But aren't I perfect already?

What does a trained dog look like?

Do visions of Lassie and Benji prance through your head?  Does your dog embarrass you, or make you proud?  Is she ‘not perfect’ but you’re happy with how she behaves?  Is your dog a vision of trained perfection?  What do you think is ‘good’ dog behavior?  What is ‘bad’ or unacceptable?  We all have an idea of what a ‘trained’ dog should do, but are we all in agreement about what that looks like?

I had to give up teaching dog training.

Not really, I still do teach, but I did give it up for a while.  I got tired of taking people’s money and having them be pissed off because their dog wasn’t perfect all on her own, a syndrome I like to call ‘the Lassie complex’.  Training your dog really does take daily effort, daily training sessions, something the bulk of my early clients were unwilling to do.  I trained a porcupine to wear a harness and walk on a leash, and a hawk to drop out of the sky, trust me; a dog can be trained to do almost anything if you’re willing to invest the time.  What my clients had trouble with was that they have to do the work; there is no instant solution in dog training.  The good news is, unless you want Lassie behaviors, your training sessions can easily be worked into your daily routine.

Is your dog ‘sort of’ trained?  This is OK!

A pet peeve (sorry, I love puns!):  I hate it when my dogs jump up on me.  My dogs would never dream of leaping up and laying paws on you.  Conversely, I have good friends with a pair of smaller dogs who leave bruises every time I go to visit because they prance on their hind legs, dig at my knees and caroom wildly around the room in the ecstatic dance of ‘Welcoming a Stranger into the Home.’  The owners apologize and make futile hand gestures, which have zero effect in controlling the dogs’ frenetic gyrations.  I just smile, and give a firm ‘NO’ and a shove if they bounce against me too crazily and wait it out.  But, they’ve never asked for training help, so I don’t offer any hints, or tips, and I don’t try to stop the whirling dervishes.  Why?  Because they’re not my dogs, and owners get to decide what they want their dog’s behavior to look like.  My friends really are content with how their little furry demolition derby cars act.  They have trained their dogs to the level they are comfortable with.

My exception to this is:  your dog had better be safe.  You do not get to think that an aggressive, biting dog is okay, from Chihuahuas to Great Danes.  Those are very serious behaviors that put people’s lives at risk.  If you have these issues, find a very good, local dog trainer to help you.  Fast.

Lassie?  Or Marley?  How about somewhere in between?

When I ask my clients what they think a trained dog acts like, the usual response is some variation of “I want my dog to listen to me.”  News flash, your dog is not your therapist.  Okay, it can seem like it; many are the times I’ve poured my troubles into my Belgian’s perky black ears.  But that’s not the kind of listening we’re talking about.

Every dog should know some basic commands

So, what do you want?  Do you want a dog that will just cuddle you all night, and play all day?  Do you want a dog that follows the basic commands of sit, stay and come?  Do you want him to do tricks?  Do you want to compete in obedience trials?  Do you care if she sleeps on the couch, or in your bed?  It doesn’t matter what you pick, but you have to have a very definite picture of what you want your dog’s behavior to be.  A sample list of behaviors that I consider important just for good canine behavior includes:





What you decide to add is limited only by your imagination.

What does your dog do that you would stop if you could?  What is she perfect at?  When is he just too adorable?  What would you like to train your dog to do?  Tell me about it!


Well-trained dogs are a joy for everyone!

14 Responses

  1. I should be better. I trained our shepard/husky mix when I was 11 in 4-H and we won first. But our pug/terrier is untrained. Her bad behaviour is pulling, jumping and licking. Drives me crazy.

  2. Serena, I love it when you do dog training posts. I’m sure we’ve all sung the harmony to that old refrain, “You have to put in the time with the dog.” It really is about training people. 🙂 Thanks for the chuckle.

    1. Thank you, Prudence! Yes, early on I didn’t have the skills to communicate that to my clients, I needed to develop some more training skills of my own. Also, before I was worried if my clients would hate me for telling me it was their fault. Now, I don’t care. 😉 I’m very up front that it is not my job to train the dog, it’s theirs! My job is to train them. Ha!

  3. I’m on to the third Great Dane I’m training now (sadly they have short lifespans), and she’s been the most challenging because she’s also the most intelligent (and because she’s the first dog my husband has been around since puppyhood and he tends to let her get away with things that I don’t). She has all the basic commands (heel, sit, stay, come, down, stand) and a few of the more complicated things too. She doesn’t lick me because I hate being licked, but she has this absolutely adorable way of snuggling her head up against me. I think our biggest problems are that she steals things when you’re not looking (e.g. chapstick, half a batch of cookies, tissues) and eats them, and she tends to ignore commands given by other people when I’m not in the room. She is only a year old, and my other Danes didn’t stop all their bad behavior until 2 years, so I’m hoping she’ll still outgrow at least the stealing 🙂

    1. My brother and his wife are raising a Great Dane puppy! My second Belgian sheepdog is an old man now, and the yellow Lab is all my husbands dog. She’s his first puppy as an adult, and we seriously had the most disagreements of our whole relationship over housetraining ‘his girl’. I put my foot down about doing it my way and would not bend. Hubby has been very gracious about admitting I was right to be so firm. 😉 Good luck with your Dane, those super-smart ones will really keep you on your toes, but it’s worth it!

  4. Unfortunately my dog Pepper has passed on just a year ago. I took her to doggie training classes and we had so much fun learning to sit and stay.. I sure miss her! I would see her around the house for a while after she passed on and I know that she is having a good time as a spirit dog.

    1. So sorry to hear, Amber! Our animal companions intertwine themselves so completely into our lives. I have a few animals in spirit that pop in and say hi every now and then too. I’m sure she’s happy still being near you, even though she’s no longer in this world.

  5. I LOVE your dog blogs. What on earth do I do with my little girl who jumps on everyone who arrives. One of my friends is a ‘Dog Whisperer’ fan and he follows Cesar’s recommendations of ignoring her until she settles. And she’s fine with him. But anyone else? Wild dog. good thing she’s only 6 lbs. but still I want her to stop jumping,. Help

  6. Love the post!
    Jake and I are in Puppy training to learn the basic commands. You are absolutely correct when you say that it takes time and work on both the pet AND the pet’s parent. I try to work with Jake a little here and there everyday on the commands. He’s doing pretty good and I know in time we will both get better at it.
    The biggest thing Jake does that I would love to stop is his mouthing or biting. He doesn’t do it hard, but his little teeth are so sharp! I try to replace my hand (or arm or toe or foot) with a toy. And I also say “no Jake” and make a loud “Aht” noise – which usually makes him sort of stop for that moment. But its a terrible habit that I can’t seem to get him to break. I’ve talked to our trainer but she is telling me to continue with the actions I’m already taking. I’m almost ready to buy some padded arm protectors just to keep from being nicked by those sharp fangs. Have any suggestions?
    Of course, if you look at him right now, he’s all curled up at my feet snoring. He’s such a cutie.


    1. Jake sounds too cute, but yes those puppy teeth are sharp! Your trainer is absolutely right; you’re doing all the right things with Jake, but he has puppy brain, thoughts will stay with him for about 2 seconds. 😉 Perfect getting him to stop mouthing! Brief as it is, he is understanding. Keep redirecting his attention onto a toy, I keep a small squeaky in my pocket whenever I have a puppy, so I can switch it out for my hands when he gets mouthy. Praise him like crazy when he refocuses his attention on the toy. Keep up the good work!

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