Are some breeds harder to train than others?

By Jessica Ring, Unleashed Joy Dog Trainer

What a loaded question! The simple answer is no. Learning theory applies to all dogs, regardless of breed, size or age. Behaviors that are reinforced are strengthened and behaviors that are not reinforced are weakened. Different breeds do have different genetic tendencies, meaning they are more easily reinforced for certain behaviors. Yes, a particular behavior might be challenging for a dog because it is in direct opposition to what the dog was bred to do, requiring extra effort, time and repetitions.

Dog Breeds

All dog breeds (genders, ages, etc.) learn through positive training!

Keep that in mind and set realistic expectations. Or, the behavior might fall in line with the characteristics that were bred and seem almost effortless to train. The comic-strip beagle Snoopy was originally going to be called Sniffy for a reason. Retrievers tend to find retrieving very reinforcing, and therefore generally love to play fetch (although my retriever mix does not). Some working breeds tend to be amazingly in-tune with human body language and gestures-they were bred to pay attention to human cues. Even so, dogs are also individuals, each dog a little or even drastically different from others of the same breed. (Don’t make the classic mistake of thinking your 2nd collie will be identical to your beloved 1st collie.)

[su_quote]But we’ve seen countless types, breeds, ages, personalities and sizes in our classes and private sessions, and they have all learned and enjoyed learning with positive reinforcement training![/su_quote]

Unleashed Joy uses the principles of learning theory and positive-reinforcement-based training for all dogs. In class, we use food as incredibly strong reinforcement when we teach new behaviors. At home, you might find that your dog is also highly reinforced by other things, such as a quick game of tug, a belly rub or a romp outside, and perhaps those things are wonderful to your dog partly because of a genetic tendency.

In short, it’s a good idea to take breed characteristics into account when selecting the right fit for your family dog (in addition to other factors), and sometimes those tendencies can be used to your advantage when searching for motivation to use in dog training. But we’ve seen countless types, breeds, ages, personalities and sizes in our classes and private sessions, and they have all learned and enjoyed learning with positive reinforcement training!