Why Are Dogs Obedient? Age and Breed Insights

Most dogs will listen to humans, or at least they want to do what we tell them. But what makes dogs submit to people and obey our commands?

Quick Answer

Dogs obey because of two things. First, the domestication process and selective breeding made them somewhat obedient and docile enough to be trained. Second, it is operant conditioning that trains them to obey commands.

Through training, we encourage the behaviors in dogs that we want to see more frequently by rewarding them. The more we do it, the more obedient they become. But there’s more to it.

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Why Do Dogs Show Obedience?

Dogs are obedient primarily because humans have selectively bred them to be such. Dogs have been human companions for a long time. Therefore, they are accustomed to living with us.

They are one of the oldest domesticated species, having been domesticated for at least 14,000 years (in some locations, even 30,000 years). They’ve been bred extensively, so they pay attention to people. Dogs have strong pack instincts, making them intrinsically more social with each other and humans.

However, this doesn’t make the dogs obey.

Operant conditioning makes dogs listen to commands such as “heel” and “sit.” Dogs learn to connect their actions with their results through trial-and-error learning, another name for it. Therefore, their actions are reflected in their behavior.

Dogs, with their keen observational skills, quickly determine which responses get them closer to their needs being met, prompting them to act in obedience.

Positive consequences indicate that the behavior is more likely to be repeated, whereas negative ones show a less likely repetition. The better we train them, the more they obey.

To summarize, dogs obey because it gets them what they want. Dogs desire three things: safety, food, and comfort. They get those things when they comply with people and grow more obedient with training, which can also make them happy.

Moreover, their evolutionary journey with humans has honed their senses, making them highly attuned to our expectations and desires. They’ve inherently learned that obeying often leads to mutual benefits.

When Do Dogs Become More Obedient?

Dog training and exposure to stimuli should start at a young age. Puppies are typically easier to train until they hit six months. After this, they can become difficult and disobedient. Depending on the breed, they will become easier to train when they reach 1-2 years of age.

5-6 months is when they first start understanding commands and listening, as well as when they are toilet and crate trained. However, it is frequently a roller coaster, and it is challenging to forecast when the dog will begin to heed directions.

The adolescent phase in a puppy’s life typically lasts from six months to two years. During this time, your puppy’s personality will grow and alter as it matures, making them hard to train.

Harnessing their innate desire for routine can make training more efficient; dogs thrive on predictability, which can be a helpful tool during these rebellious phases.

There’s a reason why most adults struggle at this time of year and why many puppies regress. It doesn’t mean that someone should stop training; it simply means it will be more difficult.

It’s a lifelong process with large breeds, although it should improve after 2-3 years. Consider that you will need to train your puppy for several years.

Remember that dogs require mental stimulation and training to keep their minds sharp and avoid boredom. Even after they mature, consistent stimulation is necessary to have the dog always obey and lead a happy and fulfilling life.

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Most Obedient Dog Breeds

Some dogs are intelligent and naturally submit to their owners. These are the simplest to train. Others are fixated on birds, cats, or other things.

The easiest to train are the naturally obedient dog breeds, including:

  • Golden retrievers (if you don’t mind their size or shedding)
  • Poodles, Standard and mixed (for a more hands-off grooming experience)
  • Herding dogs such as Border Collies and Australian Shepherds, and German Shepherds. They are intelligent and obedient but can be noisy and distant to strangers. These breeds inherently recognize the value of obedience in achieving a common goal.
  • Labrador Retrievers are another fantastic option because they are easy to teach and are calm and gentle with youngsters when adequately trained.
  • Vizslas are incredibly docile and easy to train.

Intelligence is closely tied to obedience. The more clever the dog, the easier it is to train and the more obedient it becomes. It all comes down to your ability to read and connect with your dog and how to train it.

Dogs like Border Collies have an inherent desire to work alongside humans, often showcasing astounding levels of obedience when given tasks. This drive to collaborate and be of use makes them not only obedient but also eager to please.

Remember that luck also plays a role in training your dog to be obedient. Some dogs are naturally submissive to their owners and are simple to teach. Try to correctly introduce your puppy to its environment so the dog can get comfortable in various scenarios.

What Makes a Dog Disobedient?

Many factors can cause a dog to be rebellious and difficult to manage. When the dog is disobedient, it’s not because they’re bad or spoiled. There are usually obvious signs of why the dog is showing disobedience.

Some of the usual reasons include the lack of exercise, both mental and physical. Most of this stimulation can often be met by simply walking them. Walks are necessary for all dogs because they provide both mental and physical stimulation.

If the dog is disobedient, the most common reason is that the dog has not been trained. The owner’s natural responsibility is to train or, at the very least, meet their dog’s basic demands.

Everything a dog does, including pulling on a leash, biting and chewing, leaping on beds, running for other dogs, calming down, and so on, can be trained and worked on. Here’s a step-by-step leash guide for those struggling, and here’s one for those with strong dogs.

You can begin training a puppy at eight weeks old and gradually expose them to various environments. If it’s an older dog, you can also perform some success in training.

Don’t let anyone tell you that old dogs can’t learn new tricks because it isn’t true. Visit our dog guides page for more.

Here’s a video with five tips for teaching your dog to lie down:

How to Make a Disobedient Dog Follow Commands?

It all comes down to conditioning. Dogs obey humans because they have been taught to do so primarily through positive reinforcement.

For example, positive reinforcement (R+) means enhancing behavior by introducing something desirable into the environment. Giving rewards, toys, and praise for a desired behavior is an example of positive reinforcement.

The most significant benefit of R+ methods is your bond with your pets. When teaching your dog, consider whether what you’re doing is beneficial or detrimental to your relationship with your dog. You may want to choose only those things that benefit this relationship in the long term.

Remember that dogs learn best when they are allowed to do the order themselves rather than forced to do it.

Take the “sit” command, for example. So, for sitting, you can either press their behind before giving them the treat OR gently bring the treat over their heads until they are forced to sit to view it, and then you reward them.

The second method is far superior; they will learn it much faster since they won’t associate it with your hand. Instead of “I got the treat when someone touched my behind,” the dog will believe they got it when they sat down.

Keep two things in mind when starting out. 

First, stay consistent. Dogs can’t learn when their owners are inconsistent and only train them every other month—and second, use treats. Find the ones that your dog regards as very high value. It can significantly increase their motivation. Try our guide to get started in practice with PR, or look at these tips for effective R+ technique.


Are male dogs more obedient than females?

Females appear to mature faster and take training more seriously. For example, they are less likely to wander off or substitute training time for cuddling time. They are also more receptive to training. However, each has advantages and disadvantages, and there are several exceptions.

Why are dogs more obedient than cats?

Cats are merely semi-domesticated, but dogs have been domesticated for thousands of years. Cats simply require time to catch up. They haven’t mastered all dogs’ social interaction tactics and don’t have the same strong group instincts as dogs.

Do dogs respect their owners?

While many people wish for dogs to show respect, dogs don’t have the concept of respect the same way humans do. Instead, they show obedience, attachment, and bonding. The way to get obedience (which seems like respect) is through positive reinforcement, with treats and rewards.

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