21 Tough-to-Train Dog Breeds

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All dogs are great, we can’t lie. And though there are some that are smarter than others, they can all make great pets. It just usually depends on what you are looking for.

However, there are some breeds that are harder to train than others. Certainly, this does not mean that you can’t train them, you just need to have more patience in the process. Ultimately, regardless of the fact that they are a bit harder to train, owning one of these breeds can be just as rewarding as any other breed, maybe even more.

1. Afghan Hound

Owning an Afghan hound always comes with a certain sense of pride. These majestic animals have something royal in them and simply exude grace. Of course, as most dog enthusiasts know, Afghan hounds are exceptionally fast and also very loyal. To put it simply, they are exquisite dogs with hundreds of qualities.

Unfortunately, according to some experts, intelligence is not one of those qualities. It’s not that Afghan hounds are stupid – far from that. It’s just that their intelligence is not on the same level as, say, shepherds, mastiffs and other so-called “working” dogs. The problem may be their trainability.

Some dogs are bred so that it’s easy for them to learn to follow orders. This was not the case with Afghan hounds, who, historically, had to rely on themselves and to think for themselves – otherwise they would have made very lousy sighthounds.

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2. Basenji

Basenji is a native of Central America, where this breed was beloved and praised for their hunting skills, alertness and strength. Interestingly, these dogs were brought to the pharaohs in Ancient Egypt as one of the most valuable gifts.

These dogs are often considered not particularly intelligent or easy to train, but it is an unfair misconception. The problem with Basenjis is usually a result of a mismatch between the dog and the owner, because it is very important to fully understand these dogs and their character in order to be able to successfully train them. Otherwise, the results will be frustrating both for the owner and for the dog.

For example, for a Basenji, “quiet” doesn’t mean “inactive” but “silent.” The dog will be literally quiet but it will also continue to be active and to annoy or harass the owner in some other way, which is mistaken for disobedience or a simple inability to follow orders.

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3. Bulldog

Bulldogs are, despite their bad name, very gentle, caring, loving dogs. They are energetic and entertaining, playful and affectionate, and they grow very attached to their owner and family.

However, when it comes to training, bulldogs require more attention and patience than some people are willing to give them, which is why they sometimes come off as untrainable, disobedient or plain stupid. This is unfair since proper training can do miracles with a bulldog. It’s just important to know how to do it right, to understand this particular breed and to be patient enough to make it through the entire training process, which, granted, can be a bit nerve-consuming and demanding.

With good training and an owner who knows how to impose himself as the leader, bulldogs make terrific companions, great friends for children and excellent guardians.

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4. Chow Chow

This is another dog breed that has earned the reputation of “stupid” because of its stubbornness. Chow Chows are a bit difficult when it comes to personality. People who know this breed will say they are more like cats than dogs, which says a lot.

They are very hungry for attention and can get a bit jealous and overbearing. They require an assertive owner who leaves absolutely no doubt as to who the boss is. Firm training and strong authority are absolutely required from the earliest days, otherwise there will be no peace between a Chow Chow and his owner.

All dogs need strong, precise rules, and this is particularly the case with Chow Chows. If they sense a lack of rules in the relationship with the owner, they will take advantage of it and become unruly and difficult.

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5. Borzoi

Borzois are dogs that usually come off as a bit snobby and even stuck-up. People compare them to cats, which is not a terribly untrue comparison.

They are very strong-willed and seem to care more for themselves than for others, and they do love to groom themselves. Because they come off as selfish and not exactly willing to please others, they are considered stupid. But this has nothing to do with intelligence, of course.

Borzois require long, firm, patient training. They are hounds, after all, and you won’t be able to bend their will easily. The training should be consistent and firm, but also gentle and, of course, completely non-violent. The owner of a Borzoi must be an alpha, otherwise there will be a lot of trouble. The rules need to be set from the beginning, and they need to be set in stone.

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6. Bloodhound

Bloodhounds are a very old dog breed, one of the oldest actually, who hunt by scent. Their sense of smell is so keen they are able to track a scent that is months old. They can follow literally any scent, which makes them incredibly valuable in many ways.

However, Bloodhounds are not particularly intelligent. Maybe it’s because they aren’t assigned very many tasks – they just pick a scent and follow it. Not much else is expected from a Bloodhound, which is why this breed’s intelligence hasn’t evolved much since its origins. As for character, they are affectionate and sensitive to kindness and reprimand.

They are not the easiest dogs to train, though. Training requires a lot of time and patience, and, of course, a firm will from the owner. They also need a firm, authoritative hand, someone to let them know that they are not in charge.

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7. Pekingese

Yet, another dog breed that seems stupid when it’s in fact just plain stubborn. Pekingese are a bit like young children in that impossible age of two or three, when they are full of energy but also unaware that they are supposed to follow certain rules.

Pekingese can be very difficult to train, because of their independent and stubborn personality. They require a firm hand and an owner who knows the importance of enforcing rules all the time, with no exceptions. Fortunately, the Pekingese make up for their stubbornness with the affection they show to everyone around them, especially their family. They are also great guards, despite their size. Well, maybe not guards, but sort of a canine alarm system.

Since they can be a bit unruly, it’s a good thing Pekingese are so tiny. They are not very active dogs, don’t require a backyard and thrive even in the tiniest apartments, as long as they have their beloved owner with them and something soft and cuddly to nap on.

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8. Beagle

The Beagle is another dog breed that people who are not familiar with it have a very hard time training. Even though they are really dear and love to be petted and played with, they almost never listen to any of your commands unless you do a really good job training them.

Of course, it’s not because they are not intelligent, it is because they are very independent and hard-headed. If you let your beagle be a pack leader, then it is going to walk all over you.

Behavior issues are very common with beagles when an owner has not put in the time to train the dog. They are so stubborn, in fact, that many experts recommend bringing in a professional dog trainer to help if you really want to train your beagle properly.

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9. Mastiff

Why is a mastiff particularly hard to train? Because the dog is enormous! When it comes to mastiffs, size really does matter.

If you are living in a small apartment with a mastiff, you can probably forget about your furniture and ever having a well-behaved dog. Most dog experts say that you should not even be considering getting a mastiff if you do not have a large yard to go with your large home. Like many of the dog breeds that have been mentioned, mastiffs are stubborn.

And when you add that to the fact that they can easily weigh well over 120 pounds, then it’s obvious that training the dog is going to be more than a handful. And even though they are huge, they are pretty emotionally sensitive dogs. So when addressing a mastiff, it is best to speak to it in a soft, calm, but still confident, voice.

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10. Basset Hound

This breed is great to look at, and of course, is an excellent hunting companion. Basset hounds are fantastic pets really.

They are very obedient and truly love their owners. They are very easy to get along with and are very mild mannered. However, they are not incredibly smart. While you can always rely on a basset hound to be obedient and well behaved, you can’t really teach it to do anything. Well, you can, but it will definitely take a lot of effort on your part.

Getting them to sit and roll over and probably take weeks, and even if you get it right, they probably won’t want to do it after a week or so. Simply put, they are just not easy to train, even though just about everything else about them is pretty cool overall.

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11. Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu is yet another dog that has a very strong character, which it what makes it a little bit harder to train than others. Of course, it’s possible, but it’s going to take a lot of patience to train them correctly.

Other than that, when it comes to smaller breeds,Shih Tzu are incredibly popular, and with good reason. Not only are they fantastic companions, especially if you have children, they are also very loyal. Shih Tzu’s are also very alert watch dogs and you’ll never have to worry about strangers entering your home unannounced.

If you have ever been around one of these dogs, then you know that they are very protective of their family and their home. You’ve probably even seen a shih tzu bark at the mail man or the guy at the gas station, just because they are getting close to their property.

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12. Bullmastiff

The Bullmastiff is very similar to the mastiff, in the sense that it is a large animal that needs its own space and a lot of patient training. However, if you do it right, the sky is the limit when it comes to training the bullmastiff.

They are tremendous companions and will protect your family in a way not many other dogs will be able to. They are also very obedient if you put in the time to train them. Bullmastiffs are not only great for tracking and things of that nature, they are also used in therapy work.

So there really is no denying that they are intelligent to learn many things, it’s just a case of having the patience and the living conditions that are needed in order to train the breed properly.

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13. Lhasa Apso

The Lhasa Apso is definitely pretty smart. We know this because they are very commonly used in dog shows, especially in circus acts. So there is no doubt that can learn a lot of tricks and do what their owners tell them to do.

However, you need to remember that the people who train dogs for such events are experts and professional trainers who have years, probably decades, of experience. If you are just a regular dog owner, making this dog behave is going to be a little more complicated.

This breed is a very independent breed, which means that if you are not investing 100 percent in training the dog, it’s probably going to be walking all over you, despite the fact that it’s a small breed. But if you are able to train the dog, they make great, very lively pets.

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14. Chihuahua

Chihuahua’s are very intelligent dogs, they just don’t have the best manners. If you really want your chihuahua to behave, you have to put a lot of work in. This rings true for most smaller dogs. Even though they are absolutely enamored with their owners, they will snap at just about anyone else.

In particular, dogs like chihuahuas have a hard time with strangers, especially strangers that are interacting with their owners. The breed is very loyal, and that’s why it can get pretty jealous as well.

You really need to put a lot of effort into socializing this type of breed so that you are not afraid of it attacking people that approach you or interact with you. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but it can definitely be done if you are patient and work with the dog every day.

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15. Bull Terrier

If you want to train a bull terrier, it’s most important to be not only firm, but also consistent. Consistency is something that is very important when it come to training dogs, because you don’t want to be sending them mixed messages.

This is especially true when it comes to Bull Terriers. This breed is often compared to a young child when it comes to the mindset of the breed. It’s like having a little three year old, but in dog form. A Bull Terrier  is going to want to test you in order to see how much they can get away with without being reprimanded. Otherwise, they are truly great pets.

They are very friendly and gentle. Sure, they are not the best guard dogs, but if you want that, then you shouldn’t even be looking at getting a bull terrier, really.

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16. Saint Bernard

When it comes to training a Saint Bernard, it is incredibly important to start at a young age. That’s why you will usually see that the best behaved ones are the ones that were practically born into a family instead of purchased or adopted later.

Of course, these breeds are huge. So just like with the other big dogs on this list, you are going to need to give them a lot of space if you want them to feel comfortable in your home. If you are able to harness this large dog properly, they are going to be fantastic for your entire family.

They are extremely tolerant of children, so even if you have young kids who like to get a little aggressive with dogs, the Saint Bernard is a perfect choice for any family, especially if you have a big yard.

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17. Scottish Terrier

Obedience training is very important when it comes to Scotties. They are great little dogs that are very alert and fun to be around. How great are they in the house? There are three Scotties that have lived in the White House!

And as is the case with most small dogs of this profile, you really need to work on socializing them while they are young. They are very sensitive when being corrected, and there is a good chance that they might snap at you. But it’s very important that you are consistent and that you are not backing down to them.

Like with most small dogs, begin strong and confident when addressing them is key. Repetition makes perfect when socializing Scotties, so if they are not getting it right away, don’t give up!

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18. Great Pyrenees

Here’s another incredibly regal breed that has been known to be very faithful and loyal. The dog is a very hard worker and is great as a shepherd, taking care of livestock. It has great sight and can smell just about anything.

And while the dog is obedient when told to behave, it has an independent spirit. This could make training a little more stressful than usual. If you are an owner that appears weak to the dog, they are not going to listen to you at all.

This breed does not respect a human that does not appear to be a figure of authority. A lot of people want to treat dogs as their equals, but that type of approach is not going to give you any results when it comes to training this breed.

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19. Old English Sheepdog

This is another strong-willed dog that has a history of herding. In fact, it will often try to herd people around the house by moving them around and pushing them with their noses. That’s why you need to be very assertive with this breed when trying to teach it the rules of the house.

If you do not set the rules, they will practically run your house. Once they are trained, this is one of the most stable and happy dogs that you can own. They are very intelligent and also protective of their owners. Of course, they are big, cuddly and great with children as well.

Just make sure that you are not a passive owner, because when you are, they will not listen to anything you instruct them to do, especially when it comes to rules of what they can and cannot do around the house and where they can go.

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20. Lakeland Terrier

This is a very energetic dog that can drive you nuts if it’s not properly trained. If they do not know the rules of the yard, for example, they will completely rip it up, because they really love to dig.

Another thing about the Lakeland Terrier is that this breed is a barker. So if you don’t want to be woken up at ungodly hours and you don’t want your neighbors to hate you, then you really need to address this issue when training them as youngsters.

If you are firm and collected with them, they will learn pretty easily. But if you are not assertive, they can drive you crazy. It’s very important to socialize them early, not only with people, but to teach them how to behave properly in the company of other dogs as well.

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21. Japanese Chin

Just like with most small dogs, or as they are referred to – toy dogs – the Japanese Chin needs to be training in order to social well with others. It is very loyal to its owner, but often not very friendly to people outside of its immediate circle.

So if you are planning on putting the dog into your purse and getting some lunch at a restaurant, you are going to have to work on socializing it. It is not good with other dogs or with people it does not know. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it cannot learn to be.

Once they are trained and socialized, they are very pleasant and loving dogs that will bring you nothing but great companionship and joy. Just make sure that they know who’s the boss, because they can get pretty angry if not socialized well, and surprisingly aggressive for their size.

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