Behavior Problems

Stop Poking Grandma! What's Fair Between Older Dogs & Puppies

SCENE:  Older woman with a brace on her knee, a cane nearby, and a big jar of arthritis pills clearly visible on the chairside table. She is clearly uncomfortable as she keeps waving away the child who keeps darting in to poke her and then dash away laughing. 

"Help me! I'm being poked and I can't get up!" she cries. The kid pokes her again, laughs; he's having a ball. She swings ineffectively at the kid while muttering a bit under her breath, "you brat... leave me alone!" then louder, "HELP!"

Permission, Not Permissive


Out of control!

Impulse issues!


Lacking self control!

These labels and many more are readily applied to so many dogs. Yet the handler often isn't even considered to be part of the dynamic that contributes to the dog's behavior. 

Relationship Centered Training (RCT) always considers the relationship and how dog and human interact to create behavior. Not surprisingly, the human end of the leash sometimes contributes to unwanted behavior without intending to do so.

Even Though…

Even Though. . .

All of us can appreciate what might excite a dog, even to the point of tuning out his handler. It could be another dog, people approaching, food, toys, wildlife, a cat or squirrel, anticipation of a happy event like a walk or being in class. We understand that the world is full of many things our dogs may find far more interesting at times than a conversation with us.

If Only That Hadn't Happened, This Dog Would Be Fine

Why are some dogs shy? fearful? nervous? aggressive? irritable? unfriendly? difficult to train? clingy? unable to be left alone? 

People have many explanations for why dogs act as they do. Sometimes the dog's history becomes baggage that the human carts along for the dog's entire life. Recently, I asked someone about their dog's pulling on leash and she began her answer with, "He was found near a dumpster when he was six weeks old." The dog was 3 years old now. How does being found near a dumpster have much to do with pulling, which is an interaction between a dog and handler?

Understanding Thresholds: It's More than Under- or Over-

It is often heard and cheerfully given advice: "Keep him under threshold!" Yep. Can do. I think. Maybe. Um, how do I know? 

While most of us recognize the dog who has been pushed past a threshold and into reaction, it is harder to know exactly where the sweet spot is, the place where learning and thinking occur, where choices are possible, and where behavior changes (good ones!) can happen. 

Dog is in the Details

One trainer wrote:  “A dog who puts its feet on you, a dog who seems to like pinning you down in your chair with its head on your lap is not being affectionate but rather treating you like a member of the pack that can be pushed, stepped on, and held down.  Dr. Karen Overall warns that such signs should be read for what they are. Dominance aggression in an overt form should come as no sudden surprise if this kind of behavior has been observed in the past."