Strangers Are Better at Teaching Grumpy Dogs New Tricks, Study Says

By: Jesslyn Shields  | 

Grumpy dog
Do you have a grumpy dog? Well, if she won't listen to you, try letting a stranger train her and see how she does. ClarkandCompany/Getty Images

Just because your dog has a sweet, easy-going temperament doesn't mean she'll be easy to train. In fact, the opposite might be true.

A 2021 study conducted by a group of researchers at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, found that a dog that's a little testier than your average pup might be a bit more easily trained by a human previously unknown to them.

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Dogs learn through watching other dogs and humans — they actually have a pretty difficult time solving new problems without a little guidance from a friend or associate. The same group of researchers found in a previous study that a dominant dog in a multi-dog home generally has a difficult time learning new tricks — like solving a problem to get to a treat — from a dog further down the household chain of command, while more submissive dogs do very well learning from alpha dogs. All dogs in that study learned pretty well when a human showed them the ropes.

The Owner and Dog Dynamic

In the newer study, the researchers looked into the relationship between a dog and its owner, and how that relationship affected a dog's ability to learn new skills. It turns out, crankier dogs learned skills more easily from a complete stranger than from the humans who lived in their house.

The researchers called these cantankerous pooches "grumpy dogs." You know the type: They bark more in social situations, they don't come when you call them, they snarl when you so much as glance at their favorite toy and you're continually making excuses and apologies for their behavior.

According to the study, grumpy dogs and their affable counterparts did equally well solving a problem involving walking a long way around a v-shaped wire fence in order to get to a treat they could see and smell up close through the fence. However, the grumpy dogs did much better when a stranger showed them how to walk around the fence in order to get to the treat.

Why, you ask? That's a subject for another study.

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