Who Is

Who Is; The Spirit Dog

Another kindred spirit

Spirit relaxing somebody's Arctic Wolf, out of her element at a wolf gathering.

Just a animal guy.

Since I was a pup myself I have, loved, lived, slept, played,  ate, observed, interacted with and studied dogs, and that hasn’t changed in my 50 years of life. Did I think I was studying them when I was little, of course not. I was just hanging out with them. Because of this, my knowledge of the dogs mind ( inherited behavior ), has not been influenced nor corrupted by any of the inaccuracies of today’s  common teachings on canine behavior.

The most egregious error being human minds are very complicated, animal minds are very simple. The more scientific you make dog behavior modification sound, the less likely you will have the desired results.

My goal is a simple yet very complicated one, To teach you to better understand what your dog is thinking about so that, ( A ) You will be able to have a much more meaningful relationship with your dog. And, ( B ) When problems arise you will not only understand the root cause of the problem, you will also be able to solve those problems.

Like the dogs love for us in unconditional, that is how I love them. This has been and is my life.

For the last twenty something years or so, I’ve been helping out many organizations understand dogs a little better.  I’m the founder and managing director of Spirit Animal Sanctuary Inc., a 501(c)3 charitable organization. which provides a lifetime home for behaviorally unadoptable dogs that have a hard time adjusting to a human world.

I’m fifty now. When you reach this age, you start worrying about time. So even know, this is going to be a real uphill battle trying to change the way we think about canine behavior.  I have to try, for the sake of the pet owners and for the sake of the dogs who are the unfortunate victims of well meaning but inaccurate behavior advice from too many in the animal behavior field.

The following are some pictures of me, dating back a million years ago, a hundred years ago, and today. And I shave that stupid beard off as soon as the weather gets warm again.

img_young_spirit_2s007 Young Spirit

liny Spirit some years later

img_spirt_beardroom011 The Spirit Dog today

Answering Blog emails

Answering Blog emails

Nicky and midnight

Nicky and midnight



Big Big

Big Big

Aside from the animals I also love our land. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York,  before spending my teenage and most of my adult life on Long Island, before moving to northern NY. I should of been born in the country but then again if I had, I probably wouldn’t be doing this today.

Sugar River

road to nowhere

spirit valley

I'm Home Baby

I'm Home Baby




109 Responses

  1. Hi — I’m afraid I don’t have much insight for you because my dog is the same way! I am anxiously waiting to hear any advice because it will be helpful to me as well! In the meanwhile, I can sympathize and relate to your situation. You are doing the right thing in taking precautions, but I know it’s hard. Best of luck to you.

  2. hello spirit dog,
    I ran across your website and I liked what I saw.
    So my dog jeffrey who is about a year and a half old mix(i was told part pit and part sight hound) is very sweet, funny, energetic dog. He loves to play ball and gets along with my other two dogs quite well. He has no problems with anybody in our house, and he doesnt seem to have any problems with kids since he loves playing with my 3 and 7 year old cousins. He becomes aggressive when strangers show up (mostly men). It seems as if he is territorial but im just not sure since some of the instances are not actually on my property but at the neighbors, my guess is he thinks its his property too. He is fine in public on a leash when i take him to parks. Also every once in a while he seems to be dog aggressive with neighbor dogs.He has nipped my neighbor who is a woman and has lunged and acted aggressive with my other neighbors who the rest were male. Everyone is afraid of him in my neighborhood except those he knows well.I have now taken more strict precautions with him. He stays in the house while i am at work and he only goes in the backyard when i am home and outside with him. I have schedualed training for him and i plan on getting him a muzzle. My neighbors want me to get rid of him. I honestly believe he can be helped but i dont want my neighbors to be afraid.Please help, any insight or suggestion as to why he acts this way would be greatly appreciated. -shelby

  3. I just found your site and love it. Thank you. I’m the owner of a lovely little jack russell dachshund mix who is very fearful of strangers. Once you have been to my house 6 or 7 times she might finally let you into her little world, but she is a fear biter so I have to be extremely careful.
    My question is — my elderly in-laws are coming to stay with us for two months! They are not “dog people” but they may be willing to try and get to know Brooke. They get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, etc. which will probably set off Brooke’s alarms, so I’m preparing to block the hallways and not get a lot of sleep. Do you have any suggestions?
    I am familiar with Brooke’s reactions and know that if, say, my father-in-law tries to get up from the table suddenly she will bite him. Is it better to try and get them used to each other, or just give up and block her access to them for two months? The latter is not impossible, but will be stressful… thanks for any advice!!
    – Lorraine

  4. Spirit Dog,

    I am writing you this with tears in my eyes. I need to find a place for a very sweet & loving Pit bull named Dalton that I recently rescued. The unfortunate thing about Dalton is we believe he may have been trained to fight. He is super sweet with people. You can pull his tail, his ears or grab his skin & his only reaction is to lick you. He is also very smart. He knows sit, sit-stay, shake & other paw. He will take a treat from you with a gentleness I rarely see. The unfortunate thing is Dalton is fear based dog aggressive. If he sees another dog his teeth will chatter & he will start to drool & shake. It’s very sad to see. I was willing to work with him to get him through his fear until last week when everything went down hill.
    Dalton resides in my basement as I currently have 3 dogs of my own & 1 foster dog. In order to get to the basement you have to go out my kitchen door into the garage & down to the basement. I had left him out of his crate in the basement to finish his food while I got ready for work. Without my knowing it he got into my garage. I went to go out the kitchen door with my dogs behind me & my foster dog, Chloe, pushed her way past me & into the garage. A very nasty fight ensued & it took me 20 minutes to some how manage to get them apart. Both dogs went to the vets. Chloe had some damage to her trachea & trauma behind her eyes, & numerous stitches. Both dogs will be fine.
    The problem is the severity of the attack. Dalton went right for her throat & wouldn’t let go. It was like a switch went off in his head & he became a completely different dog. He didn’t even know I was there. I have now been forced to make a decision I never wanted to make. Its killing me!! I love these dogs. I rescue them I don’t put them down. My heart is breaking as I absolutely love Dalton & I just want to give him a chance to lead a normal life. I can’t keep him as he poses a risk to my dogs & the dogs in the neighborhood if he ever gets out again. No rescue will take him as he is a liability. Please if you can take him I would greatly appreciate it!! This has been a nightmare & my heart hurts!!!

    Kim McDonell

  5. Hello, It looks like you have a very special place and providing a refuge for many lucky animals…thank you! Is there a phone number I can contact you on? I have a difficult situation with 2 dogs and I hoping that you may be able to offer help, a place, or advice. Thank you!

  6. Hello,

    My name is Adrienne Banet, and my husband Kevin and I are in desperate need of help with our dog Jaxx.

    Jaxx is a 95 lb 3 year old Pyrenees, Bull Dog mix and has behavioral problems with aggression anyone that comes around us, particularly myself. We adopted Jaxx when he was a year an a half from an animal shelter where he was neutered at that time prior to picking him up. We love him tremendously; however, he has bitten 4 times now, with the last bite occurring last night to our new roommate which was the most severe, actually requiring stitches. His problem is with eye contact being threatening or a challenge. If you are standing above him, he is fine; however, if he doesn’t know you very well and you crouch down to his eye level around me, that is when he attacks.

    Last night, our roommate sara was sitting on the floor in her room, and Jaxx was in there laying down and everything was fine until I got home. Once I came home and came into the room and sat on the floor with her, that is when Jaxx attacked. I believe a large part of Jaxx’s problem is myself, and it kills me.

    We have him in behavioral training for his aggression currently, which it was brought to our attention that I have a lot to do with his aggression as I am very fearful because he is so large and I am worried I cannot control him were there to be an outburst. I don’t want my fear to make him an uncontrollable dog and I am worried that as much as I love this dog like he were my child, I am making matters worse by continuing to have him live with me as he is almost over-attached and protective of myself and my husband. He does very well in training, and our trainer is convinced that he is a dog that can be rehabilitated as long as we maintain our confidence around him. The problem is, especially after last night, I have lost that confidence. My husband and I want children and we just cannot risk our dog attacking our children or our roommate again as she is currently in treatment for cancer and cannot risk open dog bite wounds.

    I am desperately seeking a sanctuary for Jaxx as soon as possible, as I cannot bare the thought of putting him down. He doesn’t deserve that. This is a problem that has resulted because of myself and I want him to live out his life and get the necessary training he needs in the way that will be useful to him.

    I have been researching animal no kill sanctuaries, and your site was brought to my attention. I am sure you get e-mails like this all the time, but we are desperate. We currently live in Montgomery, Alabama with the Air Force, so I know we are a ways away; however, were you to accept him, we would drive out there in a heartbeat were it to mean he would be safe. Please respond to let me know if you have any openings for animals that should be able to be rehabilitated but do have a history of fear aggression. This is an emergency at this time as we cannot risk him attacking our roommate again due to her condition. Please help us!!

    Adrienne and Kevin

  7. Hello. I hope this email finds you doing well. I am writing you for some advise. We currently have 3 dogs 1 of which has wrap sheet you could say. In October he had his last draw as he bit our 3yr old daughter and she needed stitches on her hand to close the wound. We are against putting a healthy dog down but are aware he is a danger to the safety of our daughter and 8 month old son as well as others since he has bitten 6-7 other people but nothing severe. He is as aggressive as he is nervous and on edge. Are you a sanutcary thats takes aggressive dogs? He has been trained extensively with off leash training and even a degression training but because the aggression is Dr Jekyl/Mr Hyde is not always present. Since the bite he has been confined to a crate while the children are awake and let out when asleep or noone is home. Over the past 2 months I have noticed him becoming more aggressive(growls when they walk by)to the other dogs. If you can be of assistance or know someone that could help please let me know.

  8. Hi Spirit Dog,

    We have four dogs at home, two shih tzu brothers (1 yr age apart, 6 yrs old), a Beagle (8 yrs), and a terrier (1+ yrs old). How do I know who is the alpha dog among them? Thanks!

  9. Hi there,

    He listens very well to me. He knows and obeys his commands, he’s very smart – just a bully with other dogs.

  10. Hello Wanda,

    Aside from other dogs, how well does your dog listen to you ?

  11. I have an 18 month old Standard Poodle whose behavior is fine with people. He has issues with some other dogs. He will sniff at them for a moment or two and then suddenly start to snarl, bark and lunge at them. He is fixed and does not do this with all dogs.

    He can play just fine with SOME dogs, but not all, why??? Any suggestions to curb this behavior?

    He continually got into it with another Standard at a get together of 20 dogs and owners. That dog was about 85 pounds, my boy is 45 and he just would not back down. We had to keep a close eye on the two of them and continually separate them before they got physical. He’s a little guy but very tenacious.


  12. Hi Alan,

    I need to find placement for my 1 and a half year old Cane Corso…he is an extremely loving dog, but he bites unpredictably. He has bitten 10 people, incuding my 3 year old son. We had a trainer come in and said they were check bites, but he has broken skin and he is extemeley powerful, I am worried he can really hurt someone. He has bitten my son onthe face 3 times for no reason, we always monitor my son around him, so it’s not like my son hurt him causing the bites, with eveyone else he’s bitten it was because they came to close to us or hugged us, he doesn’t like anyone touching eachother….I love this dog with all my heart, but am very scared for everyone’s safety, I can’t just “put him down” please help me Alan

  13. Hello Allie,

    Since it’s virtually impossible for me to help you without actually coming to your home, here’s some simple solutions to the issues you’re having with your dogs.

    For the barking when you are not home there is an easy solution, https://thespiritdog.wordpress.com/2008/10/05/how-to-stop-dogs-from-barking-when-your-not-home/

    The second two problems you are having, destroying the gate and going after whoever is leaving, can be alleviated by putting your guys an a crate or puppy playpen when you or company is leaving.

    Now the bathroom thing doesn’t sound like a housebreaking issue if it’s once a month, sometimes we have to go at strange times but we don’t have to wait until someone lets us go to the bathroom.

    Hope to this helps.

  14. Hi Spirit Dog,
    My fiance and I have a male, 4-1/2 year old Boston Terrier/Pug mix that we have had since he was a puppy. We also have a female Shiba Inu that is almost 3 years old. They are both fixed. We currently live in a 2 bedroom apartment. We are having a lot of troubles with the Boston/Pug. I believe they are all inter-related (and in my untrained opinion after browsing your site for quite some time) I feel that all of the problems stem from an anxiety/nervousness that he has.

    The issues:
    -He barks at any noises outside our apartment door. We live in apartment with people coming and going next to us all of the time. We need him to stop barking so much and so loudly b/c of complaints from the neighbors.
    -He “freaks out” when we leave in the morning. We gate off the kitchen and keep both him and the Shiba in there while we are away at work. After he is put in the kitchen, he starts barking loudly and pulling roughly on the gate with his mouth to shake it. We give them both treat balls to distract them which works for a few minutes. However, when we come home, we can see that after he is done with the balls he is back at shaking the gate. He has already pulled the gate out of the wall (leaving big holes in the wall where the attachment/screws were). The Shiba is whimpery and tries to get out as well. But is not as forceful and merely tries jumping over the gate.
    -When we know we are only leaving for an hour or two, we will leave both the Shiba and the Boston/Pug run free in the apartment. When that happens, we will go towards the door, and the Boston/Pug will come barreling after us, barking loudly and nipping at us. He has bitten me twice and family members of ours twice who were visiting (they walked out the door after us). The bites did not break skin, although sometimes leave a bit of a bruise. He did not hold on after he bit.
    -He occasionally (every few months or so) seems to “mark” territory. He seems to pee in a thin small line around certain areas. One time it was around the floor of the bed my fiance and I were sleeping in over at a friends house. Another time, it was around our own bed. The most recent time was at my parent’s new house, around their sofa (which my fiance and I were on at the time). It is not a lot of urine in any area, and it does not continue the next day, etc… so I do not believe it is housebreaking issue nor a UTI.
    -He is also really antsy/whimpery when we go on a car ride. Not when we are driving, just when we slow down or stop at a light/stop sign, etc. I believe he thinks we are going to stop the car, get out, and leave him behind (just my analysis). I am just trying to give you the whole picture.

    After browsing your site, I can see reasons for all of the above, but I’m not sure how to fix the problem(s). Please help.

    One last item (sorry to make this so long). Our Shiba Inu has a housebreaking problem I believe. Every now and then (maybe once a month), she will pee in the house– usually on one of the Boston/Pug’s dog beds or in some remote corner of a room. It is a lot of urine in one spot and most times we are home when it occurs. We walk them twice in the morning before we leave for work. And then we walk them when we get home from work, before bed, and usually one time in-between. On the weekends, we generally walk them about every 3 hours. When we are gone for work during the day, she generally holds it for several hours (like 7 hrs). Although maybe once a month she pees in the kitchen while we are at work and it is ALWAYS on/near the Boston/Pug’s food bowl. When we are home, she usually goes near the door when she needs to go, but she doesn’t always do this and that is when we have the mess to clean up. I’m not sure how to stop her from doing this. Is it that she is lazy? Spiteful? Does she need to be walked more? If you have any advice on this issue, that would be great too.

    Thanks in advance for any help you can offer me. I am more concerned about our problems with the Boston/Pug b/c the biting thing is a newer development and I am worried someone is going to get hurt soon.

  15. Hi Alan,

    I currently have a Lab/Hound/Shepherd mix named Bentley. He is a wonderful dog but due to extenuating circumstances I can no longer keep him. It breaks my heart but there is nothing I can do. I have been searching all over to find him a new forever home and I came across your site. I think what your organization does is wonderful and wanted to know if you had any room for Bentley. He is a male, fixed, socialized with other dogs and people, up to date on his shots and an overall amazing dog. Please let me know as soon as you can because I only have until the end of February to find him a new home. I think he would be so happy at your sanctuary with all of the other dogs.


  16. Hi Alan,

    Thanks again. Don’t think I need the welding gloves with Poco as she is never aggressive with me.

  17. Hi,

    The best thing you can do with a nervous and scared dog is ignore them, meaning do not talk to the dog or look at him. this will freak some nervous dogs out more. Hopefully the dog will stay in the same area for you to keep seeing him, if you see him you can try putting down some canned cat food ( the stinker the better) along with some type of cloth that you had rubbed against your face to try and get him used to your scent. After you put the food down move away from it far enough to make him comfortable enough to approach it, do not talk to him and do not stare at him.

    Depending on this guys level of nervousness you may have to try and trap him. I would suggest getting in touch with one of the animal control agencies in your area for advice or help, and if you were planning on keeping this guy if you can’t find the owner, let the agency you ask for help know your intentions.

    Good Luck and happy new year.

  18. Hi Logan,

    I’ll see if I can throw a video of Stitch together for you guys in a week or two. You can catch a quick glimpse of him in this video at about 36 or 37 seconds into the video. https://thespiritdog.wordpress.com/2009/12/30/cupcake-falls-in-love-at-spirit-animal-sanctuary/

  19. Spirit Dog,

    Hi! I came across your website as I was searching for a solution that has been on my mind lately. Christmas night this year, i was driving home when I came across what appeared to be a lost dog, it looked like a border collie. It stopped in front of my car, looked me in the eye and ran off. Naturally, I parked and ran off looking for it in the hopes that i could find it and bring it home. Well, I saw him in a distance and i tried calling for him, and he didn’t come, instead he ran faster down into a canyon (I live in california.) Anyway, as it was getting late, I didnt pursue him into the dark. But the funny thing is. I came across him again a week later as I was picking my sister up from her friends house in a different street. I’m quite sure its the same border collie, because he did the exact same thing as last time. He looked at me and ran off. He looks thinner now and i’m getting worried. Is there anyway or any advice you can give me for retrieving this poor old dog? I spent a good chunk of the night driving around looking for him, but he has yet again disapeared.

  20. Hi, I am a volunteer at the woodbridge animal shelter.I hope stich is doing alright.I was wondering if you could post another video him……Hope hes getting along well. I would walk him every week.Thanks!!!

  21. Thanks for the info..Gloves ahh yes…That tis why I clipped the canine teeth because I was doing exactly what you have said above without them.After this week ,he has somewhat mastered the command “Drop it”.Although after many under the chin holds, and praise he got the drift it’s only going to get worse if he begins to growl,and I wasn’t having it.

    I agree that he is to young for the collar.

    A huge part that has me really happy it seems the more time I play and run with all the dogs ( 7 pugs and OES) he really has a longer attention span after we play outside.When we come inside he seems to do really well, with less resistance.Happy as well, maybe the lack of exercise was a major factor with his pent up energy.

    Thanks so much for the great advice.You are a remarkable person, I have told a couple of people sofar about the site..hope they stop by and donate…

    Professional trainer if I had a dollar for all the trainers I know of and well ….I honestly believe the new age of training is sometimes pathetic.But that is just my opinion.

    Can you see it now ex…. A 175lb Rotti walking with it’s 95 lb owner,down the road and a stray dog comes up and starts a fight, and the owner is clicking away with a clicker trainer…The only thing she should be doing is clicking her heels …saying there is no place like home.

    Ps- I know I have seen some 95 lb horsetrainers put a 1,200lb horse on the ground.. mind over matter…LOL

    Have a wonderful holiday, (even with my strange sense of humor..)

  22. Good luck Rebekah, and I hope you have a happy holiday.

    Oh yea, read my reply to Jodi to see if any of that stuff helps.

  23. Hello Jodi,

    Although I have absolutely no problem with someone using a shock collar to get their point across for DOGS, that actually need you to act like the bigger, tougher alpha centauri. This is a baby, so I wouldn’t really recommend a shock collar for this little guy, unless you think it’s absolutely necessary.

    Why don’t you try this instead of juicing the little guy up, get yourself a pair or two of welders gloves and start taking Joeys stuff away from him. When and if he bites the gloves, grab onto whatever part of his jaw you can and just hold him until he starts trying to get away from you or stops then tell him in a very happy voice “Gooood-Boooy”. Apply a little pressure to your grip if you need to along with a good firm no nonsense “Better cut it out or I’m gonna kill you” type attitude on your part. Then you will be acting like the alpha dog, and the gloves just may give you enough confidence knowing your not going to get bit, to accomplish teaching him what you want.

    Here’s the LEGAL SHIT, don’t try this by yourself, without the help of a professional dog trainer / behaviorist.

    The other think you can try is distracting him , fooling him or getting in a happy playful mood with him when he acts like an idiot. It’s easy to change a dogs mind for them, they will follow your emotional lead ( I think I wrote a post about that somewhere on this blog).
    Some dogs need us to dominate them through our own attitude, to stop those stupid behaviors. While other dogs just need us to get happy with them.

    Some dogs do freak out the more confrontational you become, this is where the happy shit works to change their minds.

    All the other training stuff you want to teach him, make sure you get happy with him and keep him interested by making it fun for him.

    Have a happy holiday

  24. I have a yellow Lab, 5 yrs old who was to be euth’d by his owner whom he bit at 4 years old, once. Six days after biting the owner Buddy bit a 5 yr old child in the face when her Dad stopped playing with Buddy and bent to pick her up. I had Buddy for 8 months and he is great with me, I am pretty knowledgeable about dog behaviour. I adopt him out to a couple, no kids, they have rehabituated a Pittie who showed human/dog aggressive tendencies. Went great for two months then Buddy attacks one and tears her face for 12 stitches and does not let go, aggression.
    I know Buddy doesn’t like to be touched much, is under socialized, lived in a crate, was up to 141 lbs, now a svelte 90 and athletic. I can’t adopt him out because OWNERS are not savvy, I will not euth him, but I have a lot of dogs in and out of rescue. Wondering if you take in dogs like Buddy, I would donate, provide food, whatever….or can you recommend. He’s a super dog with me, submissive to dogs, great with kittens/cats, good on leash, great Lab, BUT, I leave him alone, we respect each other, I understand him and his nuances and pick up his body movements. Can’t find a single, male owner with no kids, girlfriend. Would have to muzzle Buddy if having visitors. Buddy only exhibits aggression INSIDE the home and toward someone he perceives as taking attention from him, or petting him when he doesn’t want to be petted, or someone weak. He challenges females and growls kids away, mouthing their hands hard enough to hurt. Buddy does backflips for males but would be competitive and bite spouse, kids, other members of household.
    Thanks for any help.

  25. Hey Alan,

    Thanks for your support.For now I have decided to keep Poco and continue to try to help her. We are still having the same issues but I am muzzling her when we walk as per your suggestion and I am glad I did she has lunged and snapped at passersby with the muzzle on but she is such a lover with me I wish she would let the world know how nice she can be. Anyway I am still in need of help but I have exhausted my funds for training and whenever I search for help with her someone is always like “you need to hire a professional trainer ASAP”…umm thanks have done that for a long time and I need to do it on my own now, so anyway I was writing to ask if you know of any resources that are free or cheap for working with a reactive dog. It would seem with all the animals being taken to shelters for behavior problems there might be some help available to prevent a dog from winding up there. Any help appreciated. Merry Christmas to you and your family from me and Poco!!

  26. I love your site.It is informative,yet greatly entertaining.

    To tell you a little bit about myself I am a vet asst to an old school Doc which I love to death.Him and I are always on the same page, we both believe in the same thing.99 % of the time it is the owners who screw up their own dogs.:)

    Now- first off I want to say I love the shock collar.I raised a wonderful Labrador Retriever.Trained in three days and never had to use it after that.And I think I did touch up training twice.He was the “perfect dog”.Unfortunetly, he was euthanized due to a congestive heart failure at the age of 4 years old.:( I did alot of family/one on one traing the old fashioned ways.No clicker BS (come on I have to get carpal tunnel to give my dog a treat?) Stupid invention.Okay enough patting my own self on the back.. lol for raising a respectful dog.PS- when I used the shock collar on him I made sure I used every number on my leg first knowing damn well what he was going to be hit with.The FUCKER HURTS! But it was fair to gage what number is suitable for the correction.I only used it on 4 (the highest number) 1 time when he went to go chase a car out of the driveway, it knocked him on his ass, and NEVER went near the road again.

    Now I raise pugs ( stubborn,loyal,non housbreaking little varmits that will make you laugh.) I lovem but I am honest with all my clients.

    I recently purchased a Old English Sheepdog puppy 15 weeks old.I noticed his behaviour is not the norm for a puppy.To be point blank after buying him I found out that this is “Joey’s” Third home already.(My inital thought was who fucked this dog up?)As the story goes I contacted a few people involed with OES , they said that the breeder had been breeding very aggressive dogs for years,as well as hereditary unlikable traits,and is a puppy mill and just cranks them out..ETC.GREAT..My second thought-F-n Lovely.
    The person I got him from said she didn’t have time and couldn’t be bothered with grooming him because he kept having accidents in his crate everynight.He is too rough with her kids.

    Okay sofar, he has only had 1 accident in his crate at night, 1 accident in the house ( it’s been 1 week) .I have reached the level of I would say housebroken.He went to the door last night , took him right out and well he went, did the same thing this morning.He will sit for me anytime I ask him to since the 2nd day (a whoppin 1/2 hour of training overall in 2 days) .I make him sit before he gets food,goes,out the door,gets water,you get the picture.

    My first instinct was to
    1. do a Chiropractic adjustment on his back,since he was snapping at my hands when touch his back/hind end.
    2. Neuter his ass.
    3. Clip his Canine teeth.
    4. Become the alpha.
    5. ALL THE ABOVE DONE & Conquered-Will be going back for more Chiropractic.

    After a few days I relaized that this dog actually becomes more angered when corrected.Bites down harder.I realize he is a herding breed but it goes past that.After reading some of your articles,I may have pegged him for an aggressive,not a nervous Aggressive.I keep repeating in my head, great I am going to have a 100lb biting basterd,if I don’t get this shit corrected.

    Many have told, me to “hold his muzzle shut -NO BITE”-Throw him on his back and make him be submissive.Yip like he hurt me.Give him that nasty look, he he looks away first – it must be my redhead in me.LOL(Ps or he seriously only has attention span of a fly)

    Yeah like I have tried all of them, and they all work the first time.This dog is smarter then all my pugs put together.

    I am at a stand still- training wise with him,he is stubborn and I know it will take time, he definitely has the brains, I think he will be a great dog, if I can get him over this, snapping and biting BS.

    I would love to try the Shock collar on him and see what his reaction is,but wanted your opinion on the whole situation.He is Young,SMART,STUBBORN, but most of all I don’t want to fuck him up even more then what the others did to him.

    Please help.. well any help will do.


    Also I an Originally from LI, been here in Binghamton for 6 years.

  27. Dear Spirit Dog,
    We are in desperate need of help with a dog.

    His name is Tristan and he is a Rottie/Malamute X, 18 months old and weighs 78 lbs. We have had him since he was 6 months old and he came in totally unsocialized, almost feral. Our Kennel Manager fostered him and she shared “fostering duties” with the trainer who helps us at the shelter. Through it all, he has gotten to the point where he can be in the same room with people (although he prefers women) and be somewhat comfortable, as long as no one looks at him or tries to touch him. If that happens, he moves away as fast as he can. He gets along with other dogs (ones he has been introduced to) and doesn’t bother cats.

    The problem is that the two shared foster parents have BOTH moved into town and neither one can keep Tristan anymore, even though they absolutely love the dog and are devastated that they need to find a new place for the dog. He is simply not an adoptable dog – he is really terrified of new situations and because of this, we want to find a “forever” place for him where he can live out his life with some measure of comfort and security. He is never going to be happy as a “pet”, that is painfully obvious.

    We have contacted various sanctuaries and have not found anywhere else he can go, so that is why we are turning to you. Tristan is neutered, up-to-date on his vaccinations including bordatella and rabies, and microchipped. I have attached some photos of him. If you would agree to take him, we would cover all expenses getting him to you and we would take 10 of your more adoptable dogs in return and cover all their expenses for transportation as well (and any thing else they might need medically, also). We are a no-kill shelter and we find good homes for the dogs in our care. And we could make a donation too. If it sounds like we are desperate and begging, that is true – we are. None of us here can stand the thought of this beautiful boy having to be put down and we would pretty much do anything necessary to get him somewhere that he can love out his life and be happy. If you need references, let me know and I will be happy to provide them.

    Thank you very much for your consideration. You can email me or call me – my contact information is below. Thank you for all you do for the animals.

    Barb Hutchinson
    Executive Director
    MCPAWS Regional Animal Shelter
    McCall Idaho
    208-634-3647 – shelter 208-707-4663 – cell

  28. That’s the problem I have. I can’t seem to find a source that teaches dog trainers (which I hope to be) behavior modification and how to read dogs.

  29. Hello Spirit!

    I love the work you do. I just came across your blog this evening and I am very intrigued by your views on animal behavior. I am very new at this and am looking for someone who can train me to train dogs. There are so many schools and weird trainers out there that I know are not going to help. I don’t want to be like everyone else. I want to help the way that you do. I currently volunteer for the Michigan Humane Society as a trainer, am a member of APDT, and I am trying to get a certification. Am I on the right road? Any advice you can offer so that I can do this professionally?

  30. Thanks for those links–I didn’t manage to find any of those specific posts while browsing your site. You really do have wonderful information on your site, I just couldn’t find anything positive about training when I first looked. It really is a breath of fresh air to find people who don’t follow the whole “pack leader” mentality, it really is just glorified bullying and creates fear in relationships between people and dogs.
    Thanks Again,

  31. I stumbled across your site today and was a little upset about what I was reading. You have several articles that tell people how to locate a good trainer or how to spot a bad one. In most instances, you are talking about issues that are behavior modification issues–not obedience issues. Yet you don’t plainly state the difference between the two jobs and outcomes of each for your dog and yourself. After reading, I did like your information but I think you should clarify what issues need a trainer and which need work with someone experienced in behavior modification.

    To me, it looks like you dislike all obedience trainers and think they are all “out to get your money” and don’t care about the problems. They are supposed to teach obedience, not change behaviors. There are many that will sell obedience as the solution but there are also good trainers who can tell you they don’t have what it takes to solve behavior issues. Those selling the “solution to your problem” through obedience should be avoided but I think you should clarify the difference for people.


  32. Thank you Maggie, that means the world coming from you.

  33. You’re a good man, God bless you for the work you do!

  34. No problem.

    Dino is getting better. He seems to do better with me if “his master” isn’t home and I go over to take him and the other dogs out. He gets excited when I get there, but calms down quicker.

    As far as dog knowledge, I guess I’ll just have to try to keep up with your blog!

    Thanks for all the info.


  35. Hello Bob,

    Sorry for taking so long to get back to you. Hows Dino doing ? I wish I could recommend some books for you but I can’t. There has to be a couple of folks out there that know what their talking about, but I haven’t found them yet.

    As far as a book by me, I have a hard enough time writing a 3 or 4 hundred word piece for this blog.


  36. Hi, Alan…

    Not really in line with the conversation, but not sure where else to ask this.

    I find your site very informative and refreshing as far as your advice and opinions. I was wondering if there are any books you recommend on canine behavior and how a “dog works”, more or less. The psychology of dogs, for lack of a better term.

    Or, if you have a book, I’d be interested, too.



  37. In response to : Hello Anna,

    Let me ask you, when do your little guys listen to you ? The reason for the question is, if you have a hard time trying to get your guys to listen to you in your home if someone knocks on your door and they bark, your not going to have a lot of luck in higher stress situations for your dogs. How do you calm them down when they get riled up with small distractions ?

    When someone knocks on the door or a dog walks by the window they still bark. I usually go by the window and “claim the territory” as seen on Ceaser Millan and when I tell them to get down off the couch they do listen and will get down and stop barking. But as soon as I step away Deuce will run back to the window and try to bark again. They usually listen and follow commands when there are no distractions around, but when there is another dog there they go into crazy mode until they can go up to the dog and smell it.

  38. Hello Alan

    Your advice has served me very well…until now.
    I have a new problem (each new thing the dog learns becomes a problem ha,ha,ha!);. The new problem has to do with walking him.
    He shows the typical problems of a dog that has a human partner (me) who knows how to teach him to walk on the street with a leash:
    -he pulls
    – he becomes very nervous when he is approaching our house and pulls very intensily
    -he stays and does not want to keep walking; most times he will start crying
    I know it takes time to teach a dog this things, but I would like to know how to teach him. I would like to know what do I have to do to understand what I have to do in one of this situations; sometimes the same behaviour may have different meanings and I cannot know wether he is tired or if he just does not want to walk.

    Thank you very much for your time!

  39. Hi Again, Rebekah

    Some dogs, as you are finding out will freak out more if you put them into an environment with many animals or people. If at times Poco isn’t freaking out around people, praise her with a lot of petting while telling her in a very loving and happy voice “what a good girl she is”.
    Do not be to concerned with her actually trying to meet someone, calm and at a distance is what you should be trying for in the beginning.

    I”d rather you try using your emotions with Poco, rather than treats.



  40. Hi Rebekah,

    I’m going to try and get back to you within a couple of days or so, with more help for you. But in the meantime have you considered taking her out on her walks, with her wearing a soft muzzle ? This will accomplish two main things, 1- it will eliminate the chance of someone getting bit . 2- It may relax you a little bit knowing that she can’t get anyone, which is a really important part of our ability to successfully work with our dog.
    Dogs can still nip with the soft muzzles on, so always pay attention) Basket muzzles are the safest for your dog and for people, but they’re not always easy to find. They are the safest because they do not obstruct a dogs breathing in anyway, unlike the fabric muzzles. But the fabric muzzles are fine for short periods of time.

    Good Luck, and if I don’t get back to you in a couple of days, please remind me.



  41. Poco is now 10 months old.

  42. Oh so sorry Alan…just a couple other things. The trainer I mentioned was not the pet smart guy, but a guy who works specifically with city dogs and often is hired to acclimate former suburban dogs to the city environment. He is big on clicker training and desensitization, and NILF, but doesn’t rely on one method.

    I had also tried to take Poco to an agility class to help her have fun and focus on games and she wigged out on the trainer so badly we got invited back to the special ed class later that evening and after 5 weeks I could get a better down stay but she would still freak out if the trainer got near her. She once stood completely still and just observed what Poco would do, barking, hackles, posturing, air snaps and then headbutting right into the trainer within a few minutes.

  43. Hi Alan,

    Whew…your site is a breath of fresh air. I have been having some problemos with my Aussie cattle dog/shepard mix. I have made some self admitted mistakes but am trying to do my best by my girl. I got Poco from a shelter when she was 12-13 weeks old and she was already spayed. My first mistake was not knowing that much about the breed. When I researched her breed I was kinda scared at first, but set about socializing her as much as possible…I live in an urban area. I was concerned via Milan and the breed websites that if I didn’t exercise her like the dickens or Ian dunbar socialize her like crazy I would have problems. I took her everywhere I could that I thought was safe for her not having completed her puppy shots and , had friends over etc. I live alone and had a friend help out who was available to let her out and play with her while I was working. She loves this guy! She was really great and people even commented on how calm and happy she was until about 6 1/2 months old and then we started having some outbursts.

    A couple of times when either she was taken by surprise…someone rounding a corner or if someone I knew tried to speak with me on the street, she would bark and charge and posture…I really didn’t know what to do other than step on the leash, call her back, and move her away. We started going to the dog park at about 5 months old and she is generally pretty good playing with other dogs. I thought I would take her to the local Petsmart for puppy classes when she was 6 months old to help her be around distractions…the biggest thing I needed help with was loose leash walking and I got almost no help with that…the trainer was kind and decent and I learned a few things, but I never got help with what I needed …I can teach my dog to sit myself…not hard thanks, and what my dog mostly learned how to do there was bark a lot and be frustrated on her leash. It was practicing walking around the store where we had our first really aggressive posturing, a women said “Oh, my what a beautiful dog” and approached us and Poco went beserk, barking and lunging, hackles raised. She started then freaking out at almost everyone on the street…I am not exaggerating, I couldn’t walk her 5 blocks to my friend’s house, not even one block…she might get excited and pull towards other dogs, but it is people she wigs out on.

    I called the trainer I had worked with right away because she seemed to work well with him. He has started a programs of click treat operant and classical conditioning that has seemed to help with the freak outs a lot…I can walk her now most of the time…still pulls like crazy. She sometimes seems so overstimulated I can’t get her attention at all and she acts wild and scared, this is more pronounced on night walks. If anyone approaches her or me now she puts on a huge aggressive display and it can come out of a completely relaxed looking lie down. She has snapped at a some people and charged barking and hackles raised when I’ve had anyone over who Poco hasn’t met before 6 months old, with all of those folks she is a love. Like I said mostly good in the dog park, but lately we have had a few incidents where she has charged and barked at a person in the dog park and we have had to leave. I am really distressed about this as that has been our saving grace for her to run and us to play together outside.

    It is so hard to go online for help…I am not an irresponsible owner nor have I trained my dog to be aggressive. If anyone before having this experience told me they were having these kinds of issues with a dog I would have thought they were beating it. I have never experienced anything like this with any dog I have ever owned before. I have a neighbor who throws his unfixed american bulldog into a 14×14 cement backyard with a bowl of food and water for days on end…I have to give the poor dog water from my house because he knocks his bowl over. This guy does just enough to keep animal services from doing anything, by providing an igloo type shelter for him in the yard…the poor thing goes nuts back there, but when once a week or so he decides to clean the yard and walk the dog, the dog is not aggressive and is even friendly. This dog has never been flipping socialized! I have to admit it is really frustrating and saddening to me to be having all these issues while spending thousands of dollars to help her be part of the world. I really would like to include her in things and have a dog who I can trust around people and who can relax outside…it’s like she’s always ready to pounce on the threat. I am concerned, because in some ways she is improving and in others it seems to be escalating. I don’t want to give up on her, but I I have long ago run out of money and am going into debt to help her. I am almost at the point where I don’t know if I can do it much longer and need to find someone who can help her. I would not send her anywhere where she would be abused or killed…she hasn’t bitten anyone, but am afraid she might because she gets so overstimulated.

    I talk to her and try to get her attention when we are in a situation I think she might react to. I try to distract her with treats or toys before she has a chance to go off. We’ll do sit and down games and she’ll get relaxing massages when I see her getting overstimulated. Sometimes it works, but there are so many things here for her to react to. It is kinda exhausting.

    On the positive, she is very affectionate with me and anyone she knows. She is very playful and loves tug and chase games. She is also very smart and catches onto training games really well.

    I am so sorry for the long comment, but I wanted to provide a lot of background for you. I need to be able to walk her safely in a city and have her not pull and pay attention to me, so I can tell her when everything is OK or not, as that’s how we have to get around and to the dog park. I don’t think a dog should never bark or react…if I kinda think yeh, I would bark at that weirdo too, then I’m Ok if she does! I don’t want to give up on her, but I am feeling kinda desperate today and could use whatever advice or help you may offer me.

  44. Hi Griselda,

    Although some times with some dogs you do have to show them the errors of their way, but this is a baby so different rules apply. Your doing it right with telling him no and praising him, but just how exactly are you praising him ? You better be acting like an idiot with him, really happy, emotionally and physically (a lot of touching, petting, hugging, rubbing and scratching) and some kisses wouldn’t hurt.

    For the times he doesn’t listen to you, you can try distracting him by telling him that you want to play with him (this is the happy idiot part) your emotions is the key here, you can’t fake it. You gotta mean it. There’s all different levels of using your happy emotions to distract your dog. You can be calm and happy, happy-happy, or off the wall happy. If your not to embarrassed to act like this with your little guy, give it a shot. Practice a little bit.

    A couple little tricks that I have stumbled upon over the years with dogs and puppies that like to chew, is to give them interesting things that they are allowed to chew up. Such as card board boxes and / or branches, that most dogs love to shred up. You still have to clean up the mess, but they are not wrecking your good stuff. If you try this make sure you check the card board boxes for stables, and make sure your little guy is not one of the few dogs that will try and swallow big chunks of the sticks.

    Anyway if you tell him ‘NO’ and he listens, great. But try practicing some of the other stuff if you feel like it.



    Oh, yea. ‘Cat sand’ is like doggy caviar to these guys, so is it possible to put the litter box somewhere where he can’t bet to it ?

  45. The Puppy is almost three months old. He is allowed to chew almost anything except for:
    – cables;
    – shoes (not all shoes, only the ones we use outside the house);
    – cat´s sand (he actually eats it);
    – plastic bags;

    Sometimes, when I tell him NO!, he stops doing it and I will praise him and talk joyfully to him; other times he will not listen at all.

    I do not exactly how to tell him not to do it and how to praise him (if that is what I am supposed to do).


  46. Hello Anna,

    Let me ask you, when do your little guys listen to you ? The reason for the question is, if you have a hard time trying to get your guys to listen to you in your home if someone knocks on your door and they bark, your not going to have a lot of luck in higher stress situations for your dogs. How do you calm them down when they get riled up with small distractions ?

  47. Hello Griselda,

    How old is your puppy, what things is he kind of allowed to currently chew, and what things are you concerned about him chewing ?

  48. Hello Spiritdog!

    I found your blog about a week ago. I have tried to read every article you have posted. I have followed Cesar Millan for a while in order to gain knowledge about dogs, but I always thought that there was something missing; it seemed to me that applying his methods was meant to have a very restrictive and cold relationship with the dog (it is very difficult -to me- to get inside the notions he teaches, I mean, to make them mine so that it becomes flexible and goes beyond a set of rules).
    When I found your blog and read that you get “same” results with the group of dogs you take care of (nervous-agressive, not the really agressive ones) but with a much more gentler and beautifull approach I felt incredibly relieved.
    I am from Spain, here whe treat all this matters in a way that differs from USA (its not that usual to take a dog to a behaviorist).
    I have recently brought a “street puppy” into my house, and being so young (no mental issues so far) I would like to do my very best to take care of him and not “deteriorate” his gorgeous mind. Your explanations about dog behavior are very impressive but I need more (ha,ha,ha!).
    For example: I let the puppy chew a lot of things but there are things that are dangerous for him ; when he bites those I tell him not to do it, but I do not know if is still the right time to do it (just a puppy), and if it is I don´t think I´m getting great results.
    I would very much like to understand in the deepest level that is possible, his mind so that I don´t have to stick to rules and facts because of my lack of knowledge.
    It makes me very, very happy that there is some out there like you.
    Thank you, and sorry if the message is not clear (my english is poor) or not placed in the right place (I didn´t know where to put it.

    Thank you very much. Have the best of the days!

  49. Hi Magda,

    First off, although it’s a wonderful thought, not every dog will eventually be happy enough to play with others. Some dogs the only way you can get them comfortable enough with other guys is by having then hang out with ultra friendly guys many hours a day, every day. Before they would start getting comfortable enough to play.

    I need to know how well does your little guy listen to you with minor distraction and medium distractions. I already know how he acts with good distractions.


  50. Hello,
    I came across your website and I am so impressed with all that you do. I thought I would ask for a suggestion with my dogs – I have a 3 year old male chihuahua (Deuce) that I have had since he was 8 weeks old and a 3 year old female chihuahua (Honey) who I adopted about 6 months ago. I made sure to really socialize him since he was a puppy and he used to bark at people and dogs once in a while but lately is it out of control. It seems like it has gotten worse since his new sister arrived. They are both good with other dogs and we visit the dog park weekly. It seems that they only act aggressive towards other dogs when being walked on a leash. As soon as we see another dog they start barking, growling, and flapping around. It’s almost impossible to break their focus on that dog. I can correct Honey and get her to stop sometimes but not Deuce. If they see a dog at the start of the walk they will continue to bark at every single person or dog passing by. If we were to go up to the dog they would bark right in his face but as soon as they smell him they would stop. They even act like this while riding in the car. Do you have any suggestions on how to address this behavior? Everyone is starting to think I have 2 little vicious chihuahuas, but they only act like this on a leash. I have read some articles on leash aggression but nothing that I have done has worked. Thank you.

  51. Al,
    My story sounds much the same as Trudy’s. Champ is an 80 lbs Coondog. But such a good boy! The only thing I can think why he bit my neighbor is because he was being territorial. However, that doesn’t matter now. The thing is it happened. I want him to live a happy life at your sanctuary. I want to sponsor my Champ. You will love him!! My family and I are heartbroken to say the least. Even our friends are depressed. Please. . . please send me the details on getting Champ to you.

  52. Al,

    If you want to add Facebook or email sharing buttons to your blog posts, there’s a plugin that does it for you: http://tinyurl.com/sharebuttons

    Hope you find it helpful!


  53. Wow! Good evening! I am so thrilled with your website and advice I thought I’d give it a shot, and try to get an expert opinion about my toy poodle, Oscar…the grouch (4yrs) To keep it simple, Oscar (as hard as it is for me to admit) is definately aggressive towards other dogs, and people (gasp) People think he’s been abused or not socialized, but I bought him from a breeder at an early age, (he was very timid there already) and brought him out to dog parks all the time! He shows an initial interest, in that he’ll whine and go up to a dog, and then he’ll growl, and even nip at them if they seem interested back!! With people, he is just super wary of strangers, and especially is someone reaches out to pet him quickly, from above, or unexpectedly, (or simply when he has his ball and doesn’t want to be botheres) he’ll curl his lip, growl and even “scare” by “pretend” nipping as a warning. I am scared he will bite someone one day, and my biggest dream come true would be to have him relaxed and enjoy himself at a dog park and even…do I dare say it…play with other dogs??? I am all out of ideas, Ive bought a matingal collar today and think I may start “correcting” the behaviour more intrusively…so far I’ve been “tschh-ing” from watching Ceasar Millan…and that does get his attention in some cases, but not so much once we are out of the house or he’s super excited. Ugh, annnnny advice would be apprecitaed!!!


  54. Al,
    Options for my dog. I don’t think I am able to train him and give him the exercise etc. that he needs. He is very energetic and weighs about 50 lbs. I have tried my best with training him and apparently it is not good enough for him.
    I feel that he is deserving of another chance where someone can give him the attention that he needs. I also think that his aggression is mostly a fear aggression. I say this because when he bit my sister-in-law she had reached out to pet him and I think it startled him because just before that he wasn’t making any dangerous moves towards her.
    I have been able to teach him to play nicely with my two cats that were brought into the home as kittens and he is very gentle with them. He has such a soft mouth that one day he caught a baby bird in my mom’s backyard and ran around with it. When I told him to drop it he just spit it out. We were then able to pick the bird up and move it to a neighbors yard where after resting for a few minutes it just flew away.
    He is a beautiful loving dog and I think he just has some history that I am unaware of before I rescued him from a dog shelter that has caused this behavior in him.
    I am hoping that there is someone out there that would be willing to adopt him from me and give him the love I have given him and the training that I can’t.

  55. Hello Trudy,

    I can’t tell if you’re looking for behavior training help or options for your dog.


  56. I am writing because I have a wonderful dog who I believe to be part border collie and part akita. When I first got him about a year and a half ago he was very easy going. We even had Thanksgiving dinner at my mom’s house with my two sisters and their dogs a cairn terrier and a chocolate lab. They all did really well together and he and the cairn are today the best of friends. However the next time he saw the lab several months later he lit into him (they are all males) He has also shown more aggression to other dogs and some people. The worst being an attack I witnessed today when he charged my sister-in-law and bit her wrist for which she required 13 stitches.
    I have gone to training classes and consulted with a dog behavioralist at Cornell University. I thought he was making progress until today.
    There are many of my friends who he has made no attempt to attack when they meet him. What I have instructed them to do is to stand still and not talk to him or make any moves toward him until he has had the opportunity to smell them and reach his comfort level with them. After this happens he becomes their best buddy. One friend within an extremely short time after this type of greeting he even wanted to sit in her lap.
    Now I am at my wits end and don’t know what to do with him because I am expecting my daughter-in-law and granddaughter to be moving in with us soon and have no desire to have him attack them or to have to keep in a pen the rest of his life. But I don’t trust him to continue meeting people as he has in the past.
    Since he seemingly can get to know people and not hurt them I hate the thought of having to have him put down.
    Do you know of anyone that is willing to take on dogs of this type (loving but dangerous)? Can you help me please.

  57. Excellent Tom,

    To help dogs with any socialization issues, we just have to have the ability to make them happy in those circumstances that freak them out.

    Have a great day.


  58. Hi Al,

    Sorry for the late response. I liked your latest article on quiet, fearful signs– exactly describes my dog! (or used to… he’s doing a lot better now). I play with him in pretty much the manner you described, making silly noises, baby talk, chasing him around like a nut, etc. I try to distract him when I see signs that he may be uncomfortable, and so far it seems to be working decently.



  59. Hello Tom,

    Yeah, juicing up a nervous dog is not the best approach. You mention positive and calming, before you can get him calm you have to get him happy first. You have to try getting him happy in whatever circumstances make him nervous. To accomplish this you have to actually be happy, you can’t fake the emotion with a dog.

    Let me ask you Tom, how do you play with him ?


  60. Hi Al,

    Well, let’s just say, as far as $$$ goes, I shouldn’t have quit my day job! But at least I’m doing something different.

    I am not really comfortable with the shock collar so I’m using it (rarely) as a precautionary measure when training the dog to socialize more with people. My dog showed behavior similar to that linked in your recent post (flooding nervous dogs)– although not as extreme– and I think zapping him for acting up would just make the problem worse, so I’m working on mostly positive, calming experiences.



  61. Hi Tom,

    Assuming your dog really needs the collar and you are comfortable with it’s use, if the correction is used at the optimum time you should see results very quickly. For the short term at least. These results will most likely not be long term, but you should see steady improvement with your dog.

    How are you guys making out with http://www.byond.com/ ?

  62. Hi Al,

    No book here (yet)! I just wanted a second opinion on the methods brought up by my trainer.

    That is C or C++ code, probably for windows. It looks like it is initialization for a graphic copying routine (just going by the comments). Are you writing a graphical dog simulator?

  63. Hello Jim,

    I still need to know under what circumstance does she pay attention to you now. Examples would be, does she listen if she hears noises outside your home or sees something out the window, how about when someone knocks on your door. We can’t learn how to control a dog in high stress situations for them, if we can’t control them with minor distractions.


  64. Hey Tom,
    What are you writing a book. 😉 Ultimately the method you use when helping somebody out is really determined by the dog owners individual personality, comfort level and emotions. More so than the dogs. I try to get people to understand dogs on more of a core level, which is relatively easy to do face to face and not so easy on the computer screen.

    Tom if you have a shock collar and want to use it, use it. Just make sure you juice him up at the first sign of the behavior and then you have to make an idiot of yourself telling him what a good boy he is.

    Got any ideas what this does ?

    // Pointer to the start of the source memory block e.g. a texture
    BYTE *sourcePointer;
    // Pointer to the start of the destination memory block e.g. the screen
    BYTE *destinationPointer;
    // The pitch of the source memory block
    int sourcePitch;
    // The pitch of the destination memory block
    int destinationPitch;
    // The width of the source in pixels;
    int copyWidth;
    // The height of the source in pixels
    int copyHeight;
    // Bytes per pixel – 4 for 32 bit buffers
    int bytesPerPixel;

    Talk to you soon.


  65. Thanks for the continued dialogue… this is a very interesting topic. You mention stopping the first sign of the unwanted behavior (say, averting the eyes, or raising of the hackles); what I’m wondering is if this is something you want to handle via correction / punishment, or if it’s more of an avoidance thing.

    Let’s take the earlier example of a dog that nips or bites when a stranger gets too close / “friendly”. Suppose you have a dog like this and you can see that he is uncomfortable. Do you handle this by taking him out of the situation or maybe distracting him, or is this a place where it is OK to correct the dog? Eg, if the dog is on a shock collar, do you want to shock him when he shows these nervous signs (that he might lunge or what-not) or is it better to just get him out of there? Common sense seems to me that you wouldn’t ever want to punish a dog just for being uncomfortable (wouldn’t that make him more scared), but since the end result of this behavior is so dangerous I don’t know if it’s better to just deal with it harshly to make sure it never happens.

    Thanks again!


  66. Hello Tom,

    In regards to the video or similar situations, any type of discipline regardless of the method would of still come after the fact. Essentially rendering the discipline semi ineffective.
    The best approach which is not easily achieved without the help of a trainer that gets it, is to understand what the dog is going to do before they do it. If you stop the first sign of the behavior (always observable in the dogs eyes) you never get the end result of that behavior. It’s like dominoes, (not the pizza place) if you stop that first domino, you don’t have to worry about the rest falling.
    If you stop the first sign of the dogs behavior, well you get it.



  67. Thanks Spirit Dog!

    Regarding nervous dogs & shock collars, I guess I’m really wondering if it is ever a smart thing to correct a dog for showing fear-based aggression (I’m presuming in your article you are talking about alpha-type aggression). For example, you recently linked to a youtube video where a police dog nipped at a reporter because the reporter was being overly touchy… an example of a nervous dog doing what he could to fix the situation. Suppose that dog were on a shock collar; would it be prudent to issue a correction after he snapped to let the dog know that is absolutely unacceptable, or would that just make him more scared of people? Obviously it’s best to not put that dog in the situation in the first place, but, given the events, would you advocate punishment here?



  68. being friendly on leash would be nice but I would settle for just not pulling and trying to bite them. She has never been sheltered but was always fearfull of other dogs even as a pup.

  69. Hello Tom,

    Dog parks can either be good or bad, it depends on (1) the dogs there, and (2) the owners of those dogs. For some reason everybody thinks that dog parks are a kind of doggy social melting pot, with well socialized dogs. You have seen first hand that they are not. What I do for my clients with nervous dogs is bring some of my guys to teach their dog how to play, because trying to do this with dogs you don’t know is not the best approach. Maybe you should ask your trainer to bring his dog over to play with your guy.

    Using a shock collar on a nervous dog you run the risk of making him worse, if your intent is trying to socialize him with other dogs. But having said that in case you missed it, I wrote this this post awhile ago, https://thespiritdog.wordpress.com/2008/09/16/how-to-stop-all-dog-aggression-behaviors/ .

    Now when I hear reward based training, I’m thinking of food or treats. Which will have positive results for some dogs ( the chow hounds) and little to no results for other nervous dogs.

  70. Hello Jim,

    So much of your dogs behavior is dependent on the other dogs behavior and comfort level around unfamiliar dogs. So if she plays well on occasions with other dogs that’s great. But don’t concern yourself to much if he doesn’t.
    So Jim what are you looking for her to do, play with other dogs or just not act like an maniac ?

  71. She is about 1 year old hound/pointer? mix about 65lbs. I would describe her as a mix of excited and fearful when meeting people but not aggressive. Dogs she wants to meet but gets aggressive if face to face for more than a couple seconds. She is USUALLY good if sniffing the back end. Her aggression seems to magnify if held back from meeting a dog. I have been working on keeping her attention on me but not always possible w other dogs (unless I always carried food w me). Off leash she seems to play well on the occasions I have been able to let her. She also was a big food guarder but that is mostly gone. although she sometimes does that w my little one


  72. Hello Spirit Dog,

    Thanks so much for the wonderful site! I love your “no BS” approach and your posts are just a breath of fresh air amongst the plethora of trendy dog-psychology and what-not. Brown-nosing aside, I actually have a couple of questions should you have the time and inclination:

    1) What is your opinion on dog-parks? I hear so many different opinions on this. I have a slightly-nervous rescue that my current trainer (a big dog park advocate) thinks needs this kind of socialization (both other dogs & their human owners), but it seems like every other time I go to the park a fight or near-fight breaks out. My dog hasn’t been involved in any of these and I keep him under a watchful eye, but I wonder if he’s getting anything out of the whole experience (considering the risk)… he clearly isn’t too thrilled to be there and pretty much just keeps to himself. Maybe you could do a post on dog parks as they are a pretty common thing nowadays.

    2) I appreciated your post regarding shock collars (and again, the no-nonsense about their effect– they hurt like a mother-f***!). My trainer uses these collars “for safety”, but again I wonder if this is the right approach for a nervous dog (vs. one that is dominant aggressive). Do you advocate punishment when a fearful dog shows signs of aggression (pre-bite signals), or is this the WORST thing you can do for such a dog? All things considered, I’d rather a dog not bite for whatever reason under ANY circumstances, but then I also don’t want to make the dog more fearful. Is a reward-based training program enough for a dog that is nervous/fearful, even if he is potentially dangerous?


  73. Hello Jim,

    How old is she, does she act the same way when meeting people and other dogs ? Also how does she behave in your home when she sees or hears something ? And under what circumstances does she pay attention to you now.

  74. So what is the best way to deal with a “leash reactive” dog.

    she is mildly-moderatly dog aggressive on leash

    and yes I know its because she is a big chicken – has been since a little pup

  75. Hello Laura,

    Some pictures would be great. If you are talking about a really tubby dog that’s Fred,
    one of our other directors of the sanctuaries dog.

    Have a nice night.

  76. Emotions are not something you can see in any organism. You see behavior.
    If you could describe to me one example of an observable emotion , I might re-think my position.
    Interesting discussion!


  77. Jasper looks just like the white dog in your blog. He is yellow instead of white and weighs close to 100 lbs. Has the best personality, is soooooo smart and just a great dog with lots of energy. I thought you might like to know. I would like to send you a picture of Ripley and Jasper. I will try to upload to you in the next couple of days. Thanks again. Laura.

  78. Humans can hide their emotions, animals can’t.

  79. Jasper is doing great. Per your suggestion, I took Jasper on a few short walks and he is much calmer. He used to bark, jump and lunge at 2 little dogs that stay in their front yard and an older retriever that justs stands on his driveway. I just kept walking and talking to him. Miracle. Today, I walked Ripley and Jasper together. They BOTH just kept walking with me, NO BARKING, NO LUNGING, NO JUMPING. I cannot thank you enoughfor your suggestions and help.

    I did notice one more thing that I think has played a part in Jasper’s behavior. Jasper turned a year old this month and has just started to mark. He used to squat and now that he marks (like every 10 feet right now-he is so proud of himself), he seems MUCH MORE confident. Thanks again for taking the time to help others like me. Your help gave me the confidence to take control. Laura.

  80. I respectfully disagree that we can read emotions. What we see are behaviors which lead us to an assumption about emotional states. An example would be the assumption that I am happy because I am smiling. The behavior of smiling is observable, not the emotion of happiness. If I was happy but did not smile or show any behavior you could see, there is no way for you to know that I’m happy.
    We learn to read dogs’ behaviors which lead us to conclusions about emotions.
    That is why C.A.T. works so quickly. We see behaviors.
    Thanks again for your input!

  81. Hi Meg,

    Since I am not a gifted writer this may sound differently than I intended it to, which is to help anybody learn a little bit more. We can read a dogs emotions, it’s actually pretty simple. And I am sure that if you practice reading their emotions a little bit, it won’t take you long to start seeing it.


  82. Your welcome Laura,

    Although Ripley will have some influence on Jasper, you are the main teacher.

    Keep up the good work.


  83. Thanks for the encouragement. I will try to walk with Jasper tomorrow. I walked with both today and when we came upon an older dog, I held Ripley to one side where she sat calmly. I told Jasper to leave it and he actually did, only vocalizing once with no jumping or lunging. He must have learned to take his que from ripley. She has been his mentor, so to speak, raising him from a pup. I have also been working more with Ripley on sitting calmly thru any situation (pet smart, other dogs, etc.) Jasper must be getting some of this. I will try just walking Jasper to see his response to another dog and get back to you. Thanks so much for getting back to me. Take Care. Laura.

  84. Thanks for your response. I am a bit distressed over the use of shock collars to train dog guides or service dogs however (or any dogs for that matter). That said, it’s wonderful that you work with reactive and fearful dogs. Are you familiar with the C.A.T proceedure? It employs R- (but way under threshold) and you are shaping or approximating friendler behaviors. I’ve used it myself and find it extremely successful since instead of attempting to change an emotion, which we cannot “read”, you can modify observable behaviors and reinforce the dog with the distance s/he really wants. If you don’t already know about this and would like, I can send you more info.
    Thanks again!

  85. Hello Meg,

    I have never worked with seeing eye or handicapped assist dogs. Sometime in the nineties I saw a sight dog being trained, the dog had an e-collar on and I thought that was odd but I forgot about it. Then sometime latter I saw it again, since I know that assist dogs are trained with positive only training I had to ask.

    The trainer explained (I don’t remember if it was the same trainer or not as the first time) that sometimes after 3, 4, 5 months of training, some dogs remember their prey drive. And since they have a ton of time and money invested in this animal if the standard counter condition methods they use don’t work, they use an e-collar before flunking the dog.

    Now about me, I deal with only problem behaviors and to be more specific fear aggressions. Which really entails you getting that dog happy when they get nervous. The number one reason people give up dogs is what they consider aggression issues, but in reality is fear based.

  86. Since I cannot find a link to your email address, I’ll post here. I am a trainer who is interested in researching and exploring the evolution of training methods. You mention that your knowledge is first hand. Does this mean you worked for Seeing Eye or a service dog school? If so, I’d be interested in your experience there, especially with regards to the use of e-collars.
    Thanks in advance.

  87. Hello Meg,

    Here’s fine or you can email me, just let me know who I’m talking to.

  88. I’d like to discuss this further. Is this an appropriate place to do so?


  89. First hand experience Meg.

  90. I was wondering where you got your information about Seeing Eye and assistance dogs being trained with shocks collars?

  91. Hello Laura,

    Now if Ripley listens real well in those circumstance great, if Jasper is influencing him in any way that’s just going to make in tougher on you.

    You say Jasper listens very well in your yard, does that include when he see’s or hears stuff or when people come over ?

    I’m going to try and find some posts that I think can help, in the meantime if you have the time try walking Jasper by himself just . Short walks are fine as long as you can find some other distractions (dogs) .

    Can you try to answer this question for me, how close does the other dog have to finally be, before you have no control over Jasper?

    Also before I get back to you, do not be overly concerned with trying to get him to sit in those circumstances. Just concentrate on trying to calm him down while he’s standing.

    Without me seeing him, when he barks, lunges and carries on, he is most likely doing this because he’s not the most confident dog in the world. So even if you could get him into that sit position, that may put him into a position of being a little more nervous.

    I’ll get back to you soon.

  92. No Sir. I just posted on January 10, 2009 (I am a different Laura than the one that posted in July-just a similar issue). Sure do appreciate your time. Laura (No. 2)

  93. Hello Laura,

    Did I get back to you on this ?

  94. Hello Patricia,

    I need a little more information. The two fights that “Lost” had with the other dogs, did you see the fights and did any of the dogs get hurt real bad ? Did you or someone else stop the fights or did they stop by themselves?

    What kind of dogs are your boyfriends dogs. Big dogs, little dogs ? How old are your boyfriends dogs ?

    We’ll start with these questions, although I may have some more for you.


  95. Hi I need urgent help with my dog. I live in Mozambique and here there are no experts on the subject and I dont know what else to do.
    I found my dog “Lost” in a wildlife reserve in South Africa 4 years ago. He was about 2 months old and was dying. He turn up to be a very beautiful and strong dog, my brother searched on the net and says he is a Presa Canario, but I think he is a mix of steffy and Pittbull) he is good with the kids in general and very loving with everyone in the house, however he is very agressive towards all other animals including dogs (male or female), and people passing in front of the gate!! He’s been in fights with 2 dogs of 2 neighbours of mine already! My concern is I now plan to get together and my boyfriend has dogs of his own. We dont know what to do, I would like to introduce them, but I dont know how, as I’m just to scared Lost kills one of his dogs,which I am almost sure would happen in the first 2 minuts. Can you please help.

  96. Hi Spirit Dog,
    I just found your site and just love your down to earth explanation of our dogs. (I am a different Laura that the post of July 2008). However, we have a similar situation with our Jasper (1 year old Husky Yellow Lab mix-also 100 lbs). He gets excited, barks and lunges at other dogs when we are walking.
    Answer to questions sent to Laura No. 1
    1. He listens very well at home and in the yard. He is also in the process of obedience training while walking (we are training him without treats).
    2. Jasper has a pack mate, Ripley (3 year old choc lab female – very well trained (CGC trained) who plays great with Jasper, correcting him when necessary. He also plays with yellow lab that comes over from time to time. Ripley walks with Jasper and just sits while he acts out.
    3. The dogs that he encounters are from calm and confident to barking nervous small dogs.
    4. Jasper plays daily with Ripley, lots of tug of war, chasing, keep away, ball throw, frisbie, mouthing each other, etc. also, plays great with the yellow lab that comes over periodically. (even tries to get cat to play with him – will drop a ball on the cat while it is sleeping)
    5. We live in a suburb and walk Jasper and Ripley daily.
    I do know that when I now see a dog coming in our direction (since I am walking 2 dogs), that I start to prepare for the encounter, probably projecting all over the place. I have tried to put him in a sit position and get him to just look at me. Not working. Looking forward to your GREAT solution or my behavior modification. Thank you so much, Laura.

  97. One more thing, although this article is an extreme example of a persons behavior you may find some useful information in it.


  98. Almost forgot, when you say…”another thing I wanted to mention is that he just snaps. One minute he’s fine, you are petting and playing and all of a sudden he’s attacking.”

    If you pay close attention to him when your playing or petting him, you will notice a stiffness in his body and a clear indication in his eyes that he’s getting nervous.

    In this situation you give him some space and try to change his demeanor by talking calmly or happily with him. Often times you have to change between those two ways of talking to him , to be able to relax him.

    Again you should be able to notice by his body becoming less rigid and his eyes starting to show a glimpse of calmness or happiness.

  99. Hi Jennifer,

    Forget about fear dominance, fear aggression, submissive aggressive or any other type of “label” describing the behavior.
    They all mean the same thing ” the dog strikes out in fear”. All nervous dogs learn that this is a highly effective way of “scaring” away what they are afraid off.

    When you say “we think it’s fear dominant”, I guessing the “we” is the dog trainer you hired.

    Often many canine behavioral consultants inadvertently make understanding the displayed behavioral attributes more difficult than it has to be, by assigning scientific and or psychological terminology to the exhibited behaviors displayed. (See just like that) i could of just said ” they make it harder than it has to be”, but we just love to give the impression of intelligences

    Anyway, this is going to become your job to learn how to relax Max in those situations that make him uncomfortable.

    If the only time he acts that way is when he’s near you, than I would agree that he is guarding you, although you may have been told ( protective, possessive, or even a form of resource guarding) . They all mean the same thing.

    I’m going to ask you to read a couple more things, than get back to me.






    So many of the biting problems we encounter with our dogs are due to the animal being nervous. We have to start making them a little more happy which in return will start making them less nervous. We have to build up their confidence a little bit.

    Talk to you soon.

  100. another thing I wanted to mention is that he just snaps. One minute he’s fine, you are petting and playing and all of a sudden he’s attacking.

  101. Max is usually laying in a room – sometimes with me in the room and sometimes by himself. If husband walks by, Max will warn him with a growl. If husband comes near then Max will get in position, bark, snarl and usually attack the feet. If he gets any correction at all he responds with a snarl, growl and if you keep correcting he will usually go after the feet. by correction I mean if we tell him “off” furniture or the bed. or to come inside the house when he’s not ready. if you send him to his house – crate – and try to close the door, he goes bullistic.
    I must also tell you that we actually think he’s fear dominant. my husband thinks fear aggressive, i think fear dominant. any little noise and he’s cowering. usually runs into his crate and hides. which is wierd to us b/c he acts like such a big man. now if you throw food into the picture he’s totally normal. you can pet and play with him and he’s perfect b/c he wants to eat. it’s a little inconvenient to be carrying around dog food all day!
    we believe he’s guarding me so we’ve been trying to keep him out of the same room i’m in. i guess we’ve been trying to set some boundaries with him and it’s still not having any affect on him.

  102. Hello Jennifer,

    Dogs don’t see a handicap as a weakness, but they can tell whether or not an individual “acts like a boss” or is totally relaxed with the animal.

    In the dog world alphas are always relaxed, because they don’t fear anything.

    Will the collar confuse him ? When you first trained Max with the invisible fence, he was getting a correction for wandering a little to far. At worst it will take him a little getting used to, but more likely is he will be able to distinguish the difference immediately.

    Tell me exactly what Max is doing before and after he goes after your husband.

  103. Thank you for the suggestions. I have two questions for you.
    1. The most recent trainer we hired has a physical handicap. I don’t know what it’s called but his arms are about half the size they should be and he walks slow. I don’t have a problem with that however I have heard that dominant agressive dogs can sense this weakness or handicap. It seems like Max responds to him at first then doesn’t. Is it true these dogs can sense this. I feel the $500 was a waste of money. We live in a smaller community and have already been through anyone that might be worth using.

    2. We’ve thought about the shock collar however we also have an invisible fence. They already wear a collar for that. However we typically only put it on when we go outside – so we try to take it off during they day while in the house. Will this confuse him by using a shock collar for correction?

    Thank you

  104. Hello Jennifer,

    I’m sorry to hear your having such problems with your dog.

    If you have read some of my stuff you know my general disappointment with some in the dog training / behavior field. That is why I wrote this article :
    https://thespiritdog.wordpress.com/2008/08/11/dog-training-finding-the-perfect-dog-trainer/ . This article tells you how to test whether or not a trainer or behaviorist is any good.

    This next article teaches you how to stop the type of behaviors that your dog is exhibiting, Because you are not alone when it comes to behaviorists failing at their job.


    Now, your going to have a couple problems here. 1- somebody has to be comfortable enough to put the collar on your dog, hopefully you can find the type of dog trainer I was talking about in the first article.
    and 2- What is your comfort level, even know this is a relatively easy behavior to modify (assuming your lucky enough to find a trainer that knows animals) will you ever really be comfortable with the dog ?

    I would suggest you interview some more trainers and give them the dog training test. If you feel that you will never be comfortable with your dog, then email me and we will discuss possible placement at Spirit Animal Sanctuary.

    Good Luck Jennifer, and feel free to ask more questions if you like.

  105. Hi Spirit Dog,
    We have two cocker spaniels, a female who is perfect and a male who is a terror. A couple of years ago we put down a male cocker due to aggression. (advised by the behaviorist) We got another male right away and are having the same problems. Max – the 2 yr old male – guards me. In the process of guarding he will attack my husband. He can’t even walk into the same room I’m in w/o a close call. When I try and correct him he goes nuts on me. It’s like he has a switch inside that he flips for no apparent reason. I’m sure there is a reason and warning signs we just miss them or don’t know what to look for. And we don’t know how to correct it. We’ve tried multiple behaviorist – in face we have spent about $1000 trying to help us and this dog. We just found out that I am pregnant – about 10 weeks. We can’t have a dog with these behaviors and a baby in the house. Someone will get hurt. Wejust can’t bear putting down another dog for this reason. But if we can’t figure out how to help him then we will have no other choice. We thought about finding him a good home – however if he’s away from Sadey he has major separation anxiety and howls and cries like you are sticking knives through his side. Any suggestions?

  106. One more thing, Laura

    Is it possible for you to post a video of Buddy doing this stuff on youtube ???? And sending me the link.

  107. Hi Laura

    Before I can even attempt to help you out, I have some questions I need you to answer. The first question is the most important.
    1, How well does Buddy listen to you now in your home or yard with minimal or no distractions.
    2. The dogs he plays with now, are they his regular doggy friends that he has known since he was a young puppy, or known a couple of months.
    3. Can you tell, what behaviors the dogs that Buddy doesn’t know, are exhibiting. What is their body language telling Buddy.
    4. How often does he play with his friends.
    5. Do you guys live in a city, suburb or rural environment.

    Without me actually seeing how Buddy reacts to other dogs in circumstances like this, it’s hard to give you a 100% accurate assessment on what you should do. From how you describe him, it sounds like he does have a little bit of fear and nervousness thing going on, but his need to play seems to be trying to override his fears.
    This could be a problem if the other dog is not well socialized and is nervous around other dogs. We get a lot of dogs here at the sanctuary, you would think they automatically know how to play with their own species, but this is a learning process for a lot of them.

    Anyway back to Buddy. For me to be able to help you, I really need the answer to that first question.

    Get back to me with those answers.

    The Spirit Dog
    ( al )

  108. Hello Spirit Dog,
    I have read many of the articles and insights you have on dogs, and I agree with your way of thinking. I do have one problem that my Mom, Dad, and I have not been able to come up with a solution to yet. Our chocolate lab is a little over 1 year old now. He is very friendly with super high energy. He plays well with other dogs, as he has since he was born. When walking Buddy if he sees another dog that is unfamiliar to him he lays down and is impossible to move. When the other dog gets closer Buddy starts lunging forward and barking like crazy. He looks like an aggressive dog at this point, however he has never shown an aggressive trait before. He never bites or growls. On the other hand, if Buddy knows the other dog walking closer he becomes submissive and is excited to play. I think he shows this type of behavior to other dogs that he does not know out of fear and nervousness. How do we prevent this type of behavior when a dog is coming towards us that he doesn’t know? He is 100 lb lab and becomes impossible to move when laying down and then very hard to control when he starts lunging forward. HELP!

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