Dog Psychology – What Is Fact and What Is Myth

Dog psychology tries to understand bad dog behavior from a canine perspective rather than from a human perspective.

Because dogs are such close companions to us, it is easy to humanize them. Many dog movies and television shows including Lassie, 101 Dalmatians, Lady and the Tramp, Bolt, and others have encouraged this view.

However, dogs are not humans, and humans are not dogs.

Humanizing a dog causes miscommunication between human and canine, which can result in a variety of dog behavioral issues.

For example, many dog owners attribute their dog pooping on their favorite carpet or eating poop, when they are not home, as an act of vengeance. In actuality, it is just a symptom of stress from having an unexpected change in their routine (separation anxiety).

Dog Psychology vs. Dog Training

Some trainers claim that dog psychology involves pack theory and acting like a dog. According to them, obedience training is not dog psychology but simply teaching a dog tricks.

In particular, a dog who has undergone obedience training may understand training commands such as Sit, Down, and Heel, but may still engage in destructive and aggressive behaviors, such as chewing our designer shoes, or digging up our prize roses.

Is this true?

In fact, this separation of terms is unnecessary and only creates confusion.

Dog behavior modification, dog training, and dog tricks are ALL based on operant conditioning.

Operant conditioning forms a big part of what we understand of dog psychology and animal psychology. Therefore, dog behavior modification, dog training, and dog tricks are ALL based on dog psychology.

Based on these dog psychology principles, we know that dogs learn by repeating behaviors with good results, and stopping behaviors with bad results.

Operant conditioning consists of aversive methods and reward methods. Both aversive and reward methods, can be used to modify dog behavior, train a dog to follow commands, and teach a dog new tricks.

Misunderstanding of Dog Psychology

  • The claim that dog obedience training, and dog tricks are somehow not based on dog psychology is false.
  • The claim that food only works for obedience training and dog tricks is false.
  • The claim that using food in dog training is bribery, and somehow ineffective is false.
  • The claim that using food is humanizing the dog and therefore inappropriate is false.
  • The claim that reward dog training is only based on food is false.
  • The claim that aversive dog training, particularly physical force training is more effective at behavior modification than reward training is false.
  • The claim that physical force is required to modify dog behavior is false.
  • The claim that physical force is an integral part of dog psychology is false.

Both aversive and reward techniques, can be used to “train” our dog to sit on command, to sit instead of dig on command, to drop whatever he is chewing, to chew his toy instead of our shoes, and to dig in the sand pit instead of in the rose-bed.

The divide between dog psychology, dog behavior modification, and dog training simply does not exist.

Many of these supposed behavior modification techniques, including leash jerks, alpha rolls, and finger pokes, are aversive conditioning techniques.

Dog Psychology and Dominance/Pack Theory

Dominance theory is based on the observation that wolf packs and wild dog packs are ruled by an alpha male and an alpha female. This alpha pair controls all of the pack’s resources and sets all of the pack rules. There are also rituals that pack members must follow including letting the alpha pair have access to the best food,best sleeping area, and best resources.

The theory is that when dogs come to live with us, we become part of their pack and must assume the alpha male and alpha female positions. Part of assuming this position, is to follow similar pack rituals including eating before our followers, not letting our followers have access to beds and couches, always walking in front of our followers, and using physical force to establish and maintain our pack leadership position.

However, recent studies have shown that wolf packs and also wild dog packs are a lot more complex than this simple alpha-pair model. Leadership tends to be more dynamic in nature, and the alpha dogs rule through the control of resources rather than through physical force.

Therefore, even dominance theory cannot be used to support the false claim that physical force is a necessary, or even an effective part of dog behavior modification.

While dominance theory and dog pack dynamics are interesting areas of study, the argument of whether they apply to us and our domesticated dogs, is actually a moot point.

Just as dogs are not humans, humans are not dogs.

Contrary to common belief, dogs know that they are dogs and not human. They also know that we are human and not dogs. It is us humans who frequently get confused on these matters.

Since we are human, we are not expected by our dogs to act like dogs. We must communicate with them in a way that they can understand, but that does not mean that we should try to act like them. Not only would we be poor imitators, but however well we pretend, we would still be human, and our dogs will always know what we are.

Because our dogs live in our very complex human world, it is necessary for us to assume leadership and teach them our rules. We must provide for them not just in terms of food and shelter, but also in terms of their health and safety.

To properly manage the safety of a dog (to himself, to other dogs, and to the people around him) it is necessary to institute certain human rules, and to train him to follow those rules. Training of these rules can be achieved through aversive methods or reward methods.

It is as simple as that. No dominance theory required.

Dog Behaviorist vs. Dog Trainer

By using operant conditioning techniques, we can shape behavior to prepare our dog for obedience trials, or agility competitions. We can also modify behavior to make our dog into a good citizen at home.

A good dog trainer or dog behaviorist is someone who –

  • Understands classical and operant conditioning theories,
  • Has good technique (i.e. good timing, execution, redirection);
  • Can quickly and accurately read a dog’s body language; and
  • Is a good and patient teacher.

There are dog trainers, like Cesar Millan, who mostly use aversive training. There are dog trainers, like Victoria Stillwell, who mostly use reward training. And there are dog trainers who use both.

Reward dog training and aversive dog training have their own advantages and disadvantages, so make sure to pick a dog trainer that uses the style of training or behavior modification that you feel is most appropriate for you and your dog.

The Association of Pet Dog Trainers is a great resource for finding professional dog training help in your area.

Which is Better, Which is Right, and Which is Dog Psychology?

Many arguments arise in the dog behavior modification or dog training arena because many want to claim that their way is better or that their way is right.

To do this, they must first differentiate their way from all other ways. That is why there are so many terms, including dog psychology, dog behavior modification, dog training, dog tricks, and many more, describing essentially the same thing.

Moral judgements such as dog cruelty, dog bribery, evilness and goodness get thrown into the same pot and what results is a whole lot of smoke and not much else.

When we boil dog training or dog behavior modification down to its basics, we are always left with conditioning. And all of us use either aversive operant conditioning methods or reward operant conditioning methods to shape our dog’s behavior.

Both are dog psychology. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages.

I cannot say that one is absolutely better than the other, or that one is absolutely right. I can only say that I personally use reward dog training because it is more effective and less risky than the aversive methods I have tried.

Related Articles


  1. April May says

    I have a 5yr old Kelpie who appears to have an invisible friend in our car in the corner behind the driver’s seat. When first getting into the car she will go to the corner and vocalize…not bark or whine, these sounds are quite different. Once the car has been moving for a while, she settles and only does it again when…if she were human… there would be something of interest to talk about. I have had dogs of all kinds in my 76 years, but never one who does this. Have you any idea why she does this? It’s fascinating. best regards

  2. London says

    I adopted an 8mo old mini Aussie neutered male about 1 month ago as a playmate for my 3yo mini Aussie. They both get along well. My new one, Sammi, is very sweet and lovable however he is extremely independent and hard headed. He comes 90% of the time and sits well for his dinner. He hasn’t destroyed anything and loves to be outside but must be on a leash at all times because he will run and not come back unless in the back yard which is approx 1/2 acre. Now the major prob. I adopted a 3yr old overweight neutered male lab who is just a bundle of energy 1 week after I got Sam. He was left tied to a tree on a 10 ft rope for 2 months. Sammi seems to not like Dakota. Sammi is very aggressive towards the lab. He chases him from inside the fence and barks obsessively. I cannot get him to stop until Dakota is out of sight. Dakota doesn’t seem to care. I do not let them together because when D has been allowed to visit through the fence S turns very aggressive and tries to bite him. The other day Sam was so upset that D was in the back yard that he and my other Aussie collided and Sam picked a fight with my other Aussie who was totally freaked. I have tried to introduce both D and S in limited quantities on leashes but Sam quickly turns mean. His natural herding instinct comes out and he tries to herd D and will chase and crouch down to pounce. I do not allow this and tell him NO or Leave It but he is so fixated on D that he refuses to listen so I end up separating them again. Sam is learning fetch but would rather play keep away. I’m so frustrated. I have tried to be the dominant but he doesn’t seem to respect that. He has been beaten by his 2 previous owners and will snap at me. What do I do? HELP please.

    Thank you

  3. Jennifer says

    I have a 5 year old boxador. I got him when he was 5 months, he was a great puppy . When he was about a year old he began lunging at strangers and other dogs. We were able to correct his behavior toward people and we fixed him. He is now exceptional with people and female dogs as the alpha dog in our house is a 13 year old siberian husky, but he still has a lot of dog on dog aggression. He is terrible with male dogs and lunges at strange dogs when out for walks, he barks and growls uncontrollably. How do I stop this?

    • shibashake says

      I helped my Shiba Inu with his dog-to-dog reactivity issues by-
      1. Controlling my own energy.
      2. Creating neutral experiences.
      3. Doing desensitization and counter-conditioning exercises.
      4. Setting my dog up for success by carefully managing his environment and routine.
      5. Not exposing my dog to more than he can handle. Reactive experiences will create negative associations, undermine my dog’s trust, set back desensitization training, and worsen my dog’s behavior.

      More on how I deal with dog-to-dog reactivity issues.

      We did desensitization training in a controlled environment, with trainer chosen dogs, and under the direction of a good professional trainer.

  4. Paul says

    I have a 5 year old Siberian Husky male, whom I rehomed at age 3 from a couple who could no longer keep him due to their small apartment.
    The dog is well behaved, stays off furniture, sits and gives paw when told but still has strong prey instincts and bolting issues.
    My concern is even when on a leash he picks up strangers gloves or socks outside and swallows them (obviously to avoid item being taken from him) and although to date he has been able to pass most ( hopefully all) of the gloves and socks I am still very concerned.
    Any advice on why he does this (he is well fed, rarely left alone for more than a few hours a day and walked three times a day) how to stop this behaviour.?

    Thanks in advance

  5. John says

    Hi I have the nicest pomeranian but when left at home alone he will pee on the sofa or anywhere possible. He is fully potty trained pees n poos on the pad but when alone he will almost 90% of the time pee anywhere in his reach. I am even willing to pay for professional help for my little guy. What do you think?

    • shibashake says

      How old is he? Has he always shown this behavior? What kind of training is he used to? What does he do when you leave the room? Does he follow you? How does he act when he is alone in a room but you are still in the house?

      What you describe could be separation anxiety, but it is difficult to say without more details. To help my dog with separation anxiety I do desensitization and counter-conditioning exercises. I start with very short periods of alone time (seconds), and pair it with calm and positive events. As my dog gains confidence, I slowly build up the alone-time.

      Panic attacks and negative alone time will undermine that confidence, significantly set back retraining, and worsen his anxiety symptoms. Therefore, a very important part of retraining my dog is to set him up for success and not expose him to situations he is not ready for. If I need to leave him for longer periods, I get someone that he trusts to be with him.

      This ASPCA article has more on separation anxiety and desensitization exercises.
      More on how I deal with separation anxiety.

      However, the first thing I would do is try to identify the cause of his behavior, whether it is from separation anxiety or something else. This is where a good professional trainer can be helpful.

  6. Carol M. says

    Need help! I’ve had two male dogs for 10 years — a miniature poodle and a cocker spaniel with mutt. We just had to take in my elderly mothers 5 year old male which is a mix of Havanese, Shitzu, and Coton. My dogs are potty trained to bark at back door and go outside. Never an accident. Now that this other dog is in the home, he is pooing and peeing in our house and the miniature poodle is too! I put the Havenese outside every two hours to potty, and he comes in and potty’s inside. What do I do? I”m at my wits end! Thank you.

  7. jason says

    Hey man,what should I do or how should I control myself and my dog when walking across a pack of ( try to imagine the worst for the best) aggressive dogs ???

    • shibashake says

      Where are these aggressive dogs? How many? Are they loose? Are they strays?

      If there are stray dogs in my neighborhood, I call Animal Care and Control. If that is not possible, then I drive my dog to a good and quiet location, where we can walk safely.

  8. Audy says

    I have two year old rescue.. I have had him for over a year and a half. He was ferral hhen rescuef and completely traumatized and shut down when I adopted him. I have workied very dilligently with him and he is a happy member of our family. The only problem now is that he seeks out and chews my shoes. Only my shoes and of course the best ones. I am sensitive to his past ( he is very compliant), so disciplining him is a struggle for me. Any suggestions?

    • shibashake says

      When does your dog chew on shoes? Is it mostly when he is home alone or when you are busy? What is your dog’s daily routine like?

      My youngest Husky, Lara, would also chew on shoes when home alone. When stressed or anxious, a dog may chew as a displacement behavior to help relieve their stress. Sometimes, Lara may chew on shoes when I am upstairs and she is downstairs, and she is bored or a bit anxious. Shoes are a favorite, because they smell very strongly of us, which I imagine makes Lara feel like I am close by.

      To change this behavior with Lara, I first try to identify the source of the behavior, e.g. is it from boredom, separation anxiety, or something else? If it is boredom, then I try to exercise her more and engage her in more activities during the day. If it is separation anxiety, I slowly desensitize her to alone time.

      For playful chewing, I can also teach her the “Leave-It” command to leave my shoes alone. For this to be effective, I need to be there to supervise and catch her in the act. Usually, I redirect Lara onto something else that she can chew on, for example a safe toy. If she redirects, I play a very fun game with her using the toy. In this way, she learns that chewing on a toy is much more rewarding. I try to handle the toy a bunch so that it also starts to smell like me. We also have old blankets around that Lara loves to burrow into, because it also smells like her people.

      When I am not home, I keep my shoes in the closet and close the door. Chewing on shoes can be a self reinforcing behavior because it helps to relieve stress, can be fun, and can make our dog feel closer to us because of the smell. Therefore, I want to not only provide my dog with alternative activities that can help with all of these things, but also minimize unsupervised shoe chewing events. The more Lara chews on shoes unsupervised, the more she gets reinforced for that behavior, and the more likely she is to repeat it in the future.

      More on how I change my dog’s behavior.

    • Audy Leggere-Hickey says

      Thank you. It is desperation anxiety. I will use the techniques you suggested and let you know how we progress.
      Again thank you.

    • Red says

      Scold the shoe. Dead serious. Take your dog into the room where the shoes live. Then ignore your dog and focus all your attention on the dog’s favorite pair of shoes and the yell at those shoes. Act like the shoes have been bad and are in big trouble for getting chewed. Don’t look back at your dog to see if it’s watching, you’re yelling at shoes like an insane person, your dog is definitely watching. And don’t do this for too long either, just do it for as long as you’d yell at the dog. For me that’s like a minute, tops.

      What seems to happen is the dog sees you coming down hard on them shoes and the shoes become like, taboo or something, and the dog doesn’t want nothin to do with it ever again. I heard of this trick a very long time ago from a stranger at a dog park and it sounded insane and kind of funny so of course I tried it. And I’ll be damned if it wasn’t immediately effective. I’ve used it on dozens of dogs since then and for me the success rate has been like 80%. It also seems like it’s either extremely effective or doesn’t work at all. Like there’s no in between.

      There’s also limit to how many times it can be used effectively with any given dog. And for some dogs that number is 1 so make sure whatever you use the trick on first is the most important thing. If digging in the garden is worse for you than chewing shoes then start with the garden.

      Disclaimer: I have absolutely no idea how or why this works and it definitely won’t address any underlying issues that may or may not be causing the bad behavior. It’s just a weird way to trick your dog into leaving something alone, that’s all.

  9. Sandra Lee says

    Hi I live in Colorado, and have 3 dogs now, I have had as high as 8 dogs in my pack. My 3 right now are 2 Alaskan Malamutes and one GSD. When I first got the GSD I had another Malamute that is now gone, She is a very good dog, I believe that she was being trained for search and rescue or may some drugs search. She has this thing that we do every night for her biscute bones (I call them Enobs, bones spelled backwards). I hide it and she has to go find it. When she finds it she will sit and bark for it. I think the reason that is now with me instead of the rescue work is because she has trouble with load noises. The two Malamutes when I got them were from rescue too. I had to set down rules for them. As you say NILis free. They had to learn what the rules were in the. The male thinks that he is the boss so he attacked the GSD but has found out that was not a good thing to. He now knows that he is not the boss but I am. It only took one time for him to learn that. The GSD is bigger then he is and she was on top of him then I was on top of both of them. I consider the GSD as a Beta dog because now she looks after them like they were her pups. They were 18 months when I got them. With no training at all. It just takes training and Consistiantly and patence in training and doing it the same way each time. Yes I agree with you and I do not have problems but just wanted to share with you. I have about 18 dogs in my life time. I also have had Huskies and all breeds of dogs even small dogs. I could tell you more stories of my experices with dogs. Even when I worked for Animal control in CA. working as a licence inspector. Will I will close for now. Sandy.

  10. adrian says

    Hi l have an Australian terrier / Boarder collie called Ted(the flying wombat).We have an open door for him to go outside but quite often he will tap the window next to if for up to 1-2 minutes then go outside any ideas why?

    • shibashake says

      Have you always had an open door? How long have you had him? Has he always shown this behavior?

      If he had to tap on the door/window in the past to be let out, it may have become part of his going out routine.

  11. Leona says

    I have some questions for you about dog behavior towards me. Most of the dogs I have run into act very friendly to me. I have had one dog , a beautiful big bulldog, stand up against my leg like he was protecting me. He had never met me before. I only see my sister’s dog only once a year. She is a husky named Athena. When I and Athena’s owners sit at the same kitchen table, she will come and lie at my feet and under the chair I’m sitting in. I don’t know why dogs act so friendly to me when I am a stranger. I don’t own any pets. Can you tell me why they react that way? I am friendly in my actions to them. and offer my hand to them first so they can sniff me. I am careful around dogs that are unfriendly. Please give me an email answer.

  12. Virginia says

    I have a Maltese, he is 3 years old. My hudband and I drive a truck. At night he starts backing up on top of us(whoever is sleeping). He does this till he reaches your head. If you hit a bump he really gets nervous. My vet says there is nothing physically wrong with him. But we are afraid this isn’t good for him. He doesn’t do this when the truck is parked only when we have to run thru the night. Please help

    • shibashake says

      Does he only show this behavior at night? When the truck is moving during the day, does he show any signs of stress? If nobody is sleeping, does he also show this behavior? Has he always been this way, or did this behavior only start recently? When did it start? Were there any changes to his routine, or anything else when the behavior started?

      Dog behavior is very context dependent. When there are big changes in my dog’s behavior, I first try to identify what exactly is triggering the behavior. Then I can try to slowly desensitize my dog to those triggers.
      More on dog anxiety.

  13. Sandy Groepel says

    I have a Brussels Griffon, who insists on barking a lot. We have tried several different words, and tech but nothing works. We have used treats, but some how we are failing my baby (4 y/o) lol. Can you help me ???

    • shibashake says

      What triggers his barking? What is his regular daily routine?

      Changing my dog’s behavior depends a lot on the surrounding context and the source of his barking (e.g. fear, stress, warning, etc.). Putting the behavior under command control helps with my dog.

      Dogs do not understand our language, so we want to teach them what certain gestures and verbal commands mean through positive reinforcement. As with all other training, I do it in a managed and structured environment, where I am in control of what noises and triggers my dog is exposed to.

  14. Christine says

    I have a 10 yr old dalmatian that came to live with me 8 yrs ago after my friend died from cancer. She is a rescue and was abused very early in life but to what extent we will never know. While she has always been neurotic and extremely needy in the last 4 to 5 months it has gotten much worse. Her latest issue is after being outside and peeing in the yard she will oome in the house and get on the couch or chair and poop there. There has never been a problem in the past she has always gone outside until recently. This mostly seems to occur when of course I am getting ready to leave the house. I now physically take her outside myself on a leash (yard is fenced) and walk around the yard with her so that she will go but it does not seem to matter if I am there or not. I used to take her to the park on a regular basis but she now has arthritis and can’t walk the distances she used to. I also get up at least twice during the night to take her out to help with this problem but that does not seem to matter either. She gets my undivided attention because it is just us and the cat so it is not like she is ignored and I am home most of the time. I am at my witts end.
    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Sharon says

      What type of medicine does your dog take for the arthritis? What are the side effects? Have you tried some canned pumpkin (1 tablespoon a day) mixed in her food? I had a dog ( Collie/Husky ) that had seizures. Our vet doubled the dose of medicine for him (Lucky). Lucky started peeing in the house. The vet wanted me to get a urine sample holding a pie tin when he peed. I thought it was a goofy idea so I did not do it. Instead I stopped giving him the double dose of medicine and he stopped peeing in the house. Medicines can have all kinds of side effects in pets as well as humans. It is just a thought. Sharon

    • Deb says

      In my opinion this is separation anxiety,your dog is reacting to your routine when you are getting ready to go out,he knows what’s next and he doesn’t like it,if he is used to going places with you and now can’t,he isn’t tii used to being alone and really isn’t happy about it. Desensitise him to being alone,let him know it’s ok and build up to a gradual time he can be left.

  15. Steve Erickson says

    My adult daughter has a Terra-Poo since he was a puppy. Lived with her, went everywhere with her. She recently married and now the dog (4yr old) loves him more than her. This is to the extent that when he enters the room, dog growls and nips at her. If he is not home, dog acts as normal as always around her. How can she get this dog to act normal around her when husband is home?

    • shibashake says

      What does her husband do when the dog growls and nips at your daughter? What is the dog’s current routine? Who trains, walks, feeds, and plays with him most? What type of training is he used to? Are there house rules that he follows?

      With my dogs,
      1. I follow the Nothing in Life is Free program, so that they learn to work for the things that they want (including affection).

      2. I set up a fixed routine and a consistent set of rules. Everyone in the family is consistent about house rules so that my dog understands exactly what is expected of him and what to expect from those around him in return. I make sure *never* to reward undesirable behaviors (this includes giving affection).

      3. I make sure to be very calm when interacting with my dog. My dog is very sensitive to the energy of the people around him. If I am angry, frustrated, stressed, or fearful, he will pick up on my energy, become stressed himself, and his behavior will worsen.

      More on how I deal with my dog’s bad behavior.

      Note however, that dog behavior is very dependent on context, including the temperament of the dog, his environment, routine, etc. How I deal with my dog’s behavior will depend on all of these things, and the source of his behavior, i.e. whether it is from fear, excitement, guarding, etc. This is why in cases of aggression, it is usually a good idea to get help from a good professional trainer.

  16. says

    Good day. I am a student from UCSI University, Malaysia and is currently doing a career storyboard for animal psychology for one of my course assignment of Professional Development class – guided by lecturer Mr James Yeow.

    Our group came across that your blog here. Hence would like to find out whether there’s any animal psychologist practitioner in your sides that can give us a brief testimonial or have a very brief interview session with us regarding introduction of job prospect of this job, like applying those knowledge of animal behavior into real field work today?

    If not, do you have any contacts of animal psychology knowledge practitioners in Malaysia or overseas?

    Anticipate your keen reply soon. Thank you.

    Soon Ying Xi

  17. Hakon Ingi says

    Hey ShibaShake. I´m from Iceland and i am doing a essay about Dog Psychology. I read your article and i would love to be able to quote in my essay from your article, but I can’t do that except i know your name, full name.
    So please can you write me back with your real name. Thanks a lot!

  18. Oanh says

    I just adopted an 11 mo. old Golden Chow and she is very obedient when she comes into our apartment, but once she goes outside she pulls on the leash and barks at everything she can see. I am trying to work with her so that I can walk ahead of her, while she walks behind me on a loose leash. I make it a point to walk outside the apartment before her but sometimes she tries to sneak ahead of me or walk next to me. She doesn’t do this when we are coming inside the apartment, but she does it every time we head out. What can I do? I want to try having her sit and wait before I walk out. If that doesn’t work what other method should I try?

  19. Sandy Klo says

    Thank you for the article! Our family learned our lesson not to leave the choke chain on our lab when our poor sweetheart got up from lying over the heater one day, and the metal part came with her. Poor thing was afraid of metallic noises and got very upset before we could get it (the vent thingy AND collar) off. I’ve always felt terrible, and the family always took off the choke chain after that, and I generally took off her collar too, when I saw it on. She never would get too close the heaters after that, but she would snuggle up next to me when I lay down on it after school. We would never have intentional endangered our girl, but we had never heard that choke collars should only be used on walks, or any stories of anything bad ever happening. It’s just not something you hear about.
    Anyway, she lived a long happy life, and recently passed at the of 13, but my boyfriend and his family have a dog, whom I adore. They don’t have a regular collar for him, just two choke chains, and he wears one almost all the time. I’m a little paranoid and OCD, so my boyfriend always got a little annoyed when I insisted on taking off the collar when the dog was in the car, but I just couldn’t get the possibility of a car accident, causing the chain to catch, out of my head. Now, I’m paranoid and silly about a lot of things (I check the locks a trillion times, never leave ANYTHING plugged in, etc.), and I simply assumed the choke chain thing was another silly paranoia thing.
    Now that I’ve read this, I know I’m NOT just paranoid, and it really is a danger to keep the choke collar on! I just texted my boyfriend this, and he will undoubtedly go get the dog and IMMEDIATELY switch him to one of my dog’s old regular collars, that I forced him to take home once, on the off chance he would use it. You may have saved that puppy doggy, and saved all his loved ones from hating themselves if he ever got hurt!

    PS- Perhaps it should be common sense to take off the choke chain, but certain things just don’t seem that unsafe unless your told about it, or hear a horror story. My family of paranoid everything-checkers has many probably imaginary dangers, but we didn’t think a collar would be one.

  20. Caryl Ferguson says

    My new dog that I rescued from the animal shelter always cowers and then lays on her back when I try pick her up. She also crawls to me when I call her to come. Doesn’t like to walk outside . I’m trying hard. Can you please help?

    • shibashake says

      Big changes can be difficult and stressful for a dog because there is a lot of uncertainty. It will be even more difficult for a shelter dog with a challenging past.

      When I get a new dog, I make sure to start small and go in very small steps.

      In this way, I can maximize success and build trust. For example, being restrained or picked up off the floor, can be a bit scary, especially for a new dog. We start by looming over him, and then we take away his freedom to run away. It is the same with people – allowing someone to pick us up requires a fair amount of trust and certainty of the environment.

      To build trust with my new dog, I start by just tossing treats to him whenever I am nearby. This helps him to associate me with food and positive events. I may also sit down on the floor a certain distance away, and spread treats around me. In this way, he automatically gets rewarded for coming near me.

      Once he is coming to me regularly on his own, I start to do simple touch exercises and very simple obedience commands such as Look. What works well for my dog is to go in small steps, so that our training sessions are successful. The more success my dog has, the more confidence and trust we build.

      Recall training (come when called) is a more complex command, so I wait until I have built some trust and established a bunch of simpler commands before doing this.

      I do the same thing with walk training – start small and go in small steps.
      1. I first desensitize my dog to the collar and leash.
      2. After he is totally comfortable with collar and leash, I do walk training with him inside the house.
      3. After he is totally comfortable walking with me inside the house, we move on to the backyard, then to very quiet outside areas, and so on. I desensitize him to various sounds and objects if necessary.

      Here is an article on training shy dogs with hand targeting.

      Here is an article from the ASPCA on adopting a puppy mill dog. Although the article specifically targets puppy mill dogs, I think a lot of the information is also useful for shy or fearful dogs.

      This site may also be helpful-

  21. ahmad says

    i have a 4 month old bull mastiff. He is very friendly but sometimes show aggression towards me . how can i stop it ?

    • shibashake says

      Hello Ahmad,
      Dog behavior is very context dependent, so the temperament of the dog, his routine, past experiences, environment, and more, are all important. Usually, “aggressive behavior” is triggered by something.

      For example, what was puppy doing before the aggressive behavior? What were the people around him doing? Are there high priority toys or food around? What else changed in his environment? What type of training has he had? What is his daily routine? What kind of aggression was he showing – growl, showing teeth, lunge, bite? Did he cause any damage?

      For safety reasons, it is usually a good idea to get help from a professional trainer in cases of aggression.

      Initially, dogs do not know our human rules and what *we* consider to be good and bad. We need to teach them these things through conditioning techniques. Here is more on how I trained my Husky puppy.

  22. ricky ruggeri says

    I am living in Thailand,in the family we have a dog,tibetan terrier, almost 8 y.o.,in the last month 3/4 times he pissed inside the house despyte the area out side where he can do,he has never done so,we change house since 4 month,every day i take him out for his need,is there something wrong??? Difficolt to answer…..if u have a little advice i’ll be very grateull,don’t know what ti do…Thanks,,,, Ricky

    • shibashake says

      There could be many reasons for this.

      It could be a physical issue.

      It could also be due to the move or due to anxiety. When I move, I make sure to set up a fixed routine for my dog, that is similar to his previous routine. I make sure he has enough people time and activity. I do potty training exercises again if necessary. Here is more on dog anxiety.

      It could also be due to something else.

      Does he seem anxious? Are there any other changes in behavior? Is his activity level and appetite normal? Is his stool and pee normal? Anything else out of the ordinary? Any other changes to his schedule, food, environment, etc.?

  23. DoggyLover123 says

    Do you have any advice on three-legged dogs? especially exercise, the do’ and donts. He is very lively and only having 3 legs virtually doesn’t affect him at all

  24. DoggyLover123 says

    I called my black Labrador mix Shadow, because
    1) He’s black (obviously)
    2) Hes soo friendly and follows me everywhere!!
    He was a rescue dog! He lost his leg recently but hes still as quick as ever!! 🙂

  25. Barb says

    I trained my dog with an e-collar to stay out of the high grass. My thought was to make him think something in the grass was “biting” him. My question is, Would a shock to the paw be better training than a shock to the neck when approaching say a street? I have heard some dogs will be “good” when the collar is on and then lose all training when its removed because they know it is the collar.

  26. Linni says

    I have a 11month old husky mix. She definitely is quite the character, she is becoming somewhat dominant in the household, with getting off of furniture she will growl or hesitate, when asked to sit or anything she barks. Almost as thought shes a teenager arguing with me lol, I worked with a behaviorist for a bit and he said just not to acknowledge her at all, is there other methods i can take? Shes a rescue, and i will admit I do tend too spoil her a little bit. Walking on the leash shes right beside me, no pulling, more just distracted by everything and sniffing the ground for food. With dogs shes very submissive, but really doesn’t want much from people. Is this her taking on an alpha role with humans only? It seems shes confident sometimes and then very insecure at other times. I love my dog, but overall I want us to be able to have fun instead of getting frustrated with her all the time.

    • shibashake says

      Hello Linni,

      In terms of pack leadership, what has worked well with my Huskies is to follow the Nothing in Life is Free program. This teaches them that the best way to get what they want is to do what I want first. 😀

      At home, I set up a fixed routine and a consistent set of rules. In this way, they know exactly what to expect from me, and what I expect from them.

      Here is a bit more on my understanding of dogs and dominance.

      Here is a bit more on how I trained my Husky puppy.

      During my difficult times with Sephy, I visited with several professional trainers. Timing is very important in dog training, and a trainer can be very helpful with that. Our trainer also helped us understand Sephy better, by reading his body language, and observing what things trigger stress and gets him reactive.

      Hugs to your Husky girl!

  27. Robert Newbolt says

    the small problem we are having with our young (13 month) Ibizan Hound is that she seems afraid to go out when it is approaching dusk. She heard a loud firework 2 weeks ago at dusk and any noise outside (which she cannot understand appears to frighten or startle her. She does not like the dark now and we do not press her. I know you should try to distract them etc. but this is easier said than done.

    • shibashake says

      What has worked well for my dogs are desensitization exercises. My Sibe puppy Lara used to be afraid to go out in the backyard at night. She also got very fearful when the coyotes started to sing.

      I would play with her and get her to do fun commands (with rewards) close to the backyard door. I leave the backyard light on. Then I slowly move the game into the backyard – where the light is. I keep sessions short, fun, and engaging. I also make sure that I stay positive and do not get worried, frustrated, or stressed. My dogs are all very good at picking up on my energy.

      When she is comfortable playing with me in the light and gains some confidence, then we very slowly, start playing farther away, then a bit farther away and so on. I go very slowly and keep things positive. The key is to help her build confidence so that she feels less fearful, and ultimately, she feels safe in the backyard even though it may be dark.

      I do a similar thing with the coyote singing-
      Sound desensitization exercises.

  28. Laurens van der Klis says

    In my opinion there are a lot of dog trainers that make up their own terms in order to sell themselves and their particular take on dog training. Dog psychology is one of them, this term is often used by Cesar Milan.

    But there are various others like “Amichien bonding” and what not. This leads to a very messy idea of how dog training actually works. All you really need is a set of tried and tested ‘laws’ of animal learning, and you will be able to properly explain and analyze most if not all training methods instead of relying on vague stuff like ‘intuition’ or ‘alpha dog position’ etc… It’s not that complicated!

    It is very nice to see that you present a much more balanced and informed view on dog training on your site. I do think you are too mild on some the famous trainers. These trainers should be more responsible and present a much more detailed view instead of obfuscating the training process with sloppy terminology and sometimes plain nonsense that has been disproved decades ago.

  29. Aaron says

    Love your website. Very informative. While I have trained 3 dogs,all fox hounds and they are well behaved and very loved, I am having a problem with the Beagle I found wandering in the local forest her in Plymouth,Ma. She is very sweet,mellow in the house and house trained but minute we get outside she pulls and pulls on the leash. I have leashed trained my other dogs to the point I dont need the leash anymore, just a quick “heel” is all thats needed to make them walk by my side. She is very different and the training I used with my other dogs only makes her pull even more and seems like she ignores me. She is a beagle and was trained to hunt rabbits….like I said I found her in state forest, starved,covered in ticks/fleas and cuts all over. Its pretty obvious shes a hunter. Do you have any suggestions to help me out?

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, a Beagle that is already used to hunting will be a challenge to leash train. What leash training methods have you used with her?

      Some things that have helped with my Sibes-
      1. I start leash training them in my backyard. Very little distraction there, they know it well, so I can just focus on getting them used to the leash and learning walk commands.

      2. Once we are doing well in the backyard, then I start by taking them to very quiet areas in the neighborhood. Having a lower stimulus environment really helps a lot with initial leash training. Then once we improve and they get accustomed to walking in more quiet areas, I slowly increase the environmental challenge.

      3. My Sibes have high prey drive, so they will still sometimes lose it when they spot cats, squirrels, and deer, especially if there is quick motion. I have found that desensitization exercises can help in those situations. It doesn’t remove the instinct, but it helps to raise the instinct threshold.

      Here is a bit more on my leash training experiences with my dogs.

      Here are some of my thoughts on what I call the “Squirrel Instinct”. 😀

      Hugs to your furry gang! I am so glad that the little Beagle girl found a good and loving home.

  30. Barbara Sullivan says

    We recently adopted a 2 year old Shih Tzu from a rescue facility. The dog has been with us for approx. 4 weeks. He is a wonderful little guy, is housebroken and seems to have had some training at some time — and we love him — but, whenever he is startled, and very often when he awakens, he barks furiously and growls. He continues for some time until we can get him calmed down. We calm him by calling his name and saying “No, no” in a sharp tone, sometimes while stroking him. We have a 5 yr old Shih Tzu as well, and the two dogs seem to be adjusting well to each other, at times — but at other times our new adopted dog seems to direct his barking/growling at our older dog — even if the older dog isn’t even near him. Our older dog is non-aggressive and does not appear (to us, anyway) to present any challenge to the new dog. We would like to know the proper way to train our new dog to stop the aggressive growling and barking when he awakens or is startled.

    • shibashake says

      Yeah, my Shiba Inu also gets really stressed out when he is startled awake from a deep sleep. If I need to interact with him when he is sleeping, I usually make some noise while I approach and make sure he is awake before I play with him or touch him. That way, he doesn’t suddenly feel like he is under threat and vulnerable.

      When Lara was a puppy, I would also call her to me when I want to interact rather than going to her. In this way, she doesn’t suddenly have someone big looming over her, which can be scary to a puppy or small dog.

      Some things that have helped my dogs with barking-
      1. Teaching them the Quiet command.
      2. Redirecting them into doing something else.

      Here is more on my experiences with dog barking.

  31. says

    Thank you Shibashake!

    My puppy can go outside, but he need to pee in the potty pad at night when his small puppy bladder can’t hold it.
    He makes so many mistakes that the house floor is swelling up due to the liquid.

    Sincerely, Winnie

  32. Winnie says


    I just had a few questions and problems with my new shiba.
    Hope you can help.
    My shiba isnt peeing on the potty pad( we don’t have time to take him outside).
    And when he sleeps, he sleeps on the potty pad.
    What do I do?


    P.S: I love your website

    • shibashake says

      Hello Winnie,

      Yeah, my Shiba also disliked doing his business inside the house. We got him at 10 weeks old and since then he only wanted to go outside to do his pee and poop. I found that it was easiest to train him to potty outside, otherwise, there would just be a lot of messes in the house and cleanup time. Here are some of our potty training experiences.

      Also, Sephy really needs his daily walks and exercise. He had a lot of energy as a puppy and the walks help to redirect his energy into doing something positive. If not, he would just figure out his own Shiba-activities, which usually are not very furniture friendly. 😀

  33. Teresa says

    My male, 4 month old, border collie, curls up his upper lip and shows his teeth when I correct (using Cesar Millan’s ‘Tsst” and touch method) him when he tries to eat the other dog’s food. How do I handle this?

    • shibashake says

      When I was training my Sibe puppy Lara, I would leave a drag-lead on her (only with a flat collar and *not* an aversive collar). When she tries to go near my other dogs during meal times, I would no-mark her (Ack-ack) and then lead her away using the drag-lead. Then, I would engage her in something else, usually doing some fun obedience work for me where she gets rewarded well. In this way, she not only learns what not to do, but also what to do instead.

      My dogs work of all of their food. I use their daily food rations for training, grooming, play, etc. Whatever is left over, I put in interactive food toys. In this way, they don’t get any free food and they also don’t gobble up their dinner in 2 seconds. After they finish working on their interactive food toys, they will usually come to me for their short and rewarding training session. They know that that is the best way for them to get additional food. 😀

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.