15 Dogs That Will Keep You On Your Toes And Are Difficult To Train

Man training dog while on a hike.
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Anyone who’s ever taken on the rewarding challenge of training a dog knows that it’s not always a walk in the park. Some breeds, with their boundless energy, sharp intelligence, or stubborn streaks, can make even the simplest commands feel like negotiating a treaty. It’s this unique blend of traits that can keep owners on their toes, turning training sessions into a test of wit and patience.

In this article, we will explore dog breeds known for being challenging to train. However, it’s important to note that all dogs can be trained, and not all of their traits are determined by their breed. In fact, as seen on Cesar Millan’s show The Dog Whisperer, most of the time, training is more for the human than the dog. 

That being said, based on extensive interviews with dog owners and personal experience with various breeds, I can confirm that these specific breeds can be more challenging than others. Whether it’s their fiercely independent nature or their boundless energy, we will explore what makes these dogs both a handful and a joy to have as companions. You will discover not only the challenges but also the unique characteristics that each of these breeds can bring to your life.

Why Knowing the Tough-To-Train Breeds Matters

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So why bother learning about these challenging breeds? For prospective pet owners or current dog lovers facing training hurdles, understanding which breeds are known for being tough to train can prepare you for the journey ahead. It’s about setting realistic expectations, adapting training methods, and perhaps most importantly, fostering a strong bond and mutual respect between you and your furry friend.

Afghan Hound: Beauty and Brains

Afghan Hound walks in setting sun.
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The Afghan Hound, with its majestic hair and aristocratic appearance, is often likened to a supermodel of the dog world. However, their stunning looks come with a high intelligence that’s matched by a strong independent streak, making training a complex task.

Siberian Husky: Free-Spirited Runner

Siberian Husky learning shake with owner.
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The husky is blessed with a charming and cute appearance, which makes it a desirable dog breed for many people. However, it is also a breed that not everyone can handle. Just like German Shepherds, Huskies are highly intelligent and capable dogs, which require an experienced owner who can provide them with the right kind of training and care.

If you are planning to get a husky, be prepared to face the challenge that comes with it. You should understand that this breed demands extra effort and attention, especially when it comes to training. Although huskies are known for their intelligence, you might find yourself learning from them more than you expected.

Bull Terrier: The Mischievous Clown

Bull Terrier at dog training class.
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Don’t let the Bull Terrier’s comedic demeanor fool you; beneath that playful exterior lies a stubborn streak. Training requires consistency and a firm, yet loving hand to manage their mischievous tendencies and boundless energy.

Chow Chow: The Aloof Aristocrat

Chow Chow at the park.
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With their lion-like mane and dignified demeanor, Chow Chows hold an aura of aloofness. They are known for their independence and territorial nature, making early socialization and consistent training crucial for a well-behaved companion.

Borzoi: The Noble Sprinter

Borzoi running through field.
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Elegance and speed define the Borzoi, a breed that combines a noble appearance with a passion for the chase. Their independent nature and prey drive can make training a challenge, requiring patience and persistence.

Basenji: The Silent Thinker

Basenji sitting in grass.
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The Basenji, known for its unusual silence, is as independent as it is intelligent. Training a Basenji means outsmarting a dog that might already be two steps ahead, making for an interesting, if challenging, training experience.

Much like other dogs on this list, I find it best to spend some time playing with a basenji before trying to train. The exception here is I typically try to find activities that make it think and look to me for approval. For instance, I might hide one of their toys behind my back and ask it to sit or lay down before throwing the ball. This associates a reward with paying attention.

Beagle: The Curious Explorer

Beagle running through tall grass.
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Beagles, with their incredible sense of smell and curious nature, are easily distracted by the world around them. Training a Beagle requires overcoming their tendency to follow their nose over your commands, making for a challenging, yet rewarding experience.

Try giving you beagle a reason to pay attention to you more than their curiosity. Keep their favorite toy or treat in a pocket when teaching and occasionally pull either out as a reward for doing well.  

Dalmatian: The Energetic Spot

Dalmatian running with stick.
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Dalmatians are not just known for their iconic spots but also for their boundless energy and strong-willed nature. Training requires ample exercise to manage their energy levels and creative strategies to keep their attention.

Labradoodle: The Affable Challenge

Labradoodle dog sitting on couch with owner in background reading a book.
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Labradoodles, a harmonious blend of the Poodle’s intellect and the Labrador’s devotion, emerge as beloved family companions, celebrated for their amiable nature and hypoallergenic fur. However, their training presents a unique challenge; their sharp intelligence and occasional stubborn streak demand consistency, patience, and a nuanced approach to harness their potential fully.

It seems that nowadays, you can’t walk down the street without spotting a golden or labradoodle mix. These breeds have become incredibly popular, and it’s easy to see why. The labradoodle is a highly intelligent breed, but can also be quite mischievous at times. In my opinion, they are fully aware of their cuteness and use it to get away with things they shouldn’t.

Fox Terrier: The Spirited Hunter

Fox Terrier standing at attention.
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Fox Terriers are small in size but large in spirit, with a hunting instinct that drives their energetic and sometimes stubborn behavior. Training requires channeling their energy into positive activities and consistent, engaging sessions.

Shar-Pei: The Wrinkled Sage

Shar-Pei sitting with owner.
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Shar-Peis are known for their distinctive wrinkles and calm demeanor, but they also have a stubborn streak and a strong sense of independence. Training requires patience and an understanding of their unique personality traits.

I personally haven’t had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with different Shar-Peis. However, I talked with a few local dog trainers who all mentioned that this breed was similar to Pit Bull in the sense that they want to make you happy but they also are their “own-dog.” You may not achieve high level recall with a Shar-Peis but the basics should be easily attainable. 

Jack Russell Terrier: The Agile Dynamo

Jack Russell Terrier running through grass.
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Jack Russell Terriers are small but mighty, with an agility and intelligence that make them a handful to train. Their boundless energy and cleverness require a trainer who is two steps ahead and ready for a lively training session.

The trick to the Jack Russell is to determine their motivation factor. Whether its food, toys, or just being active, if you know what gets their attention then you can start to work on the basics such as sit, stay, and shake.

Weimaraner: The Eager Shadow

Weimaraner laying down in open field
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Weimaraner dogs are affectionately known as “Velcro dogs” for their desire to be close to their owners, but their intelligence and energy can make training a dynamic challenge. They require engaging activities to satisfy their need for both physical and mental stimulation.

Tip: My number one tip for Weimaraner breed is to spend at least twenty minutes playing first before doing any type of training. Otherwise, in my experience, they can’t seem to calm down enough to pay attention and learn new habits.

Rottweiler: The Loyal Guardian

Rottweiler standing in a field
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Including the Rottweiler in a discussion about challenging-to-train breeds might raise eyebrows among canine enthusiasts, given their reputation as one of the most intelligent and fiercely loyal breeds. Indeed, Rottweilers are known for their deep devotion and protective instincts, traits that make them exceptional family guardians and working dogs. However, their formidable intelligence and loyalty can double as a training challenge, especially for those unfamiliar with the breed’s unique needs.

Positive reinforcement techniques and consistent training are key to successfully training a Rottweiler. Socialization is also crucial to mitigate any overprotective tendencies. Regular training sessions that challenge them mentally and respect their physical strength can help keep them engaged and responsive.

Pug: The Endearing Stubborn

Pug dog laying on owner in grass field.
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Pugs, with their distinctive wrinkled brows and big, soulful eyes, capture hearts with their comedic charm and compact, cuddly frames. Not known for their intellectual prowess, these canine sometimes display a surprising stubbornness, challenging the notion that less bright breeds are always more compliant.

Training a Pug requires a blend of gentle persistence and creative problem-solving, leveraging their love for food and play as motivation. Their endearing nature and strong desire for human companionship mean they respond well to positive reinforcement, although their stubborn streak can require trainers to be more patient and inventive. Beyond their training quirks, Pugs are renowned for their sociable and loving temperament, making them cherished companions despite any training hurdles.

Avoid These 8 Typical Dog Training Errors

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Dog training comes with its challenges. To ensure success, it’s vital to sidestep common mistakes that impede progress. This guide will explore 8 typical dog training errors to help you and your furry friend reach your training goals.

Corey Turner
Corey Turner, owner of FurBallFun.com, draws on a lifelong love for dogs and extensive pet ownership to offer a unique perspective in the pet industry. With a successful background in project management, he excels in critical analysis, precise attention to detail, and quality assurance. This expertise allows him to effectively differentiate true value from marketing hype in the pet sector. Corey’s contributions have been featured in various publications including Rockery Press Guide Books and WealthofGeeks.com. During his free time, he enjoys disc golfing, rock climbing, and bonding with his cherished FurBall friend, Harvey.