Human Training…for Dogs

    This column will offend many dog lovers.  Please accept my apologies in advance.  I myself am a dog lover.  I believe dogs are among the very best creations on Earth.  Fewer things provide more pleasure than a loving relationship with a well-trained and well-behaved dog.  But, the hardest part of training dogs is training their human masters.

     First, a word on the goodness of dogs.  I recently had an odd experience that got me thinking about the wonderful character of dogs.  I had the need to visit a hardware store while engaged in a small plumbing project.  Having visited this establishment previously on many occasions, I had been forced to interact with a particularly abrasive clerk.  Perhaps abrasive is the wrong word to describe her demeanor.  In any case, she is unpleasant to deal with every time you visit this store.  She always appears angry as you approach the counter, as if your purchase is an intrusion into the peace of her day.  She has an odd way of staring, or maybe glaring at you (think Jack Nicholson in The Shining).  If you have a question, and she chooses to respond, she speaks in a low, mumbling voice that is unintelligible (she is what Jerry Seinfeld would call a low talker).  This clerk, bless her heart, can make a happy Saturday morning trip to the hardware store the worst part of your day. 

     On this recent visit, I noticed that she was wearing a hug your dog t-shirt.  This woman was obviously a dog lover.  Pondering this, it occurred to me that her dog probably considers her the best human on the planet.  She, with her apparent character and personality flaws, is certainly her dog’s favorite person.  What a testament to the true character of dogs.  You can be a completely disagreeable person, and your dog will still love and accept you.  He or she will wait anxiously at home for your return.  For most dogs, their favorite thing is to simply be in your company.  Dogs are literally the BEST! 

     That being said, I think many folks are not being good dog owners.  You could say, they suck at being dog parents, primarily out of ignorance.  Let’s try to fix that…

     In order to be a good dog parent, you first need to understand something about the canine mind.  As pack animals, dogs are all about respect (you need to become the alpha leader for them).  On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being highest), if your dog considers himself a 6 and you a 5, he won’t respect or obey you well.  If he sees himself as a 6 but you are a 7 or 8, he will respect and respond to you.  To gain your dog’s respect, you have to exert authority over him (and avoid things that erode that respect). He wants you to do that.  Your authority makes him feel secure.  Here are two fundamental tips that will help you become a better dog parent.  This info comes from my favorite dog trainer – Don Sullivan (his training materials can be found online at 

     First, do not give your dog treats from your hand.  Any special treat you give your dog can go directly into his supper dish.  Food in his dish is his food.  Food or treats coming from your hand is your food.  As pack animals, one way submission to other dogs is shown is by giving up food.  By handing your dog treats, you are making a submissive gesture to him.  He will love you for it, but he will not respect you.  You become his peer and give up your position of authority over him in doing so, which does not foster obedience (an alpha leader does not give his food to those under him).

     Here’s the second big tip.  Foster authority in your human- dog relationship with line training.  Use a choke chain, or better yet a training collar (buy at – with a long lightweight ¼” nylon rope and begin training your dog through walking.  Simply walk your dog, but do not allow him to take slack out of your line.  If he starts to pull on your rope, give him a quick snap to get his attention.  He will soon learn to not pull on your lead.  This simple act fosters respect and obedience in your dog.  He quickly learns that you are the commander.  If you control your walk, and he is not allowed to pull on the lead, your dog will feel happy and secure.  You become the alpha dog parent that he will love, respect, and obey.

© 2023 Jody Dyer