Advice for the struggling dog owner


Due to seeing so many people re-homing their dogs recently I’ve decided to write something up to help those in need. Whether you are struggling with a dog you recently adopted from a shelter or a dog you have had for a while but are finally feeling overwhelmed and/or frustrated with their behaviors. I want to help people keep dogs in their home, this is my advice on what to when bringing home a dog or even what to start doing with your dog you’ve had, to set everyone up for long term success.

First of all, if you are adopting a dog or purchasing a dog from another individual that has already been in a home, chances are that dog is being re-homed for a reason due to behavior issues. Whether that person wants to admit it or not, there is a reason behind it. No dog is going to be perfect and even if the reason was “moving” or “too much responsibility” any dog that is being re-homed will have baggage coming with it. If you come to accept that fact and that there will be work ahead for you, you will be in a better mindset to work with the dog. If you are expecting a perfect dog (those don’t exist by the way) that won’t need any work put into it, you will be disappointed.

The main reason why people have so many issues with their dogs is because they are not giving the dog the proper guidance they need. Especially with “rescue” dogs, people get caught up in the story, in the history, start to feel sorry for the dog, and want to shower it with love, affection, toys, treats, from the second they come in contact with the dog and bring them home. I’m all for showing and giving dogs love and affection, but when the time is right. So many people give dogs too much freedom too soon, alas problems arise. Dogs need to feel safe, in order for that to happen, they need someone to follow, someone to teach them what is right from wrong. What is acceptable and not acceptable. Without that guidance the dog ends up making choices on their own which often times are the wrong choices which get them into trouble. People need to start being proactive instead of reactive when dealing with their dogs.

When I say be proactive instead of reactive… a good way to do that is to start basic obedience training with your dog. I’m not just saying that because I’m a dog trainer. When you teach a dog obedience, it becomes a way to communicate with your dog. Start teaching them behaviors that will actually help you in real world situations. I only teach 5 commands when I train dogs but they all have very practical use in everyday life. Those 5 commands are Sit, Down, Place, Heel, Recall. The one I use most in the house is “Place” I have a how to video on my website that explains what the command is and shows you how to teach it to your dog.

When you first bring a home dog, the best thing you can do create a structured routine for your dog. Dogs strive on routine, they look forward to it. Don’t let them free roam around your house exploring, they are probably SO overwhelmed because you just took them from the home or shelter they were used to. If they were at the shelter, they are used to being in confined area, crated, etc. That was their safe place, their personal space, a place no one bothered them. Regardless whether you agree or disagree with crating a dog, it’s the best thing to do when you first bring a home dog. Let them relax and decompress in their crate. Giving them the freedom to explore your entire house is just going to overwhelm them even more.

Definitely crate your dog at night when you go to bed and anytime you cannot directly supervise them. This does a couple of things… you are setting your dog up for success when you cannot watch them. When they are in the crate they are not getting into trouble around your house (chewing your furniture, getting into the trash, and things along those lines). The dog does not have the option to get into trouble, they are in their crate, their safe place, and dogs become conditioned to relax in there.

Doing simple exercises such as making your dog wait for their food and give you eye contact before they eat is so powerful to a dog. Another exercise you can work on is holding your dog accountable for thresholds such as the front door, car door, and crate door. They should not be allowed to pass through until you give them permission after you receive eye contact from them. It is all about showing the dog that you, the human, are relevant in their life.

Last but not least, if your dog is displaying dangerous behaviors (whether it’s to itself or others), it is your responsibility and obligation as a dog owner to show and teach that dog, those dangerous behaviors are not acceptable. You have to find a way to get your point across that the dog finds valuable enough to stop those dangerous behaviors. I understand most dog owners have a hard time “correcting’ or “punishing” a dog, but you are actually doing your dog a disservice by not teaching them right from wrong. Dogs get re-homed, sent to shelters, and even put down every day for behaviors such as jumping, counter surfing, nipping, play biting, destroying furniture, etc.

Daily Exercise Is Required!


A big piece of the puzzle to having a well-behaved dog is giving them the right amount of daily exercise. That will be dependent on their age, breed, and health. While training them to be calm is one aspect, being able to give your dog the exercise they need on a daily basis is very important. This can be done a number of different ways, from structured walks, to playing fetch, to going on hikes, etc. It might sound obvious that this is required but often overlooked. If you expect your dog to do the things you want, you need to set aside time specifically to meet their needs as well.

Turning on and off your dogs energy


I’m a big fan of conditioning dogs to be calm in the house because that’s the way I like to live with dogs indoors. To me, outdoors is for exercise, playtime, and socialization. That being said, there will be times I will allow some play indoors… BUT! I only allow it because I know I stop it. At any given time, I know I can take that high energy down and get them to relax.

If you want your dog to behave indoors and be calm you must teach that. It doesn’t come natural for most dogs. This can be done by teaching a solid “place” or “down” command (there are how to videos on my website). If you are going to allow your dog to get excited and playful in the house, make sure you have a way to stop that if/when it gets out of hand or when you simply want them to stop and calm down. If you’re going to turn it on, make sure you have an off switch as well.

Be Proactive. Not Reactive.


If you’re struggling with canine chaos in your household it’s because you are allowing it. Learn to control your dogs energy. Giving them the proper exercise both physical and mental is a great start but you can also condition your dog to relax inside your house. Show your dog what is acceptable behavior while indoors. Establish rules and boundaries for your dog, whatever you decide is acceptable in your house. Without them, your dog won’t know what causes chaos is wrong until you are stressed and frustrated which is no good for anyone. Be proactive not reactive.