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Creating the Best Worst Dog


There is no doubt, when ‘training dogs’, that seventy percent of the training is for the human owner. Time and again we (the trainers) are confronted with many similar issues in the dog – person relationships that adversely affect the dogs behavior. This blog is going to list a few of those mistakes.


It’s a quaint house, small but with a large porch painted all in white. It is nestled between a row full of similar homes on a busy side road. The wide steps to the porch rise up to give view to the front door with a large bay window next to it. Next to the door, a sign reading “Beware of Dog” is fully on display.


This is Princess’s new home. Princess is a beautiful example of a Chihuahua mix and has found herself a very loving home. She is well fed, getting her meals twice daily and plenty of treats in between. Mom has her doggy bed in the living room and the bedroom where she can nap or sleep at her leisure. Princess’s assortment of toys that are strewn across every floor of the home would make the most wealthy of pups stop and take note. And then there is Mom. She is the greatest woman, always soft spoken, always giving and ever ready to tend to her needs. Dad is, well, he is like the captain of a ship. If Princess barks or scratches at the carpet or puts her head on the table at dinner time, from the chair of course, Dad barks out orders at her.


Princess’s life didn’t begin this easy. At her first forever home, mom and dad were initially very happy and there was lots of love and play and food! Slowly, she noticed that things were changing. Mom and Dad were ever quieter and they were gone more and more. The days became dismal and were running into each other. Feeding wasn’t coming on time like it had and mom and dad would now, on occasion, get loud and grumpy with each other. Sometimes, Princess would jump into moms’ lap and she could feel she was sad, large wet tears dropping onto her nose and head. Princess could feel the pain and lay quiet in moms’ lap. Other times, princess would jump up into moms’ lap and it would be rewarded with a loud scream from mom accompanied by a spank on the butt. There were days Princess would be left alone at home and she would have to go pee and poop so bad but couldn’t get outside. It hurt so much that there was nothing for it, she would have to run for the corner of the rug. The feeling of the soft material between her toes felt most like outside on the grass and she would relieve herself. Dad would come home first and she knew to hide. The smell of her accident was unmistakable and she knew what was coming. The bellowing rage from dad’s heated face, the slamming of furniture and kicking that she would have to endure to then be thrown out the back door. One day mom came home to witness Princess being punished and there was a big fight. She couldn’t understand the sounds but it led to dad storming from the home. A few days had passed, there were no more fights but mom was even more sad until one day she saw mom packing up her blankets and toys and food. She was crying uncontrollably when she had clipped the leash to Princess’s collar and drove her to this place where there were lots of dogs, all of them screaming at the tops of their lungs. Mom left her there and never came back.


When Princess met her second Mom and Dad, it was joy at first sight from them. Princess was cautious but felt optimistic. With lowered head and slightly wagging tail she greeted them. Within minutes Princess was smiling and after much to do with Mom and the shelter personnel, she found herself in a car leaving that place she never wants to see again.


The new home was tidy and cozy, and everything was given to her that she ever wanted. Princess soon found herself jumping up onto the couch barking with joy at Mom and Dad. When they sat with her, she would jump up on the backrest and play king of the hill. This was her castle and Mom and Dad would play catch me. So MUCH fun! When visitors would come calling, it was Princess’ prerogative to race to her tower next to the door and show that incoming person just how well she can defend her castle from intruders.


The FOOD! It was sooo gooood. Princess would just be beside herself when breakfast and dinner were served. Mom would put it on the floor and her nose would be right in it. Sometimes Mom would try to take her bowl before she was done and Princess would get angry, “I am not done,” she would let Mom know with crisp barks. “you can have it when I have cleaned it”. She could hear Mom saying in a soft voice, “Okay, I know you are hungry. I will wait.” There are also those snacks that Mom leaves on the table or kitchen counter. Dad gets angry when Mom leaves those treats for her, so Princess is always quick to grab the treats and get back on the floor.

Princess was let outside often during the day. It was a bit scary though with the neighbor dogs barking and the loud mechanical noises and sound of rushing air coming from the busy road at the front of the home. Princess would hurry to do her number then rush back into the house where she would find Mom and jump into her ever welcoming arms. Sometimes Princess wasn’t in the mood to face the obnoxious world outside the walls of the home that now belonged to her. She would slip away and find the corner of the carpet to relieve herself to then rush away and hide. Mom would find her mess and most times without a word clean it up. If anything was said it was mostly “Naughty Girl!” in a voice tinged with high note on the ‘girl’. Princess didn’t know what those words meant but soon learned that she did not need to be scared of being kicked.


The big brown van with the huge white lettering “UPS” comes to a halt in front of the neighbor’s home with the squeal of well used brakes on the verge of needing replacement. Princess’s ears would prick up at the noise, “Boy! My favorite metal box on wheels is coming! Where is Mom?”. Princess races around the small home looking for Mom and hears her downstairs. Bark! Bark! “That truck is here again!“ And back to the window she would run. Screaming at the top her little lungs, Princess would ramble on, “My House! My House! Don’t come up those stairs! My house! I don’t know you! My House!”, as the man would approach the front door and bend over to put something on the porch. Princess wasn’t having any more of it, and in a voice as nasty as she could make she would shriek, “MY HOOOUUUSE! Get away from here!” It was usually at this time that Mom would show up to try and soothe her angst. She would pick her up and with sweet sounding words in her ear, talk until Princess would calm. Now Princess was really beginning to think and voiced her opinion for all to hear, “THIS IS MY MOM AND MY HOME, YOU ARE NOT COMING IN HERE TO HURT US!!!” At this point, Mom would turn and head towards the kitchen. Princess could see the man leaving the front door from over Mom’s shoulder. She would punch out a couple more very vocal lines that were now more half hearted and grumpy than scared, “Don’t come back here! I said this is my house…” Grrrrr. This scenario is repeated almost daily, sometimes several times a day.


On those days where Dad was home and the mailman would visit, Princess would forget that Dad is not so forgiving. When she would yell at the mailman, Dad would add to her chorus with his booming howl. At first Princess took this as a good reason to raise her own voice and did so willingly. Only, he would then call her name and shake a bag of her favorite treats. Of course this was an excellent reason to run to Dad until she found that he would grab her by her collar and get a good spanking. Princess didn’t understand why she was getting spanked? These were her treats or not?


Princess, had in her eyes, such a great life. So good that no matter who came to her home, she would let them know that Mom is her mom and only her mom. She was very decisive in letting these people too close, at times having to snap at their hands to make sure they knew they were out of bounds. “Nobody is taking my Mom from me.” She would grumble under her breath, just loud enough for the trespasser to hear and understand how serious she is.


There is a lot to take away from this story. Although Princess thinks she has ‘The Life’, she doesn’t understand how hard her decision making is impacting her mom. Nor how she might enjoy much more love from everyone else coming into the home if she were to understand that she needs to follow Mom’s lead. Only through training with Mom will Princess comprehend her position in the home and truly be able to relax. A happy life for a dog must include boundaries.


What is the story trying to tell you?

  • Dogs are not kids, they do not understand our words

    • Dogs do understand our feelings which impacts their behavior

    • Dogs understand tones of voice. High for good and low for bad

  • Dogs need structure as soon as they are brought home

    • With boundaries Princess would be less stressed (barky)

    • Less Stress means happier

  • One must not allow a pup to self reward

    • Getting onto tables and counters to find ‘snacks’

  • Do not coddle your pup constantly for no reason

    • Make your pup work for the love. They will appreciate it more.

    • Love on your pup for doing the right thing!

    • Coddling every time the pup requires it only reinforces their position as leader of the home.

  • Pups need to know they do not own the home. When they become possessive is when big problems start.

    • Do not reinforce this behavior

    • Claim your space! (Couch, chair, bed, kitchen)

  • Do not reward your pup for bad behavior

    • Soothing your pup for barking at someone only reinforces their bad behavior

  • Do not correct your pup when it is doing what it is asked

    • Do not spank your pup if they just did what you asked (recall in the case of Princess)! That negative reinforcement will surely cause your pup to not do what you would like.

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