Tag Archives: dog behavior

3 Biggest Mistakes Dog Owners Make

When you read the headline “Mistakes Dog Owners Make” you probably thought it’s about particular products, or kinds of foods, or ways of caring for your dog.

It’s not. It’s about attitude and letting your dog be the best dog he/she possibly can’t. We think the biggest mistakes are the ones fail to appreciate how wonderful dogs are just by being dogs.

Mistakes dog owners make #1

Rushing. Chances are, in the course of a day, you have a schedule. It may be a weird one, since this is still 2020, but you still have stuff to do, places to go, errands to run. You want to get things done!

Your dog doesn’t have a timetable. Dogs live in the moment. They are where they are. And when we interact with our dogs, we need to be there, too. What’s wrong with playing fetch an extra few minutes? Or letting your dog sniff that fire hydrant and get all the latest “pee mail?” 

If you’re a listmaker, make “spend time with the dog” a list item. And give it more time than you think you should. No one really cares if the housework gets put off. You’ll remember how good it felt to cuddle your dog, how much fun you had together, not how immaculate your house is. 

And for the people who got a “pandemic puppy,” no dog is potty trained at three months old. And they shouldn’t be. We remember when our peers bragged about how young their children were when they were toilet trained. Nobody cares. It doesn’t matter. None of those kids was wearing diapers in college. It takes how long it takes.

Relax. Enjoy where you are. 

Mistakes dog owners make #2

Catering. More dogs are turned into finicky eaters by their people than for any other reason. Dogs don’t care if they eat the same thing every meal, every day. People like variety. Dogs don’t care. 

No healthy dog will purposely starve to death. If your dog doesn’t eat because he’s “holding out for something better,” be strong. There is nothing better. Hopefully you’ve researched dog foods, selected the optimum for your dog and your circumstances. That’s what your dog gets.

We do modify as we learn our dogs personalities. Hope’s French Bulldog Torque loves sweet things and doesn’t much care for fish. She figured this out because he eagerly dove into his bowl when beets or carrots were part of a meal, and took his time when there was fish. She didn’t dump out all the fish meals, but no longer includes it when making food. And there may be a few more beets and carrots in the mix.

People also cater to their dogs outside of meal time. It’s not okay that your dog barks at people wearing hats, or tall men, or children, or women carrying bags. He/she doesn’t have to love them. He just has to learn to ignore them. Dogs don’t make the rules, we do. And every member of the family, including the dogs, have to live by them. 

Mistakes dog owners make #3

Helping. This is more for people who continue to have fun training their dogs, but applies to all dogs. Caring people tend to want to “help” when someone, or some dog, has a problem. Given the chance to figure stuff out on their own, most dogs are geniuses! 

A dog training mentor of ours has a favorite saying “the more you help, the more helpless they become.” And it’s true. Hope’s Teddy may not have been the brightest bulb in the chandelier, and he was so darn cute that Hope pretty much “fixed” things for him all the time. One day he trapped himself into a tight area of the yard. And yelled for help when he thought he was stuck. Hope consciously decided not to help him – he’d gotten in there and there was a way back. She encouraged him, and he kept trying until he figured it out. He was incredibly proud of himself, and learned how to navigate that problem forever.

It’s the Taoist saying come to life: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Getting dogs to get along

We have a friend who is constantly “managing” her dogs. She has six and not all of them get along with each other. And the groups aren’t consistent – individual dogs who were buddies yesterday can’t stand the sight of each other today.

It must be exhausting. One of the absolute “musts” in our house is that all the dogs get along. It’s not that we don’t have occasional spats. Of course we do. Some days the dogs are like three-year-olds: “Mom, he looked at me!”

“He looked at me first!”

“Tell him to stop looking!”

“I’m not! Tell him!”

At which point we calmly, hands over our ears, leave the room.

Tempers can flare

Dealing with the occasional brother battle is different than bringing a new dog home for the first time, especially if the newcomer is a puppy. Monitoring all interactions with a new dog is crucial. And a good familiarity with dog body language is a big help.

Once we know that the resident dogs aren’t planning to physically harm the new dog, we pretty much let them sort out their relationships for themselves. We try to step in only when one of the dogs seems out of control, or someone else is tired of being harassed.

Get along, little doggie

The hardest case we’ve ever seen was Dax, Hope’s first French Bulldog. Dax wasn’t the sweetest dog, but she wasn’t particularly obnoxious, either. When Hope brought Teddy home as a puppy, he instantly adored his big sister. Followed her everywhere. Grabbed her face and hung on. 

She completely and totally ignored him.

It was months before she even acknowledged his existence. And even then, it was to tell him to “knock it off!” – she’d finally had enough of him chewing on her face. It was probably about the same time he reached more than half her weight and his “attentions” really started to hurt.

Teddy was thrilled! His idol was finally paying attention to him. It didn’t matter that the attention wasn’t “good.” His persistence paid off. They became great friends and playmates for the rest of her life. 

Persistence pays again

Our current cast of characters is pretty interesting, too. Simon just turned two years old this Summer. Tango is 11. Simon is a fire plug of a Boston Terrier, 18 pounds of muscle. Tango is a long, skinny, bendy Brussels Griffon. They adore each other.

getting dogs to get along - Boston Terrier and Brussels Griffon lying side by side

Watching them, you’d swear we just lied. Every time Simon walks by Tango, Tango jumps up and yells at Simon. And Simon will deliberately rush at Tango and bop him with his paws, just to annoy him. Their interactions are incredibly loud, sound horrible, look nasty, and they both enjoy them enormously. 

Watching what matters

It took us a while to recognize that. Both of the dogs were having fun. At first, we thought Tango needed protection from the younger, stronger, heavier Simon. Then we noticed that it was Tango initiating the fuss-fests at least half the time. It’s how these two dogs’ relationship has developed. They understand it and it works for them. The other two dogs stay out of it. Smart pups!

Just like little kids, unless disagreements become violent, it’s probably best to let them work it out on their own. There’s no guarantee that they’ll be friends for life, but you’ll have a chance for peace.

In a love/hate dog relationship

It’s a love/hate relationship. We’re obsessed with dogs. We live with them, own a business about them. Our hobbies are training dogs and going to dog shows. 

That being said – it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. It’s a love/hate dog relationship. Like most connections – it’s complicated!

Love/hate together

Our dogs are always happy to see us. No matter how incredibly crappy the day has been, the traffic was awful, nothing worked right, the weather sucked – your dog is delighted you’re home. He’s at the door, wiggling his little butt (no tail!). Just because you walked in – his life is complete. We don’t know anybody who gets that reaction from another person. Can you imagine walking in and your dog glances up from his phone, says “hey!” and goes back to his game? 

On the other hand – we’re always on the clock. If our dogs aren’t with us, our time out is limited. Especially with a puppy in the house.

In the same vein – there’s no such thing as a spontaneous get-away. We can’t just pack up and take off for a weekend. Even though there are more and more places accepting dogs as guests – it’s not a “given.” Plans have to be made, packing has to be done. And the dogs require much more “stuff” than the people!


Dogs are up for whatever you want to do. Play time? Sure, let’s do it! Nap time? Absolutely, let’s chill! Cuddle and watch a movie? Especially if there’s popcorn! You never have to worry about being alone.

But you never get to be alone, either. Not even in the bathroom. We’ve drawn the line at the shower, but the dogs aren’t always happy about it. One even whines outside the door like a little baby – not mentioning Torque’s name here.

Tell us about it

dog tilting his head

The good thing is that dogs can’t talk. You can tell them anything – your deepest, darkest secrets. And they’ll never reveal a thing. And when you do talk to dogs, they listen. They get that adorable head tilt. We fall for it every time. And nobody thinks you’re crazy, talking out loud, if your dog is there.

The bad thing is that dogs can’t talk. Like when they don’t feel good and can’t tell you what’s wrong, where it hurts, or that something’s not right. We’re huge admirers of veterinarians. They have to be detectives – solving mysteries for clients who can’t reveal their secrets.

The biggest love/hate of all

We love that we get to experience the unconditional love of dogs. Their devotion to their people is unmatched.

We hate that it’s never long enough.