As a dog owner, especially if you own a particularly stubborn breed, you may wonder if it’s possible for all dogs to be trained. The simple, short answer is yes. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. If your dog has a severe learning deficit, it may not be trainable.

If you are in or near Traveler’s Rest, SC, and in need of vet care, contact Balanced Pets to learn more. We are an integrative care facility for pets of all kinds. We offer expert, compassionate care.

In this article, we’ll explain the factors involved in determining the trainability of your dog:

5 Factors

There are 5 primary factors involved in determining the trainability of your dog, including:


Dogs can learn new things no matter what their age. However, if you are trying to train them to do something that goes against their old habits, it can be challenging. In addition, as pets get older, they may develop medical conditions that make training more of a challenge. For example, some pets develop cognitive dysfunction syndrome, which is a lot like dementia in humans. When you bring home a puppy, set your house rules early- do not change the rules and expectations as your pet gets older. Remember that a puppy’s attention span is short, so have short sessions and make training fun. Do not try to train during fear periods or teething, as training is usually more difficult during these times.


For hundreds of years, humans have been breeding dogs for certain working abilities and physical traits. Some are bred to work with humans, and some are bred to work independently. Those that are bred to work with humans tend to learn quicker than others.

Therefore, when working with a dog, you must consider its origin to determine its learning style. You can find lists online that rank the dog breeds based on how well they learn, but many times they conflict. It is important to keep in mind that intelligence and obedience are not interchangeable. A dog that follows directions is obedient but may not necessarily be intelligent.


Dogs that have a mental or physical disability are often more difficult to train. For example, if your dog has a hearing impairment, it will not respond to verbal commands- but you can use hand signals instead. In fact, many times hand signals are more effective because dogs respond to body language better than words. Unfortunately, it may be harder to get your dog’s attention to give them the signal.

If the action you are asking your dog to do causes pain due to arthritis or missing limbs, it may delay their response. However, this does not impact their ability to learn just their ability to comply with the command. If your dog has a physical disability, you may need to adjust your request to make things easier.

Fear and anxiety also fall under this category. If your dog is stressed or fearful, it cannot think rationally- its instincts take over. Even if the perceived threat is not valid, it becomes impossible to train a dog in this state.

Training Methods

While it is possible for all dogs to be trained, the training method has a lot to do with the effectiveness of the training. If your dog is not responsive to the current method, you may want to try a different approach.

If you’ve been taking your dog to classes and they don’t seem to be learning, try a different class and trainer. Sometimes, your dog may learn better one-on-one instead of in a group setting. During your search for a dog trainer, keep in mind that not all trainers are the same. Make sure to talk with several trainers and explain your situation, as well as the methods you’ve tried. While trainers typically have a favorite style, the best trainers will be familiar with a variety of methods.

In some cases, training difficulties are due to the messages being given to the dog. If your dog is being sent mixed messages, it will struggle to understand what behaviors are expected. If this is the case, the dog will either shut down, become aggressive, or ignore the commands.


While it is true that all dogs can be trained, the better question is what you are trying to train your dog to do. Successful training requires that humans set realistic expectations for their dog.

For example, if your dog has a high prey drive, they may not be very good off-leash because something may cross its path and its instincts kick in. Some dogs are shy and more comfortable at home, which means it may not be good as a therapy dog.

While simple commands and basic manners can be taught to just about any dog, you must understand that you can’t expect training to change your dog’s personality. Your training goals must fit your lifestyle and your dog’s temperament. Once you’ve determined the best way to train your dog based on its breed, activity level, and motivation, you must put in the time and effort to achieve your goals.

Training Is Always Possible

It’s possible for all dogs to be trained- but there are certain caveats to that. You must consider your dog’s age, breed, and disabilities as well as the training method you are using and your personal expectations for their training.

If you need help or advice for training your dog, contact Balanced Pets in Traveler’s Rest, SC. We are an integrative vet clinic focused on providing the best care possible for your pet. We can help you learn more about your dog and its learning styles to ensure that training is successful.