Strong Willed vs Compliant Puppies
The Strong Willed Puppy
I must qualify that a bit.
Though I’ve worked with many breeds over the years, in recent years we have raised just the Cavalier hybrids. Regardless of breed, I still see puppies in each litter who are more strong willed and some puppies who are softer natured and are best described as compliant.
Breed traits will vary widely, a "strong willed" Cavapoo puppy is a far cry less difficult to deal with than say a strong willed Rottweiler puppy!
That being said, in every breed, even a breed as generally laid-back and sweet natured as some truly are, there are individual puppies who are more precocious, and yes, a bit more strong willed, and you as puppy owner and trainer, need to know how to train your particular puppy.
For those who would be students of the dog and learn how to live with them more effectively, you need to assess where your puppy fits as far as temperament. If you watch carefully he’ll give you numerous clues to find the path to being the loving but firm owner this puppy needs.
If your corrections are often ignored, you might have a strong willed puppy. (OR you might not be giving proper corrections, with the right timing, with the right amount of energy, the right tone of voice etc. An easy way to decide where your puppy falls on the line between compliant and strong willed is to look for how he carries his ears and tail, especially when you are disciplining him.
Are his ears held high on his head? Is his tail high in the air and waving? Probably a sign that your little munchkin will need you to be quite firm and you’ll need to carefully train in such a way so that there is no doubt in your puppy's mind that you are the pack leader a position your puppy might prefer.
Compare the top photograph of the adorable little ruby colored Cavachon puppy "Max" with that of his more soft natured brown & white sibling "Muffin" in the picture below.
Max is a confident looking puppy, one who'll be loads of fun, sporty and energetic, happy to follow you on your morning jog OR if you're not careful, have a go at chasing the neighbor's cat! Max will need a firm hand in training, that high ear set, that direct gaze means a puppy who while loving and affectionate, needs to know that the position of leader of the pack is not up for grabs! With Max, you’ll need to be quick to teach him the boundaries he needs to be a truly good dog.
Now, look hard at Muffin and learn to develop your "eye for a dog". See her ear set? Her ears are low on the sides of her head, thrown back a bit and her expression is soft, she's got that "I'm trying to be a good puppy" look vs her brother, who doesn't appear to be especially concerned about being good.
Muffin will require more tactful training and help in building her confidence. You'll want to keep any corrections mild and gentler than with slightly more hard-headed brother Max. She will need fewer corrections and those you use need to be gentle. Watch her body language and be sure that your praise far outweighs your use of reprimands.
Equally adorable canine characters but each will require a different kind of training to get them to a pleasing place as grownup canines.
Neither personality is better, each has qualities that will make their future owners adore them. The key is for those owners to get the puppy training skillset to bring out the best in their puppy, be it a little red-headed Max or a girlie girl like Muffin.
Not to worry, both puppies, with care and wisdom will end up at the same place, but your journey will be a happier one for both of you if you acquire the knowledge to train your puppy effectively from the very beginning.
You can read in their faces if you are a student of dogs, a puppy’s expression and manner will give you much in the way of direction in the path you need to take in your role as pack leader to your new little canine charge.
Compliant puppies, yes, take less in the way of correction than more strong willed puppies. Just as some breeds will require different handling. If you're comparing a Jack Russell Terrier or perhaps a Beagle, both may be great dogs but will absolutely require a lot in the way of structure and direction on your part to ensure that the energy that they typically would have vented chasing rabbits or assisting in the hunt, doesn’t turn into chewing your new wool rug or favorite pair of slingbacks!
Strong willed puppies can make such amazing companion dogs so don't discredit your own little Max. All that intelligence and energy can make for a wonderful dog who makes it his job to learn each new thing with dazzling ease. He'll keep you on your training toes no doubt, but if you get it right, you'll have one of the best dogs you'll ever own!
It’s easy to spoil compliant puppies if you’re not careful. You’ll be tempted to lean heavily toward the affection and love side of ownership but neglect the structure and firmness that make for a superb companion dog.
Remember, love them with all your heart, but love them enough to lead them as well.