He’s not a bad dog

He’s not a bad dog

You don’t need to feel ashamed if your dog is behaving badly. I think that’s what causes MANY people to say to me, “he’s not a bad dog,” or, “she’s really a sweet natured girl.”

Of course the reason they are speaking to me is usually because the same dog is showing aggression, destroying property or jumping up on people to the point of hurting them.

What I want people to know is, I KNOW your dog is not a bad dog. It’s okay.

The truth is, good dogs can display bad behaviour.

Of course, what is, “bad,” is a matter of interpretation and preference.

At the same time, if your dog is a danger to you, themselves, or others, the issue needs to be addressed.

Training through behaviour problems is about moving forward and creating positive change.

If you’re feeling like you will be judged when seeking help and it’s stopping you from taking the next step, I want you to know that there are non-judgy trainers (like me) out there and it’s about finding that right fit that you feel comfortable with.

You can also be selective with where you post online. Large free-for-all dog groups aren’t always the safest spaces to seek help without judgement.

The more serious or ingrained the issue, the more likely you will need in person help.

Sometimes though, you might feel like the issue is really bad and super embarrassing, but it might be simpler than you think to address it!

It’s all about taking that first step.

So when you’re ready for that, here’s 3 ways I can help you:

  1. Browse the free lessons in the Dog Matters Academy
  2. Sign up for Academy Premium and take the full training program that will improve any behaviour you’re struggling with with your dog
  3. Read my free ebook, The Good Dog and submit a question for me to answer within the same module area


“I just don’t like her”

“I just don’t like her”

Often I meet dogs who show some degree of aggression or reactivity towards other dogs, but it seems random.

It’s only some dogs.

Sometimes we can see that it is only fluffy dogs, flat faced dogs or dogs or a certain breed type.

It’s like a little doggy racist. But at least we can see a pattern.

Other times, it appears much more random.

How can we explain this?

Have you ever met someone at a party or been introduced to a mutual friend and just… not liked them?

Maybe you can’t put your finger on it.

Maybe it’s the look on their face.

Maybe they said something you thought was rude or inappropriate.

Maybe it was me and you are about to unsubscribe…

But sometimes for whatever reason, we just don’t like everyone we meet.

And it’s the same with our dogs.

There is always some reason. But it may not be an obvious one. For example, the other dog might just be a little too energetic and it’s coming off to your dog as offensive.

Perhaps both dogs carry themselves in a dominant way and want to be on top in the relationship as soon as they meet and neither will give in.

Or maybe one day your dog was given the doggy finger by a passing poodle and never forgot that b*tch’s face.

Whatever the reason, the point is that we can’t always predict or control whether our dogs like every other dog.

That’s why it’s so important to train your dog to listen under distraction and to learn to read their body language so that you can at least see how your dog is feeling and know how to intervene.

You can learn a lot about your dog (and them about you) through training together.

It strengthens your bond, improves your communication together and makes them quicker to learn AND makes them tired. Win win win.

To learn more about training so that you and your dog are safer and easier to predict and control in any situation, check out the Dog Matters Academy.

Woofs and wags


When you shouldn’t socialise your puppy

When you shouldn’t socialise your puppy

“We should have socialised her more!”

The owners feel bad. Their dog has serious issues now.

They feel they should have socialised her more.

They tried though.

They took the advice of the vet to keep her home until the vaccinations were finished.

Then they were able to start puppy school.

They did everything the vet nurse said.

Their puppy was scared and hiding.

“You need to socialise her more,” was the standard advice.

For six weeks of puppy school she hid from the other puppies.

She fought off the vet staff and learned that biting keeps them away.

She went to dog school and only became harder to handle amongst all the other dogs.

Eventually the owners had enough and stopped going. It was clear no one was enjoying it.

Now their little scared puppy is all grown up and is not safe for dogs or people to be close to.

She knows exactly how to keep threats away.

She uses her teeth.

She learned it back in puppy school.

She learned it when she was being socialised.

This is not the owner’s fault. According to the experts they took advice from, they took all the right steps. They only listened to what they were advised.

They knew that when you get a puppy, you need to, “socialise it,” but no one told them what that really means.

People think it means get your puppy used to other dogs.

Really, if socialisation has 100 parts, getting used to other dogs is just one of them.

It’s so much more than that.

But we can still keep it simple.

Socialisation is getting your puppy used to all the things they will need to be able to cope with in their life such as environments, people, noises, objects, handling and other dogs.

Furthermore, the most critical time to do this is up to the age of 16 weeks. While vaccinations aren’t in full effect yet.

And the risk of a serious behaviour problem is much higher than the risk of disease. You just need to use some common sense and not take your puppy to areas highly trafficked by unknown dogs, especially not putting them on the ground in such areas.

But since other dogs is only a small part of correct socialisation, avoiding these areas isn’t a big deal.

And if you want to be paranoid about your pup picking up diseases, you better not go anywhere either, because you can bring home these diseases on your shoes.

Especially if you’ve been to any areas where sick dogs go – like the vet clinic.

Many people refer to this time of the year as puppy season. The best gift you can give yourself and your new puppy is helpful education which sets you up a more balanced dog and helps avoid serious behaviour issues.

See the free puppy section of the vault for a free puppy socialisation checklist that you can use to socialise your puppy safely. Access here.

The goal is to help your puppy to have either neutral or calm positive experiences with these things and environments, and avoid both negative experiences or a total lack of experience.

Above all, get out there and enjoy the big wide world with your puppy.

Woofs and wags

PS Like anything, there are good and not so good options. This post is not to say I am against vets or puppy schools, it’s about finding the right one and seeking behaviour and training advice from experts in that field rather than in a different field entirely.

How to get an assistance or support dog

How to get an assistance or support dog

I had a recent question from a follower along the lines of:

What breed makes a good assistance dog for mental health support?

There’s a lot of variables in this situation.

With support and assistance dogs becoming more popular, we want to make sure we maintain a good standard so that those who need support dogs in public can continue to benefit from this.

And I also want to say, every dog offers support for their people, even if they aren’t official – it’s part of their job 😉

As for getting an official support or assistance dog, here’s the factors to consider.

The first major factor is the dog’s suitability – keeping in mind that when an organisation breeds dogs for these roles and puts them through training, many are then deemed unsuitable and don’t go ahead. So picking the right dog is crucial.

Even when a dog is picked, it’s no guarantee that they will be suitable in the long term once we see how they cope with the training.

Sadly, most people who ask me to train an existing dog to be a public assistance dog have an unsuitable dog for this kind of job.

If your dog has behaviour problems, health issues, is elderly or has fears or phobias, they likely aren’t suitable for the pressures of assistance dog life.

What we require from the dog also depends on what you personally need from the dog and whether you require public access.

If you don’t require public access, you can choose the most stable dog possible and train solid obedience and manners so that they are a good all round reliable companion.

If you do require public access, the process will take longer and cost more, and you will need to sign on with an organisation that can approve dogs for public access.

With some such organisations you can train your own dog to the required level and have them assess and test the dog and grant public access.

With either of these options, a trainer such as myself may be able to train the dog to the required level to pass the PAT test, and then they do the assessment. Or if you live close to the organisation, they can help you with the training part as well.

The cost and how long this would take would also depend on whether you start with a puppy or an adult dog. A puppy takes longer as they need to reach maturity before they can be passed and also need some maturity to be more reliable in their training. So you would need to progress through basic puppy training and socialisation first.

As a rough ballpark, to train up a puppy from scratch would take 12-18 months and to train an untrained adult dog with no prior behaviour issues could take 3-6 months.

For comparison, to purchase a fully trained assistance dog from an assistance dog organisation can be a 2+ year wait and cost upwards of $30k.

With a rescue dog you could find a dog that already has a stable temperament and then train to the requirements. Be very strict in finding the right temperament as it is most important and if you adopt a dog with fears, anxieties health issues, reactivity, aggression or other ingrained unwanted habit, you will need to overcome that before being able to train to support dog requirements and for many of these dogs this is not possible and they are not suitable for the job. I have seen this many times and it ends in frustration and heartbreak as the dog cannot perform the role and causes more stress from the issues it needs work on.

So a rescue dog is great – you just need to be very firm that it be a calm and stable dog with no issues – they are out there.

As for breed, it will still come down to the right temperament of the individual dog. The next aspect is breed health and whether you want a non shedding coat, and the size of the dog.

There are exceptions to every rule but labradors and poodles are popular options for assistance dogs.

Again, look for a dog that has the right balance of stability, calmness and motivation for training without being so high in drive that it could work against you.

I hope this shed some light on what’s involved in getting an assistance or emotional support dog.

Woofs and wags


PS Whenever you’re ready, here’s 3 ways you can improve your dog’s behaviour today:

  1. Browse the free lessons in the Dog Matters Academy
  2. Sign up for Academy Premium and take the full training program that will improve any behaviour you’re struggling with with your dog
  3. Read my free ebook, The Good Dog and submit a question for me to answer within the same module area


Don’t name it til you love it

Don’t name it til you love it

If you are in a foreign country and you don’t know the language, no amount of repeating the same word to you is going to make you understand it.

You would need to be shown what it means by pointing at an object or using a translator.

Remember too that your dog speaks a different language to us.

When they aren’t listening to something it is often because they don’t yet know the translation and need to be taught what the word means.

While repetition is the key to learning, this doesn’t mean repeating a word over and over and hoping that your dog will eventually get it.

It means repeating the behaviour until the dog knows that this behaviour leads to a good outcome.

And THEN we introduce a word, the new language.

That’s why you’ll often hear me say, “don’t name it til you love it.”

While I’m training something new to a dog, the owner often asks me, “why aren’t you saying a command?”

I’ll often start out saying little other than praise words (your dog needs encouragement).

But if I say the command before the dog knows which behaviour I want, the chances are they won’t get it right, which means they are being set up to fail AND as a human, my next step would be to start repeating the word.

When we repeat the word without meaning with it, it becomes less meaningful and easier for your dog to ignore.

So repeat the behaviour before you repeat the word, and don’t name it til you love it 😉

Woofs and wags


PS Whenever you’re ready, here’s 3 ways you can improve your dog’s behaviour today:

  1. Browse the free lessons in the Dog Matters Academy
  2. Sign up for Academy Premium and take the full training program that will improve any behaviour you’re struggling with with your dog
  3. Read my free ebook, The Good Dog and submit a question for me to answer within the same module area
Not aggressive

Not aggressive

“She is biting the kids – but she’s not aggressive! She just wants to play!”

“He rushes up to other dogs and fights break out – but he is just being friendly – he is not aggressive!”

“She’s growling at strangers – but she is not aggressive.”

These are things I hear almost daily and I want people to know – it’s okay. I know your dog is not a bad dog.

I know that when your young dog mouths your family members, he is not being aggressive – he is being playful and doesn’t know any better that teeth are not allowed on people.

Mouthing and play biting and straining on the lead out of frustration are not aggression.

If the dog is growling, this can lead to aggression and in fact many trainers would define growling as an aggressive act.

Just because a dog is acting out of fear, it doesn’t mean that they can’t or won’t cause harm. In fact, most aggression comes from some type of fear or insecurity.

To a degree…

Aggression is built in to every dog.

It’s a tool built into their instincts to protect them and help them survive.

Aggression brings down a hunt to feed and nourish them.

Aggression wards off threats to protect them from harm (hence fearful dogs will growl, lunge and bark)

No matter why a dog is displaying aggression, being that they are living in the human world, aggression from dogs is not acceptable – but there is hope.

If your dog is displaying aggression, seek the help of an experienced trainer.

If your dog is one of those dogs who is mouthing, biting, lunging or making people feel threatened through unruly behaviour, but is not aggressive, much of this can be solved with some basic manners training and a better understanding of how dogs communicate and why they do the things they do.

To start learning how to understand your dog better and address these unwanted habits, visit the free Dog Matters Academy hub here.

Woofs and wags