A guide to navigating the challenge and adventure of life with your dogs.

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100 Mildly Useful Thoughts on Training & Living with Dogs

1. Leadership is about being someone worth following.

2. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

3. Dogs have deadly weapons in their mouths. Most will go their entire lives without using them. Don’t take this for granted.

4. You have a lot of power over your dog. With great power…

5. Picking up after your dog in public is sexy.

6. Stand up for your dog.

7. It’s OK to tell people to leave your dog alone.

8. Don’t let anyone bully your dog, not even a professional trainer.

9. Stay humble.

10. It’s good to have a dog who asks, “why should I?”

11. There is no way to know for sure why a dog does something. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

12. Any dog can bite.

13. Head halters may not cause pain, but that death glare your dog shoots you when you make him wear one is not in your imagination.

14. Aggression is usually fear-based.

15. Don’t take anything personally.

16. Judging a shelter dog by the way she acts in her kennel is like judging a person based on their Facebook page: you never get the whole picture and what you do see is often misleading.

17. Newly-adopted dogs may need time to grieve for their previous families.

18. Bonding with a new dog takes work; relationships are something you earn, not something you’re entitled to.

19. As the owners of “broken” rescued dogs, our job is to help them move on.

20. Hand-feeding solves a lot of problems.

21. Distractions make great training rewards.

22. Show me a dog surrendered to a shelter for destructive behavior and I’ll show you a really smart dog.

23. Boredom is the leading cause of behavior problems.

24. Smart dogs do not make good house pets.

25. Dog training reality shows are entertainment, not education.

26. Stockholm Syndrome looks a lot like unconditional love.

27. Pit bulls are the most resilient, forgiving dogs there are.

28. There may be “no such thing as a bad dog,” but that doesn’t mean you’re a bad owner.

29. If your dog has behavior problems, food bowls are your enemy.

30. Smart toys are your friend.

31. Dogs have bad days, too.

32. Training is something that happens 24/7.

33. Focus on teaching your dog what you want him to do, not what you don’t.

34. Be careful with clicker training. It’s addictive.

35. The best trainers are the ones who are willing to make fools of themselves for their dogs’ sakes.

36. Training is a mechanical skill, anyone can learn it.

37. Building a good relationship is not a mechanical skill.

38. Your dog probably thinks you’re crazy.

39. Anthropomorphism isn’t always a bad thing.

40. Sometimes it is.

41. Dropkick dogs are people too. (however, I shall continue to gleefully refer to them as “dropkick dogs” and there’s nothing you can do about it)

42. Take lots of pictures.

43. Dogs are incredible problem solvers.

44. A well-socialized, poorly-trained dog is a much better pet than a well-trained, poorly socialized one.

45. Take an agility class at least once.

46. Never train angry.

47. Teach your dog tricks.

48. A spoiled dog is not always a happy dog.

49. One of the best things you can do for your dog is to give him a job.

50. Your dog will puke all over your nicest carpet/furniture. It’s a law of the universe.

51. Most of behavior modification is about getting dogs to stop acting like dogs.

52. Let your dog be a dog sometimes.

53. It’s okay to comfort a fearful dog.

54. The job title “dog trainer” is a misnomer; a trainer’s work is mostly about training owners. The dogs are easy.

55. You can train a dog without a relationship.

56. You can have a good relationship with a dog without training.

57. Dogs are like toddlers: sometimes playing with the box is more fun than playing with the toy.

58. Just because it’s necessary doesn’t mean it’s any less evil.

59. Don’t interrupt people who are doing the impossible.

60. Everybody has an opinion. Sometimes the best thing to do is stop listening.

61. Animal shelters are not infallible.

62. Responsible breeders are not the enemy.

63. Screw grammar. A dog is a “who,” not a “that.”

64. Positive training works on people, too.

65. Humor is an acceptable and often superior tool for dealing with serious and/or painful subjects.

66. Melodramatic attempts at being heartwrenching do not make me want to throw my money at the nearest charity.

67. Show a shelter dog some respect. For that dog, you may be the only one who ever has.

68. Work with your dog. Not at him.

69. It’s worth the effort to study canine body language.

70. Learn about calming signals. They’re friggin’ awesome.

71. Diet affects behavior in dogs just like in people.

72. Learn how to read a dog food label.

73. Feed the best dog food you can afford.

74. A multiple-dog household may sometimes be a pain in the ass, but it’s never boring.

75. Build your dog a sandbox.

76. Take a walk where you let your dog stop and sniff as much as she wants.

77. Most people are good.

78. You haven’t lived until you’ve been mauled by a litter of puppies.

79. Puppies are cute for a reason.

80. Is it really separation anxiety or is your dog throwing a party while you’re out?

81. When your dog tells you to get off your lazy butt and go play with him, listen.

82. The co-evolution of our two species is one of the coolest things that has ever happened.

83. Dogs probably do have conditions for love, just not the same ones we have.

84. Foster failure is good for the soul.

85. Behavior modification is simple but it’s not easy.

86. Patience, my young padawan.

87. If you can’t get your dog to come when called, you need to fix that.

88. How a dog and owner walk together says a lot about them.

89. Volunteer at an animal shelter. It’s a good hurt.

90. Put a lot of work into raising your puppy. It’ll pay off.

91. Your dream dog is waiting for you in a shelter somewhere.

92. It’s not always the owner’s fault. Sometimes dogs are just nuts.

93. Improve your training skills. Have someone train you.

94. Cats can be trained to do awesome stuff too.

95. If you’re frustrated with your dog, chances are the feeling is mutual.

96. Take your dog hiking. Let her navigate.

97. Dog sports > dog parks.

98. Go watch a dog sports competition. Be inspired.

99. Holy crap are you still reading this.

100. Stop procrastinating on the internet. Go teach your dog something cool.


The style of this post was inspired by this post from Julien Smith.