Dog Parenting Done Right – My Kids Have Paws!



I love this mug, and not just because it was a thoughtful gift from a lovely person. I love it because it’s true. My pets are my kids. I didn’t give birth, but the emotional involvement I experience with my furry kids is indistinguishable from my perspective.

Not long ago, a Facebook friend posted a picture of a bumper sticker that expressed a similar sentiment and the snide observation, “She must have a lot of ex’s”. I was a little surprised at the rancor contained in the comments. People took it as a personal affront that someone would express their love and affection for their pet by referring to the animal as their ‘kid.’ I refrained from commenting back because, well, arguing with people on the Internet always goes so well, right?

But, I’m still going to have my say.

First – Of course there is a difference between having a pet and having a child. Of course! A difference of several orders of magnitude and that’s not even including the whole gestation and birth thing. There is no comparison.

There never was.

Pet parents are not comparing their furry kid to your two-legged one. They are not comparing the trials of house-training to the rigors of child rearing. It’s like comparing apples to cake. I mean, come on – they’re both delicious!

So it baffles me when I hear people get angry because I call my dogs my kids. Angry, like my word choice has devastating implications for their parenting skills. Maybe because my dog is better behaved? I can guarantee my dogs won’t have an unwanted pregnancy, or do drugs, or quit college. Can you?

No, it’s not that at all.

When it comes right down to it, those people are imposing their definition of love and how it should be experienced, on my relationship with my dogs. At some level, conscious or unconscious they are offended by the simple fact that I call it “LOVE” and that I define my relationship in terms of parent-child.

Guess what? You don’t get to do that. Here’s why.

There is too little love on this planet right now. We as a species, as a community, as individuals – we ALL need more love. We need to feel it, we need to express it, and we need to share it. It is essential to our health, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Study after study shows that humans who don’t give and receive love experience all kinds of trauma – depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, heart attacks – can all stem from a lack of love.

However, not everyone wants to bring more people onto the planet – yet they still want, and deserve to experience the kind of love that comes from nurturing and caring for another being. Opening your heart and home to a pet – dog, cat, pig, goat, rat, hamster, rabbit, take your pick! – Makes you more loving and compassionate. It makes you a better person. If you do it right.

And that’s the real trick.

In my book, Dog Care and Training for the GENIUS, I talk extensively about developing this relationship, how to build it, how to nurture it and how to deepen it. But what it comes down to is this – It’s all about the love. Having a dog in your life means you get to feel unconditional love.

Experiencing that love means letting yourself be vulnerable. And that can be kinda scary. You have to take all the good times and fun AND the bad times as well. You have to just dive right in, and experience the whole thing. Spoiler alert – parts of it are going to suck. Like really, really horribly suck.

So I guess some people find it easier to minimize, or trivialize the love between human and dog. Because to open up, and really feel that depth of love can be terrifying. Or maybe they don’t think it’s possible because they haven’t been able to experience that in their human relationships? I find that incredibly sad, but that’s for another post.

Be brave. It’s totally worth it. Even the sucky parts. Having a dog at your side through the journey of life makes everything more bearable. A dog is a constant friend and companion, who is always – and I do mean always – happy to see you, to spend time with you. Dogs are friends who will never judge, and give steadfast love in return for some food, a comfy place to sleep and to just be with you.

And I say – own the title Dog Parent! You’ve invested time, money, but most importantly, your heart into this furry being that shares your life. Maybe if more people thought of themselves as Dog Parents and not dog owners it wouldn’t be so easy for them to shove the dog in the backyard and ignore it? Maybe they’d be more motivated to actually train their dogs instead of just letting them run wild? Or take them to the vet for basic care like vaccinations and getting spayed or neutered?

Maybe owning the title Dog Parent makes for more responsible dog ownership?

I think it does. I am proud to say I am Mama to two lovely dogs, Golly and Xander, and one very spoiled, ancient kitty, Sage. Yep, that’s them at the top. I love them. They are my children. Four footers are the only kind I ever wanted, and I have never been disappointed by my choice.

Tell me about your kids! Share their stories and pics in the comments, please

Find Your New Dog!

I Love You Sooooo Much!
I Love You Sooooo Much!


In my book, Dog Care and Training for the GENIUS, I talk in detail about the process of finding your dog. I cannot deny that there are times when a dog just magically shows up and it ends up being a beautiful match. It’s on YouTube, it makes you cry. Me too!

In general though, if you’re thinking about adding a dog to your life, you should really take the time and consider some critical factors – your lifestyle, your living situation, how much hair you can tolerate – will all affect your relationship with your dog. Maybe you hadn’t considered how to get your new bestie from your 20th level condo to street level to do her business? Or … do you really want a puppy when you come home from work and just want to lay on the couch watching Shameless or Walking Dead?

If you haven’t thought through those and other questions, like:

  • Do I have a securely fenced yard, or do I need to walk my dog on a leash every time he needs to go?
  • Will the new dog be good with my kids?
  • How much grooming will she need?
  • How much exercise?

Then you need my book! But, once you’ve taken the time and read my recommendations, you’re ready to start looking. So where do you start?

Check out this website! uses a detailed personality quiz to match adopters to available dogs in the Paws Like Me database. Their quiz assesses “core personality traits” that influence how you bond with your dog such as energy and focus. The idea is to keep the perpetual-motion dogs that need lots of training and exercise from going home with the person who just wants to take a nice evening stroll every now and then.

No judgement! We like what we like and that is absolutely okay. This website will recommend dogs that match what you are looking for in your new best friend.

Which is totally awesome! It is so important to focus your pet finding efforts on the rescue/adoption systems. There are so many adoptable dogs that would be your ideal companion, but finding one that suits you can be a terrific challenge. It’s so hard to base a life long decision on just a few minutes looking through chain link. You can and should use all the resources available to you to find a dog that will match your lifestyle.

Because we all want that dog. The one that gets you, that bonds with you, that becomes more than just a pet but is rather a much-loved and trusted friend.

According to Paws Like Me:

“This intelligent matching system has an algorithm that is proven to be over 90% accurate.”

Wow! Naturally you would want to meet the dog, and ideally have it spend a day or two with you to get a complete picture of the dog’s personality and needs. But I was so excited by this that I just had look into it further.

I took their quiz and found that the dogs selected for me were indeed dogs that I would consider a good match. Surprisingly so. Frankly, I was skeptical when I first saw this website. But then I got the results; it made me wish I could bring some of them home! Most were within 10 miles, and the descriptions went well beyond a simple “This is a really sweet dog.” The dog’s personality and behavior were given in a brief description that hit critical elements. They clearly stated if the dog was good with other dogs, cats or kids. If the dog would do better as an only dog, or if it would thrive in a pack situation was typically addressed.

Could Paws Like Me help you find your new BFF? They’re absolutely worth a look.

National Pet Day!


If you have a pet you know how much joy they bring you. They are there for you on good days and bad days. And no matter how bad your day has been your pet loves you, unconditionally. National Pet Day is all about showing your pet how much you appreciate their companionship. Give them a little extra love and spoiling! That might seem like a no-brainer for a bunch of pet parents.

But what about those people who have no idea what joy pets bring? Show them this!

Pets are good for us. Mentally, physically, emotionally and yes, even spiritually pets teach us to be better people. Don’t believe me?

  • Multiple studies and clinical trials document how pets help lower blood pressure,stress, anxiety, even cholesterol levels.
  • Having a pet instantly reduces feelings of loneliness because another living being is there sharing your life with you. All pets require interaction and bonding, through training, play or just hanging out together.
  • Pets encourage you to be more active. Of course dogs need to be walked but cats need exercise too. Or if you have smaller pets like chickens, rats, rabbits you’ll need to keep their enclosures clean as well as your pet excercised.
  • Pets require love, and they return that love without reservation or hesitation. Practicing love,and opening your heart increases empathy and compassion. We could ALL use more of that!

Having a pet means having a relationship, so you need to be prepared for ups and downs. No relationship is pure bliss from start to finish. Expect that you and your pet will make mistakes. Look at those moments of frustration as lessons in patience and understanding as well as how to keep your cool.

If you’re considering a pet for the first time – Take Your Time! Do not rush into an impulse buy of the first cute baby animal you see. Consider your living situation, your time and availability. Think outside the box! Can’t get a dog or a cat? Small animals like rabbits, ferrets, even rats make wonderful, affectionate companions.  Yes, you can even train them!

And always, if you’re going to bring an animal into your life consider adopting from rescue organizations, humane societies and shelters. There are literally millions of animals of every variety available; your new friend is just waiting to be found!


More Off Leash Zones? Why This is a Bad Idea.


They’re having so much fun! Every dog should have the chance to run and play off leash, right? Yes, of course! But also no. I know, it’s contradictory, but bear with me.

I live in Seattle, and I read this article this morning. It did not fill me with warm fuzzies. It says that Seattle’s off leash policy is under review, and the Parks Department is considering allowing dogs off leash in nature parks, like Lincoln Park.

I do not use dog parks, for a number of reasons, but I support their presence and yes, they fulfill a very important need. But dog parks are not for every dog, and not every dog parent who wants to exercise their dog wants them mixing with lots of other dogs. Many dog parents have shy, reactive dogs. Or older dogs who are not looking for lots of playmates. Or disabled dogs that can’t interact with other dogs and are at risk of injury. The list goes on, so I’ll say it now even though it’ll probably make me unpopular.

Your dog’s right to “run free” does not trump my right to be unmolested by loose dogs.

When I first moved to Seattle, I was attacked three times in the first six months by loose dogs while I was out walking my Belgian sheepdog, Domino. In one case I was set on by three dogs. I don’t know what I would’ve done if those two men driving by hadn’t rescued me and helped drive the dogs off. Domino was a great dog, but those attacks scarred him and he was never the same after.  His strategy became “the best defense is a good offense.” It took quite a bit of work to get him past his fearful aggressive reactions. He mellowed even more when we got Golly and at last walking him was not an exercise in stress management – his and mine – when we saw a loose dog.


You want to know what’s really sad? Domino used to love dog parks. I frequented a number of them when I lived in San Diego, and he had a great time. It took just six months to demolish his joy in other dogs. He did eventually become much less reactive, and a perfect gentleman out on walks, even with other dogs passing by. But it would always make me cringe when I saw a loose dog come running toward us. I could see at a glance that the majority of these dogs were not aggressive, but Domino was rarely in a mood to make a new friend.

“Don’t worry, he’s friendly!” The owner would call with a smile and a casual wave. When I would put my body between Domino and the other dog and say “Yeah, well my dog’s not, would you please call your dog back?” I would inevitably get the sneer, or the scornful look that said “You’re a bad owner for bringing an aggressive dog out here to the park.” Occasionally I even got a lecture on socializing my dog. Um. Yeah. Listen Princess, you’re the one breaking the law not me, and you do not know my dog’s history. You’re the one putting your little Fluffy at risk.

Sadly, Domino’s story is not an unusual one. Not every dog wants to run free, surrounded by tens or even hundreds of other dogs. Not every dog deserves that either. Yes, I said it. The aggressive, badly socialized dog does not deserve to run free and terrorize other park users, human or canine. The city’s parks are for everyone to use, and this means that everyone needs to act responsibly. This means keeping your dog on leash.

Why? Because people who have been bitten by a dog and are phobic have a right to feel safe walking in the park. People who want to sit on a blanket on a sunny afternoon with their family have the right to not get splashed with urine because a dog lifts his leg on the tree next to where they’re sitting. Or have their picnic trashed when the dog runs onto the blanket, kicking sand all over it.

But what? You’re a good dog parent with a well socialized dog? Yes, I get it. I do. I have a friend who has her dog very well trained. And she sometimes lets him off leash. *gasp* But she is constantly paying attention to her surroundings. When other walkers come into view she calls her dog back to her and leashes him up. This is almost always before the other party is aware of us and our dogs. She also keeps him to the trail. But she is the exception, not the rule.

If you are in this category, bravo. I’m not worried about you. I’ve seen you out there too, because we spot each other at the same time and get our dogs quickly back to our side and under control. We usually let our dogs say hi and maybe have a quick play session before moving on our way.

But to be honest, not every dog or dog parent falls into this category. In fact, most don’t. Because it takes a lot of time, and work to train your dog to that level. Most have their dog sorta trained to come when called but when they turn their dog loose they start playing on their phone and only look up occasionally. And this is what we will get if we ease the leash law. It will be by far the majority of off leash users. Let’s not give the folks who are not dog lovers extra ammunition in their negative perceptions of dog parents and the dogs we love.

I totally agree. Everyone should train their dog to have a strong recall, and exhibit trail courtesy when they’re out, but not not everyone does. That is just a fact. To dismiss that little fact is a disservice to everyone else who wants to go out for a stroll in the park.

Being a responsible dog parent means you control your dog so that you live amicably with your neighbors. This means using a leash to keep your dog from becoming a nuisance. And frankly, that’s what this easing of the leash law would make of dogs. I can guarantee that not every dog parent who unsnaps their dog’s leash is going to monitor and control their dog to the level my friend does with her dog. Guarantee it. Because I see it frequently.

So does the City Parks department, and you can read about the negative impact dogs have on our nature parks here. Dogs are destructive to wildlife and plants. They are; sorry, but sometimes the truth hurts. They scare off nesting birds and resting marine mammals. They damage sensitive habitat either by running over delicate plants, digging them up or eliminating on them. “Not my dog, it’s just this once.” And that’s what the next ten, and the next ten all say. It all adds up. The damaging effects are cumulative.

Our parks would not be nearly as lush, lovely and thriving if it was not for the efforts of staff and volunteers alike who work to control invasive plants and encourage native growth through new plantings. Their job though is made much harder when the habitat they’re trying to preserve and protect is trampled into the ground. It’s bad now. In the study quoted in this article, 25% of the dogs were off leash, with most heading off trail into the woods and other sensitive areas. And this is with a leash law fully in effect. If we want our nature parks to thrive, we all need to be good stewards and protect them. Which means staying on trail, you and your dog.

I don’t want to do away with dog parks. We need them, we really do, and for a whole lot of dogs they are a little slice of heaven on earth. I would support additional dedicated and fenced off leash areas. But I cannot support the idea of easing the policy of keeping dogs leashed in a general use park. It’s simply not the best policy for all park users.


Dog Parenting Done Right – Train With Baby Steps


The phrase ‘take baby steps’ describes finishing a task or working through a problem in small increments. Rather than trying to tackle a large issue in one big gulp, you work at in in small, manageable bites.

In animal training ‘successive approximations’ are the ‘baby steps’ that make up training a complex, multi-step behavior. I describe this concept in detail in my book Dog Care and Training for the GENIUS. But there is a related training concept that complements successive approximations: systematic desensitization.

This is used in humans to treat things like anxiety and phobias. In dogs, it can help with these as well as other training situations.

And you can combine the two to teach your dog some really cool stuff. We’ve all seen those cute memes and cards that have dogs posing with props; sunglasses, clothes, bottles or well, anything really. To catch that perfect pic though is a combination of photographic and training skill.

What? You didn’t think they just slapped those glasses on the dog and took the pic, did you?

Ok, sure, some dogs are extremely tolerant from the start and can be dressed up without any fuss. Most dogs though, need some familiarity with whatever it is that is being put on or near their body. Training your dog to take those super cute pics requires that you systematically desensitize the dog to the object being on or near the dog, and approximate the dog into the desired position. I also talk about this in my post about dogs and Halloween.

While decorating for the holidays I wanted to take some fun  pictures of Xander and came up with the idea of draping lights around him and getting him to pose. But I knew he wasn’t going to just sit there and let those crazy blinky wires wrap around him unless he got to know them first.

So the first thing I asked him to do was just come up and be close to the light string.


The Blinky Stringy Thing just lays there and does nothing, and Xander has no problem being right next to it. While this might not be a very big deal to some dogs, for others anything new in their environment is a Great Big Scary.

He’s looking at me with that big, goofy smile because he knows I’ve got yummy treats. I’ve asked him to Sit and Stay next to the new Blinky Stringy Thing, which means he has to remain in that position while I walk away. While Xander is just fine with this, for some dogs, being far away from Mama or Daddy while next to something potentially dangerous (at least in their eyes) is very stressful. Teach them to be less fearful by rewarding calm behavior as you slowly approximate them closer to a scary object while you move farther away. Baby steps!

Progressing to the next level involves Blinky Stringy Thing touching Xander.


First, I have it just barely touching his legs and side.





Then I drape it over his legs.




And finally, lay it over his back.




At each step of the way I gave Xander treats and verbal encouragement. In between each step I released Xander so he could get up, move around and relax. This is important! Allowing Xander to relax away from Blinky String, even for a few moments can be just as rewarding as a treat. I used those moments to give Xander a good scratch and some ear rubs.

Each little step was treated as a fun, quick interaction. For Xander it wasn’t scary, it was playtime with Mama.


Xander was fine when the BST was only loosely placed on him, but when I wrapped it a little tighter, look what happens to his attitude.


But just a few more sessions of wrapping and unwrapping, and I had this.


Until finally, I had him looking like this.


All this took me maybe an hour. I did use a clicker, although in this particular instance a clicker is not a critical tool. It went quickly with Xander because he’s used to working with novel items in his environment. This was the first time I asked him to let me wrap something around him, but he handled it like a pro. He’s such a good dog!

Can you think of ways to adapt this technique to help your dog? Does your dog need to learn how to manage stressful situations? Or do you want to teach your dog how to be the next Doggie Supermodel? Tell me about it down below!

Dog Parenting Done Right – Dog Sports!

I’ve spent a decent amount of time in the dog show world. Even though I don’t compete right now, well, I never say never. I’ve got a young dog that is begging for something more to do than just walk and hike. There are a lot of ways to get out and have fun with your dog than there were when I was showing in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.

Have you thought about playing in the world of dog sports? Agility and dock diving have been featured on cable stations like ESPN and Animal Planet but those aren’t the only ways to get out and play with your dog.

Training your dog in a sport is a fantastic way to bond with your dog. I am a huge advocate of getting out there and seeing what you and your furry buddy can do together. It does all kinds of cool things too, like:

  • Exercise! For you and your dog!
  • Socializing! Your dog learns good public manners.
  • Training! More training makes your dog more reliable.
  • Bonding! Advanced training develops a deeper relationship.

If you’re looking to do more with your dog, explore your options! There is a dog sport to suit almost any dog-human pair. Big, little, fast, slow, mixed breed or purebred. Don’t let anyone tell you “Your dog can’t do that!” I once knew a person that trained their standard poodle to herd.

Think agility is only for border collies? Check out this dog-handler team.


How sweet is that? You can tell he’s having a good time, and this pair have obviously spent a lot of time together. I love how he just walks through the weave poles!

I tell you about dog sports and give some helpful tips to get started in my book, Dog Care and Training for the GENIUS. Check out the My Book tab at the top for more information and a special discount coupon!

Need Help Training Your Dog? You Need This Book!


My first book! Not my last I’m sure but there’s something special about your first. It’s been two years in the making and I am so very pleased to share Dog Care and Training for the GENIUS with you.

Training your dog, or any animal, depends upon communication. There must be a clear and open channel between you and your dog or you will both end up frustrated. And here’s a secret:  your dog already is an expert on you. He knows what it means when you pick up your keys and put on your coat. She knows it’s bedtime when you turn off the TV and get up off the couch late at night. Your dog knows everything about you because your dog excels at reading body language and facial expressions.

Here’s another secret:  Your dog is going to act and react based on what your body and face are doing. This may or may not be the same as what you tell him to do. If you don’t understand and use this secret when you train and interact with your dog you will have problems. Knowing how to read your dog and communicate with her is the key to successfully training your dog.

That is why you need this book. I’ll teach you how to open and maintain a clear communication channel between you and your dog.

You can order Dog Care and Training for the GENIUS by following this link. If you use the following coupon code:


The publisher will give you 15% off the price! How cool is that?

I know you will love this book! I thoroughly enjoyed writing it and I am excited to share with you the secrets of dog training success.

Dog Parenting Fail – Why You Should Crate Train

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I imagine this video is worth a bit more…

Looks like Versace, Armani and Coco had a very good time! And all that mess could have easily been avoided if their Dad had restricted their access to just a room or two while he was at work. Using crates and safe zones to keep your dog confined when you’re not at home or while you’re sleeping will save you this kind of ruin.

I show you how to teach your dog to love crates and safe zones in my book Dog Care And Training For a The GENIUS to be published very soon!

Has your little fur kid created a big mess when for you when left alone?

Dog Parenting Done Right – Is Halloween Scary For Your Dog?


Have you ever seen a dog freak out at something new in it’s environment? Sometimes introducing new items can be stressful. While we want to minimize stress in our animals, it’s unrealistic to expect to eliminate it all the time. It’s important to teach them to handle stress – so they don’t freak out at the least little thing. Teach a dog to handle stress and you’ll have a dog that will learn to be calm and resilient and look to you for guidance and support.

“Sure, easier said than done!” I hear you…believe me. It’s not like we can tell our dogs “Relax, it’s okay. See? It’s nothing to worry about.”

Except, you can. In fact, you should if you want to have a happy, well-adjusted furry companion. As a good, responsible dog parent you should know your dog well enough to anticipate something that might scare him and take steps to help him.

I decided to decorate my house this year for the holidays. I’ve felt a bit Scroog-y the last couple years and haven’t done anything. Well, this year, I’m changing that! Scrooginess just doesn’t feel good. So off to the store I went for some Halloween fun to make my living room a little more festive…


But this guy has never seen Halloween decorations. And knowing Xander’s temperament I knew he’d need some help to not fear the Grim Reaper-ish baubles I brought home.

The new Halloween decoration elements included draping a table and some boxes with a black sheet, pumpkins, skeletal props, tinsel garland and lights. Oh yeah, and a giant, pose-able spider.


You can see he looks less than thrilled to be there. When he first saw just the draped table he growled at it. From his perspective, a giant black blob was suddenly sitting next to the bed he likes to sleep on. I might feel a little growly too. He paced back and forth eyeing it suspiciously.

Have you ever seen your dog do this? With or without the growling?

I called Xander to me, away from what was scaring him. He has a soft temperament, and is the least confident dog I’ve ever owned. But, he knows that I will take care of him, and will not ask him to do anything that is dangerous to him. He also knows I will ask him to face his fears and work through them. Together we are slowly building his confidence. But it does take work, and a certain amount of forethought on my part.

I first had to get him to realize the big black form was not going to morph into a table demon and eat us. So I went and sat next to it. I didn’t call him, I didn’t require he come over to me, I just sat there and talked to him in a soft voice. I specifically avoided the words “Good dog” and “It’s okay”. Instead I just sort of babbled: “You’re not afraid of this are you? It’s just the table. It’s nothing.”

He quickly got up the courage to approach me, although at first he carefully did not look at the table and positioned so my body was between him and it. I suppose he figured a table demon would take me first and give him time to make his escape. I reassured him by gently rubbing his face and ears, and when he actually relaxed and looked at the table normally – without giving it the side eye, or growling – I told him he was good and popped a treat in his mouth.

With some verbal encouragement and a few more treats he was soon sniffing the draped table like it was an old friend. He wandered away and came back later when I had added things! Oh no!


Teaching Xander that the table and it’s goodies won’t hurt him took me less than a day, but I did it in tiny little bits, like maybe a minute at the most each time. I’d use treats to encourage him to sniff the different items, ask him to sit or lay down and release him before he had a chance to feel too uncomfortable. Yes, I asked him to push past his comfort barriers as you can see in the pictures, but I didn’t ask him to stay there very long. Instead, he learned that small amounts of stress are manageable.

How do you know Xander is not entirely happy in these pictures? Look at his face – tight, tense lips, folded back ears, and his muscles and body are tense and poised to spring up as soon as I say he can.



I used “successive approximations” to teach Xander the confidence that he could see new things that made him uneasy and learn that just because it’s scary at first doesn’t mean it has to stay scary forever. By the time I was done decorating he was calm and relaxed around everything. Even meeting my centerpiece was no big deal, check it out:

Now look at how calm he is:


In my book Dog Care And Training For The GENIUS I teach you how to devise a training plan to help your dog through tense or stressful situations. Look for it to be published next month!

Thank you for stopping by! Be sure to say hi in the comments below!

Dog Parenting Fail – Trainer Error

It happens. You forget, you overlook, or you just plain ignore it, and next thing you know you’re cleaning up a mess.

“It” being a potential issue – an object or situation – that causes your dog to act in an undesirable way. Did your darling steal food? Dash out the door? Lunge and bark at a passing person or dog? Chew up something?

Like this?


That is a very expensive walking boot.

And this


Is an even more expensive custom orthotic insert. You’ll notice they both have tell-tale teeth marks on them. I’m going to let you in on a training secret. Trainers make mistakes too. *gasp*

In my day job, I’m a nurse. Two careers and over 20 years of being on my feet all day (or night) on concrete floors has taken its toll on my feet and the boot is just the latest round in my on-going bout with plantar fasciitis. The new boot was literally just a day old when I forgot and left it in the kitchen overnight. Where this guy sleeps.


Xander at just over a year and a half old is still very much a puppy in his head. While he is very good about not doing the destructo-puppy chewing thing he is not 100% reliable when he is not supervised. This is normal; teenage dogs, like teenage kids will want to test their limits, explore their boundaries and push limits. It’s up to you and me as dog parents to establish clear boundaries and maintain them. It’s also on us to ensure the dog is able to understand and follow the rules.

So the first place to look for what went wrong if your dog is misbehaving is at yourself. Because what likely happened is you made a mistake. Trainer error is one of the most common reasons for poorly trained dogs.

My mistake was that I tucked my boot out of sight so I wouldn’t trip over it as I was working in the kitchen last night. I forgot I left it there and didn’t see it when I went to bed and gated Xander in the kitchen for the night. The kitchen is Xander’s safe zone; it functions like a giant crate, keeping him safely contained so he can’t get to things that are easily destroyed, like couches or pillows. In his safe zone he can move, stretch and sleep. He knows that if it’s on the floor in the kitchen he can chew it. So he figured I’d just left him a brand new chew toy.

No one to blame but myself. I was just very very lucky he wasn’t too excited by it and gave up after just a little mouthing, both are still fully functional. He could have completely destroyed both.

What did I do when I saw the damage? Nothing. He would not have connected any scolding or punishment with the act of chewing up the boot because too much time had already passed. Xander did nothing wrong. I did.

Too often owners blame the dog for bad behavior that is entirely preventable. As responsible dog parents we need to think ahead of our dogs and set them up to succeed. In Xander’s case, he simply needs a little more time, and a little more maturity to be able to direct his chewing behavior on appropriate toys at all times. I knew I should have moved the darn boot. But it was out of sight, out of mind. If you’re going to have a dog, you have to take responsibility for the dog’s behavior, good and bad.

Trainer error is going to happen. So you need to be present and pay attention to your dog and your surroundings so you can minimize the times your dog presents inappropriate behaviors. Think ahead of your dog. Pick up, put away, or remove tempting objects your dog could chew. Restrict your dog’s access to just one or two rooms to prevent chewing or eliminating behaviors that happen out of your direct line of sight.

I cover this and more training techniques in my book Dog Care and Training For The GENIUS. In it I’ll show you how to teach your dog your rules and your boundaries. Look for it to be released in the next month or so.

Has your dog chewed or destroyed something he wasn’t supposed to? How did you react? What could you have done to prevent it?