While all dogs are susceptible to training, it has been proven that breed matters in how easy or difficult it will be to train the dog (1). While the below listed hard to train dogs may be a challenge, that doesn’t mean they cannot be trained. It means you may need to invest extra time (and money) into achieving the goal.
Assessing Dog Breeds for Trainability
There's now enough research in this area as scientists continue to map out breeds and rank them in order of easiest to hardest to train. Studies found great variability based on breed (genetics) in how they perceive visual and audible cues, their overall attitude towards training, obedience and behavior during commands, and other factors (2, 3, 4).
In a 2018 study, as part of the goal to figure each breed's popularity, authors assessed them for trainability as well. They found breeds like Collie, Whippet, GSD and retrievers to be easy to train, while breeds like Borzoi, Chow Chow, Saint Bernard scored low on trainability (2).
Some breeds were also found to be better at specific training and work. For example, a different 2018 study found Border Collies rank at the top of the list for detection work (5). Labrador Retrievers were found to be best guide dogs due to behavioral phenotypes in their genome (6, 7). There are multiple genetic factors that affect how easy it is to train a specific breed, with dog's temperament, fear and aggression being one of the primary criteria (7, 8, 9).
We can find plenty more proof of the differences between breeds for how they perceive training both in studies and regular literature (10, 11). For example, in “Click for Joy!“, author Melissa C. Alexander reviews experiences of dog trainers and found a pattern that it's much easier to train a Labrador to retrieve than a Great Pyrenees (and plenty more examples).
Based on the available data, we've compiled a list of 20 hard to train dogs as demonstrated in the above studies. It's important to note several things:
- These breeds are not impossible to train, but rather harder than others.
- Owners' skills and abilities should also be taken into consideration.
- Other factors (non-breed related) should also be considered, such as dog's upbringing, environment, history, health, age and more.
The above is to say that in some situations, a breed that ranks as hard to train may actually be easier to train than a more trainable breed if certain conditions are met.
20 Most Hard to Train Dogs
Breeds Over 60 Pounds
1. Saint Bernard
A breed that several studies confirmed is difficult to train is Saint Bernard. While the true origins of the Saint Bernard are sketchy, we do know that the monks of Saint Bernard’s Pass used them as guard dogs and rescue dogs. For centuries, the Saint was bred to perform many functions, such as those mentioned, and farm hand duties.
They can do these things with little to no supervision. This requires a lot of intelligence and independent thought. Apparently, it is this independent thought (and their temperament) that makes Saint Bernards one of the hard to train dogs. They always believe that their way of doing things is better.
2. Basset Hound
Not as well-research as many other breeds in terms of trainability, yet several studies found this breed express fear which affects their susceptibility for training. Although Basset Hound has short legs, they are still heavy with strong bones and muscles. Originally bred to be scent hounds, these hunting dogs still love to just be a dog. They like to bark, howl, dig, and wander around the neighborhood.
The owner of one of these pooches needs to be a consistent trainer to turn one of these fur-babies into a family pet. The “Saint Hubert’s Hound” is also pretty lazy. They would rather just lie around when not tracking a scent, which is part of what makes them one of the most hard to train dogs.
A famous racing breed, this intelligent, docile breed is becoming a favorite as a family pet as well but it's almost of the most hard to train dogs out there. Greyhounds are sighthounds, and although the racing industry has bred out all aggression and other unwanted traits, the prey drive remains high.
This combined with their ability to jump most fences under 6 feet means that they need to be properly trained not to chase cars, squirrels, and other pets. They are also pretty sensitive and need a soft hand in training. If training is too harsh, they can become skittish, timid, and fearful.
Here's another breed that was researched in several studies and found difficult to train. Borzois, also known as the “Russian Wolfhound”, were popular among Russian aristocracy up until the late 19th century. Another site hound, these dogs are fast and will give chase to anything that moves. Sensitive like the Greyhound, care must be taken when training.
This breed is suspicious around kids and strangers, so the person who trains this canine must be able to do pack leader, socialization, and obedience training. However, while one of the hard to train dogs, they are intelligent so the person who puts in the time and knowledge will be rewarded with great results.
There are a few reasons that this pup is hard to train. First, they have average intelligence. While average isn’t bad, they won’t pick things up as quickly as really smart dogs. Second, they are stubborn and independent. Brave and confident, these pooches don’t take orders from just anybody.
Also, Bullmastiffs are huge. Originally bred to be guard dogs, these animals need an experienced trainer for obedience, pack leader, and socialization training. They can easily hurt or kill another animal or human.
6. Chesapeake Bay Retriever
You may be surprised to see these pups on the list of hard to train dogs, as they are a popular hunting breed. But what puts them here is simply that among retrievers (which are generally easy to train dogs), Chesapeake Bays are most stubborn. While they are hard-headed, they're also brave and loyal. They also excel at water activities. With their guard dog qualities and penchant of killing any small furry or feathered animal, it is best that only experienced dog owners and trainers have these active dogs.
They are the embodiment of your traditional canine – diggers, chewers, chasers, and barkers. They will need strong, consistent training to curb their unwanted desires. Only thriving with an owner that puts in the time, the Chessie needs lots of outdoor activity.
Bred for guarding livestock in frigid temperatures, the Kuvasz is used to going days without any human guidance. They are an old breed with centuries of independent thought and bravery bred in. This strong pup can really do some damage if not trained properly.
They need an experienced trainer willing to put the time in to pack leader and socialization training. This dog doesn’t do well with kids, strangers, or other pets. When training, make sure you are firm, but not too harsh. This could create aggression.
8. Blood Hound
These sweet, gentle dogs are friendly to all. In this breed, aggression is not a problem. However, they are very independent. This is what puts them on the list for hard to train dogs. These fur-babies can easily hurt a child or pet by simply playing too rough.
They need a human that is willing to put in the time, look past the pitiful face, and teach them proper manners and obedience. If these canines catch a scent, they will want to follow at all cost. You must teach them as puppies that you are the boss.
Breeds 25 to 60 Pounds
9. Chow Chow
A number of studies found Chow Chows to be stubborn and difficult to train. There are several reasons that this breed being like this. First and foremost, they are all beauty but less intelligent than many others. While they are regal and lion-like, they do not learn very fast. Secondly, they are more cat-like in their personality and are more aggressive.
They don’t like kids, and most of the time, they would rather be left alone. Anyone that wants to have one of these canines as a pet needs to be an experienced, patient trainer that has the time to spend working with this pup. Aloof and serious, these head-turners should never be allowed to roam free.
10. Bedouin Shepherd Dog
This breed is all work and no play. One of the oldest breeds around, these canines are not even considered to be fully domesticated. They are rugged, outside dogs from the Sahara Desert used for guarding camps and livestock from predators.
This is not a family dog. They do better with only one or two other people in the house, and no other pets. The owner of these independent, aggressive animals need to be firm in pack leader training. They also need to put in a lot of time in to socialization and daily outside play and activities.
I still remember when someone told me that Dalmatians were mean. I was shocked, but indeed, these fur-babies can be aggressive. They have lots of energy and need to be kept busy. When bored, they can become aggressive and destructive. This makes for a lethal combination that makes for one of the hard to train dogs.
With that said, they are loyal and intelligent. If you have enough time to properly train, socialize, and exercise your pet, you should do just fine with this breed. Just remember, they can be stubborn, so make sure you start with pack leader training early.
12. Black and Tan Coonhound
Any hound dog usually needs an experienced trainer. This one is no different. It is active and enduring and needs lots of exercise and room to roam. While they are friendly and loving, these four-legged family members are independent and stubborn.
They like to do all the doggy things like chasing, digging, and howling. Not only do they need sturdy fence, but the Black and Tan need a sturdy trainer. While socialization training is not a big deal with these pups, obedience is.
13. Catahoula Cur
Also known as the Catahoula Leopard Dogs, these canines are unique in appearance. Bred to brave the swamps of Louisiana, they are used as protection, primarily from wild hogs. Although he is tough, he needs his people.
If left alone too much, this dog will become aggressive and destructive. Although they are loving and affectionate, they are suspicious of other animals and strangers. This combined with their independent nature means they need am experienced trainer.
14. American Pit Bull Terrier
This well-known breed is recommended for experienced owners. Long bred for their aggression and fighting skills, many towns, apartment complexes, and home insurances have banned this dog breed. That doesn’t mean these fur-babies have no value as a pet.
If you want to own one successfully, make sure your pet comes from a breeder that does not breed for aggressive qualities. You will also need to have plenty of time to put in for pack leader and obedience training. It is important that your pup is well socialized.
15. English Bulldog
It's probably not surprising that the English Bulldog landed on the list of the hard to train dog breeds. These pups were originally bred for a bloody sport called bullbaiting. Surprisingly, they also performed as herding dogs. While they have come a long way from their aggressive qualities to be a loving animal, they are still independent and stubborn.
If you are looking for a lazy couch-potato, this is THE dog for you. While loving towards people, they need to be well socialized with animals if you want them to tolerate other animals. Unfortunately, these fur-babies are also not very smart. They need a patient, consistent trainer to teach them obedience.
Breeds 25 Pounds and Under
One of the most popular dogs in the USA, the Beagle is one of the hardest dog breeds to train. This traditional scent hound is now working as the family pet. While intelligent, this breed is still considered hard to train. Like some other pooches on this list, the Beagle loves to dig, bark, and follow their nose.
They need a strong, dedicated trainer so they aren’t a nuisance to their owners and neighbors. Energetic and loving, they need daily exercise and family time. These four-legged family members really make great pets for people who are willing to take the time and energy to train them.
These playful lap dogs are known to be clowns. They are alert, loving, and sensitive to human companionship. All around, they make a very entertaining pup, but they can be hard to train. While they are naturally well behaved, they become nuisance barkers and need stimulation and socialization to avoid this.
Independent and mischievous, these adorable companions need consistent obedience training. Although you may want to pick this little dog up to avoid improper behavior, correct it instead so it doesn’t develop “little dog syndrome”. This will just add to the many reasons why the Pug is one of the hard to train dogs.
Originally used for catching mice and rats, this breed was eventually sized down and made into a lap dog. Also known as the Monkey Terrier of the Mustachioed Devil, this is your typical little yappy dog.
Confident and fearless, he makes a great watch dog despite his size, but that also means obedience training needs to be consistent and start immediately. While smart, these pooches are independent. They would rather do things their way. However, for anyone willing to put in the time, this breed makes a fine companion dog.
This is another breed that comes with several obstacles for a trainer to overcome, and you may be surprised that they are one of the hardest dogs to train. While intelligent, these pups are convinced that they are the boss. They need a firm trainer, but not too firm. Pekingese do better with reward based training.
If training is too harsh, this little dog will become snappy, and even bite. They don’t usually like kids and other pets, preferring to be the only pet to only one or two owners. With that said, these regal self-confident animals can be a great companion to a trainer willing to learn and put in the effort.
Known as a “barkless” dog, canines in this breed still have training hurdles to jump. Another ratter, these dogs are originally from Africa and are used to rid villages of rodents and pest. Loving and intelligent, they make great family pets for the right family.
With high energy, this fur-baby needs plenty of exercise and entertainment. Independent and stubborn, they need a strong trainer that can be as willful as it is. These dogs have a strong “prey drive” and need a sturdy fence and consistent training to keep from chasing ..and catching.. everything in sight.