Tag Archive: behavior


People frequently ask me for advice about their dog or their friends’ dogs’ behavior. I don’t mind and I really want to help but it’s not so easy to give accurate information without more details and a first-hand look at the situation. It’s also irresponsible to give advice without more information. Just the other day, a friend emailed me that her friend recently started dating a man and whenever they hug, her dog barks at them. She wanted advice to give her friend. How would you answer this request?

Behavior issues can be complicated and require knowledge not only of dog behavior but more importantly, people behavior. Unless you have education and experience, it can be tempting to give advice without looking further into the situation. In this case of the dog barking at the hugging couple, my first question back to them would be – what do you do when the dog barks at you?  This is such a key question because dogs are usually reacting to our actions. Are they yelling at the dog when he barks? Ignoring him? Giving into him and not hugging??!!   Each one of these scenarios can result in a very different behavior from the dog and different advice from me.

Do you find yourself giving behavior advice to others? Be very careful, for what worked for you and your dog may not be the right solution your friend’s dog. My neighbor has a small but mighty Chihuahua who growls and snaps at other dogs. She was telling me that another neighbor told her to jerk the leash and scream “No!” to the dog. It worked for the neighbor’s dog but obviously wasn’t working for the Chihuahua. She was biting for my dog’s nose as we talked. While I would NEVER give this kind of punitive advice, the reason it worked for the neighbor’s dog was probably due to personality differences in the dogs. Softer, more mild-mannered dogs can be scared into stopping some behaviors while stronger-willed dogs will feed off of punishment and get worse.

Dog behavior and human behavior is not black and white. There are so many factors to consider. It’s a lifelong learning experience with every dog teaching us something new.  It’s humbling yet lots of fun!

Old Dogs – The Finest Kind of Love

What motivates us more, our fears or our dreams?  I’d like to think that our dreams have more power over us, to inspire us to do great things.  I believe that fears can be more motivating so that we avoid the dire consequences of our worst-imagined circumstances.  For me, I have a fear of becoming an old, homeless bag lady. It may seem irrational, and my friends laugh at me when I tell them this, but when I pass a woman sitting on a bench with all of her possessions either on her person as a threadbare coat on an 80-degree day or stacked in a three-legged, rusted grocery store shopping cart with room to spare, I wonder how she got there. She has no collections of crystal stemware, flat screen TV’s or $25 scented candles to make her world smell wonderful.

This fear of mine has generated one of my deepest desires and ambitious dreams.  One day, I hope to establish a “retirement community” for old dogs – because I simply cannot stand the thought of old dogs who had once been in loving homes ending up in shelters, homeless and scared.  Old dogs are the last to be adopted and frequently the first to be euthanized.  Most people want a younger dog or a puppy.  Not me!  My first Golden Retriever was my last puppy, 21 years ago.  I loved her with all of my heart and still own the cookbooks with frayed bindings and teeth marks from her adolescence. I cherish the memories of our 14 years together.  While her younger years were fun, nothing replaces the calm contentment of a mature dog.

My current dog, Gizzy, is a 12-year-old Golden Retriever.  I adopted him at age 5 because he was unadoptable, very naughty, and I was best-suited as a behavior specialist to deal with him.  After I rescued Giz, I adopted Donner at 10 years old (also unadoptable!) and Archie at 9 years old (somewhat unadoptable), and they have both passed on.  I loved them dearly for the 20 months and 30 months, respectively, that we had together and I’m hoping to continue rescuing older dogs.  It’s part of my life’s work – to save a few dogs from the confusion of being sent to the park bench with just an old collar around his neck.

Please check out the Old Dog Haven – http://www.olddoghaven.org/ and The Grey Muzzle Organization – http://greymuzzle.org/ to learn about a couple of groups who are putting their dreams into action.