily exercise outdoors can help them healthily hone their hunting instincts, so that they’re chasing squirrels during playtime instead of barking at them incessantly from the couch.
Also known as the Russian Wolfhound, the Borzoi possesses a strong instinct for hunting small prey. They’ll dart off in an instant if allowed to roam off-leash, so always walk them tethered to a harness. Start with short sessions and don’t forget the treats for when they’ve done well.
Like the Basset Hound, Bulldogs like nothing better than to chill on the sofa. That’s all and well, until it’s time to learn some new tricks. Patience and persistence are the keys to success, especially with this low-energy breed.
Although you probably won’t catch them sneaking out to run laps around your yard, the Bullmastiff can be challenging to train due to their independent nature. Originally bred to protect estates in Victorian England, they’re natural guard dogs and may be aggressive towards unfamiliar people if not trained properly. Interestingly enough, the Bullmastiff is a cross between the Mastiff and the Old English Bulldog, a breed that’s now extinct but is the ancestor of the Bulldog.
Anyone who’s ever owned a Chihuahua knows that they have a mind of their own. As the world’s smallest dog breed, they’re also one of the most aggressive. They aren’t afraid to let everyone know that they’re in charge…which is an attitude you’ll have to alter early if you want them properly trained.
11. Chinese Shar-pei
An established breed that has acted as a hunter, guardian, and herder in China since ancient times, the Chinese Shar-pei has a variety of notable job skills. However, as a pet, their high intelligence and independent nature can make them difficult to train.
12. Chow Chow
The Chow Chow is certainly not the friendliest dog towards children and may even nip if provoked. Like the Shar-pei, the Chow Chow has been bred for centuries in China where they first earned their reputation as a royal, dignified dog who tends to bond closely with one human. Thankfully they’re easy to potty-train and are actually considered one of the cleanest dog breeds.
Although they were originally developed as working dogs to pull a sled, Siberian Huskies are notoriously hard to train due to a trifecta of high energy, intelligence, and a high prey drive. You’ll need to begin obedience training early, along with plenty of daily exercise, for this dog to succeed in its role as a pet.
15. St. Bernard
This giant-loving breed is great with children and highly intelligent but can be very independent. Training early should help learn to obey commands. Otherwise, they don’t have any serious behavioral problems. St. Bernards tend to be gentle and fairly laid back.
Although some breeds are considered generally harder to train than others, each dog poses its own strengths and challenges when it comes to learning. Always train your puppy as soon as possible to curtail any undesirable behaviors while they’re young. Remember, barking and running are vital dog characteristics and aren’t intrinsically bad. Making sure your dog has a healthy outlet for these behaviors, such as daily exercise outdoors, can help prevent them from becoming destructive or excessively vocal.
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