Carol wrote into my Daily Tip on Dogster.com about her dog for whom obedience seems to be a loose concept!
Is it possible that a dog knows what you want but just doesn’t want to do it, i.e. isn’t motivated enough? My German Shepherd mix will follow commands instantly when food is around (so I know he understands the commands), but will sometimes not when no food is involved. If he really wants to come inside, he’ll sit right away. If he is only a little interested in coming inside, he’ll walk away rather than sit. Thoughts? He’s come a long way in his training, especially since we got a second dog who is very people-focused and lives for praise and positive interaction.
I can commiserate with you, Carol, because one of my rescued Weimaraners is just like that. Actually worse because even a mediocre treat often doesn’t interest Scooby Doo enough that he will do something I ask in a snappy fashion. I think there are some dogs who just aren’t “wired” to be really responsive to requests, where others just can’t come/sit/jump/or turn fast enough when they’ve learned the command. They seem to get pleasure from it where others couldn’t care less. As long as he’ll do things for a treat, at least you know how to get results — and there’s no shame in a dog who works for treats. Think of it as the kid who only does chores around the house for an allowance: be glad he’s doing things at all! Just as your second dog is highly motivated (as my younger rescued Weimeraner is too), each dog is an individual and you have to figure out what rings their bell in order to succeed at dog training. And if your newer pooch is setting a good example, hurray!