Tellington Touch – Is it hocus-pocus?

Tellington Touch – Is it hocus-pocus?

I get some questions that seem to recur, one of them is about TTouch. I had this comment cross my radar this morning and thought I would share my response. I really believe, in case it is not immediately apparent, that the book would benefit by reducing the number of un-believable claims for it’s efficacy. As a primer in how and where to massage your dog in a way that the dog will find benefit I believe it has a lot of value.

This is the comment:

“Any TTouch experts out there? I just bought the book and have had strange results…

1. In the beginning of the book there is a picture of a coyote and a black bear reaching out and using their paw to touch Linda Tellington-Jones as evidence of these animals “trying to communicate” and being able to have a cellular connection. I actually giggled over this and thought it was a pretty “hocus pocus” description. BUT…. I did ONLY TWO of the TTouch circles on my dog and he did the same thing with his paw!!!! WOW!!!

2. Okay, so that was the cool part. But I continued doing this and my dog started raising his upper lip and showing his teeth. No growling or anything. It almost seemed like a reaction he couldn’t control. Maybe I was actually connecting to him on a cellular level, as the book suggests is happening, and he felt weird or a little violated having this new stimulation? Anyway, after that he just kept getting up and walking away, mostly to his crate so I couldn’t get him.

I wanted to try TTouch because my dog has general fear/anxiety/confidence issues and many of the TTouches claim to improve exactly those issues. I’ve tried a few of the touches, even starting at low pressure with the Llama and Chimp Touch (for dogs with trust issues), but he still doesn’t seem to like it.

Should I keep trying?

Usually when I pet him “normally” he goes spread-eagle and is in heaven as he allows me to rub and scratch him anywhere on his body. I don’t want him to get into the habit of running away from me every time I go to touch him because he thinks I’m going to TTouch him.”



and this is my response …

“Buy a book and be an expert. Whether it is the guitar, learning spanish, dog training or massage. That is optimistic, at best. The belief that you acquired the skill in the time it takes to read the book and are connecting, communicating and healing your dog but it is a dog problem (that he is not welcoming your attention) shows how little you understand.

The dog is giving you feedback, it may mean that you are trying to do something TO the dog (sub-consciously, at least).

That is not the connection you are looking for, you have to be centered and giving loving touch and loving thoughts, allowing your outpouring of loving kindness and calmness to heal a broken spirit.

I think of my self as an earth strap while working on electronics. My goal is to allow the stressful energy to “leak out” through my gentle touch. If I have anything positive that can leak in, so much the better, but that requires a sense of self as a “special” healer, an arrogance that I find impossible to internalize.

Do I believe that we are all on a bell curve of ability to connect through touch, through genetics or experience? Absolutely!

Some will find it easier to connect than others. That does not reflect on your ability to learn and become skilled.

Try yoga or meditation as an additional lifestyle study.

Be patient, practice, practice, practice.

Think of it as a gift you can give to your dog.

To a cynic, living in the America of late night commercials and instant gratification, (six pack abs anyone?) TTouch is a snake oil product. Branding a loving massage where you have to turn circles of a certain number of degrees in order for it to work?

Un believable.

However, some people are so out of tune with both their own body and those of their loved ones, anything that encourages them to experiment with touch, pressure and movement in a gentle loving way to connect with their disconnect has to be good or great.

Love by numbers?

If that is what it takes, that and ten thousand hours of practice will help you grow to be all you can be. At least you may find out how little we really know for sure. Myself included.”

Maybe, just maybe, this dog came into your life to teach you more about yourself.

Have any of you tried TTouch?

What did you discover about your dog?

What did you discover about yourself?

Please, let me know in the comments below, thank you!



Buster goes to the Skatepark

Buster’s education continues.

Lunging and Barking

Buster has shown some “normal” herding behaviors. He is six months old and has lunged at and nipped, boys particularly. He went after a skateboarder recently and has also lunged at joggers on a narrow trail.

To correct these behaviors we want to work on getting him used to small, furry, fast-moving objects and teach him to have a thinking moment between the stimulation and his emotional autonomic reaction.

So we tried working in several environments that helped get him closer to the behavior we were wanting.

Then we moved on to the skate park. The skate park provides the stimulation required and allows us to use distance to manage the distraction intensity.

It is a relatively safe environment so that no one gets in trouble for being reactive. We don’t want him nipping anyone.

Boys sometimes think it is funny to tease the dog “by accident” getting closer and closer. So if you choose an open area, be very aware.

Here he is at the skate park. The boys are mostly in a cage so they are safe and so is Buster.

The fence provides us with a useful boundary, that we can use to move closer to or further away, to increase, or reduce, the intensity of the distraction.

I want to be clear to a casual viewer that I am moving in and out of the camera’s view as I increase the distance from the distraction and so reduce the intensity of Buster’s reaction to the stimulation. He “gathers himself” then we return closer to the distraction, I repeat this a couple of times. This way his performance improves. There is nothing magical happening out of camera shot.

There is no point staying so close to the distraction when he is lunging and barking.

I am frequently asked “What should I do when he lunges and barks” and the answer is “Absolutely nothing you say or do at that moment will change the behavior right then.

Why don’t I correct him?

I limit my communication to a serious voice tone, and the word “No” to describe the behavior that I don’t want. It is not intended as a correction, it is not very loud, it is firm. I do not expect the behavior to change right then, I am simply labelling inappropriate performance.

Not that, this!

Concentrating on marking and rewarding the behavior I prefer, even an approximation will elicit a reward at first then I fine tune the performance by rewarding only the improvement.

No amount of yelling, bullying or jerking on the leash or collar will change anything for the better.

You just become part of the problem. The behavior itself is so rewarding that we are reinforcing the behavior just by experiencing it.

If we get “excited” we also show our dog that “it” is worth getting excited about, as the only thing that changed was the new addition to the environment.

Most of the time the dog does not understand that it is his behavior that you are getting distressed over!

If we add anxiety, fear, stress or anger to the equation the performance will get worse not better.

Any physical correction does not teach the dog not to do the behavior or learn to cope, it will be a withdrawal of trust from the Emotional Bank Account. Even if you see some improvement in behavior it is not because the dog has learned a new skill, it has learned to fear you. The challenge with that acquisition is that it depends on you being there, the leash being on, the collar being on and your close enough to administer the punishment.

If you think about the effectiveness of speed limits. How many people exceed the speed limits? They know that if the policeman is not there they can speed and frequently do. If the policeman is there then they don’t speed. And they will probably look for the policeman next time they are in that particular place. But they don’t generalize it to don’t speed anywhere. If they get stopped for speeding they get mad at the policeman. The punishment is not consistent, not timely, and not effective in changing habitual and rewarding behavior. If they speed ten times in a row and don’t get caught then they are rewarded ten times. In effect the sense of heightened risk releases endorphins and chemically rewards the risk taking behavior.

The goal of this skill acquisition training is to teach the dog that the things that previously stimulated it can be tolerated easily with no negative consequences and in fact there are rewards for building coping mechanisms. This is termed systematic progressive desensitization. This is followed by counter-conditioning, where Buster actually welcomes the distraction that previously startled him, you can see this in the last few frames of the video where he looks at the skateboarder in the pipe and then looks back at me with a calm happy face and a soft relaxed down.  This acquisition of a coping skill is really important when a dog is not necessarily going to be closely supervised ( and who wants to have to do that for the dog’s lifetime?) It builds advanced performance and mutual trust.

So increase distance and reduce the stimulation, gather your big boy’s head and try again carefully, trying not to exceed his threshold.

If you watch Buster carefully you will see that he is still quite excited at first and his movements are hectic, his taking treats is very fast, a little ADD. He is very close to his threshold at first and working at this level of stimulation takes experience to make sure that the learning is both appropriate and intentional! You will see his ability improves dramatically as we continue working on the distraction.

If you work at a lower intensity you will achieve the same result, just a little slower.

It might take a couple of visits.

So if in doubt lower the level of distraction, increase the distance and work with his behaviors there. He will get better.

The skaters  in the park focus on enhancing their skills, a slightly OCD behavior, so their attention is inside the fence not outside. There is very little eye contact to concern Buster.

There is no point trying to work on this high level distraction until your dog has a foundation of training in “sit”, “down”, “stay” and “stop” in other less distracting environments.

I recommend some successful repetitions in gradually increasing intensity of distractions and different environments.

You don’t want him thinking that it only is important at the skate park. So this is advanced training, not basic training.


Punishment is NOT the answer.

It is not about correcting or punishing him for wrong behavior, this is his natural emotional reaction to stimulation, his quick reactions are ones that we have carefully and selectively bred into the breed for hundreds of years to make a good herding dog. Now we want him as a household pet and to not herd the children or their friends.

So we want to train a thinking moment between the stimulation and the reaction and would like him to decide to override his automatic response with a calm self-controlled behavior.

Be very careful not to raise anxiety.

Do not add stress, fear or anger to the equation. In your dog or you.

Any increase in emotional response will hijack the decision-making process in humans and dogs. Think “road rage!”

Even when people think punishment is working it is rarely leading to a long-term permanent change in behavior.

Please, don’t do it!

Things to watch for

As you watch the video, pay attention to voice cues, (I am telling him what is ok and what is not ok) watch for hand cues that help him understand what I am looking for, listen for the clicker. Pay attention to the timing, it is very precise, I am marking the behavior we want for the long-term and especially watch how fast Buster learns and internalizes the new performance.

Dog reactive dogs and leash aggression.

If your dog is dog reactive, this clip will also be helpful to you. Just substitute a dog park with dogs inside for the skate park.

I just got a rescued dog – what do I do?

Safe and Caring Introduction

of a “new to you” rescued or shelter dog

into your home.



You are the parent, do whatever it takes to make it a success.

Parenting is not a popularity contest.

Be wise, set the dog up for success, do not overwhelm the dog or allow the dog to get into trouble because it does not know what you expect.

Reduce the stress as much as possible and allow the dog to become integrated into the environment, your home, your family and the neighborhood.

This is not compulsory, however it is the result of years of revolving door rescues and rehabilitation and the experience gained from making lots and lots of mistakes, some of them more than once!

I did mess up, sometimes in a big and scary way. I laughed when I heard someone remark recently that if you are in rescue you must have easygoing dogs! The truth is that we most frequently end up with the dogs no-one else wants. Mostly for very good reasons!  They were not bad dogs, they just needed someone patient enough to see them right. Young puppies, pissy teenagers and sick and angry dogs. I have the scars to prove it. I have loved old geriatrics, dogs no one else thought were redeemable or worth saving and many dogs who would never have made it to the adoptable list.

Now I share this accumulated wisdom with you so you don’t have to make the same mistakes with your new rescued dog.

If you are someone who can’t learn from other people’s mistakes, you have to make them all yourself, then go for it.

Just don’t blame the dog!

(Also bear in mind that if it turns into a dogfight with your existing dog because your new dog is unfamiliar with the environment, you did not do the work to ease the transition and your dog is playing ” I’m Lord of This Manor” with a little anxiety with the intruder don’t blame either of them!)

With or without other dogs present in the environment the first few weeks are often a stressful and difficult time for the new dog as everything around him changes again.

So here, with apologies to all my rescued dogs for the mistakes I made and grateful appreciation for the lessons I have learned, is a pocket guide to bringing your dog home.

Has he ever even been indoors?

10am and 108′ in the shade! Here is a dog who I don’t think had ever seen a house from the inside, he was so shy of people and very timid around other dogs.

He would not come in through a doorway voluntarily, for weeks. I clipped him on a  20 foot lunge line when I took him outside for potty breaks, worried that he might be a fence jumper in his anxiety, even when the other dogs were going in and out. Then one day he did come in on his own, tentatively darting in and having a quick look round and darting out.

Then one day he came in and sat on the dog bed.

It can be a quick change or a drawn out process!

After Rehabilitation, what a happy dog!

You frequently don’t get to choose, just try to be part of the solution not part of the problem!

Is he even remotely house trained?


If a dog has been a yard dog, kenneled in a yard kennel with poor hygiene or maintenance, on a chain, a stray or living in a shelter for a while, maybe there has been no potty instruction at all, maybe even forced to potty where he lived and slept. This can habituate them to soiling, turn them in to poop eaters or completely the opposite can make them avoid poop with a disgusted look on their face wherever they come across it!

Again, you don’t get to choose!

Take the dog as he is.

Train him for the habits that work for you and your home.

After – Run! Play! Wear yourselves out!

Several dogs we rescued were living in a fenced enclosure attached to a derelict trailer, they lived in the yard but used the trailer as the toilet! Piles of dog shit spaced six inches apart covered the floor of the trailer. Imagine his confusion when he came into a proper home!

Shelters as petri dishes for bugs.

Warm, frequently wet environment with stressed immuno compromised sick animals arriving daily? Perfect!

Is he on medication? Has he just been fixed?

Marcus. Arrives by transport after his neuter op at the shelter. They took him straight out of the operation and put him in a dirty wet kennel for three days. The wound was infected and the infection is just starting to rage. Off to the vet with you my boy!

Don’t be surprised if he arrives with a bladder infection or an upset stomach. Don’t be surprised if he doesn’t pee or poop for a couple of days.

Stress does that too.

I have had dogs who won’t look at food, let alone eat, for five days straight, when they arrive.

Stress does that too.

One of my rescued dogs came from a shelter with a wedge of treatment papers over a year, nearly two inches thick, detailing persistent and repeated treatment (mostly antibiotics but de-worming almost monthly as well) for loose stools.

Stress does that to people too!

Don’t be surprised if he poops or pees right in the middle of the kitchen! Maybe he has diarrhea. Maybe he is constipated. He is not a bad dog. It is just shit. Shit happens.

“Train something different” might mean take him out for a potty break as if he was a four month old puppy, every twenty minutes if necessary, whatever it takes!

Has he ever been crated?

Content! Not sad!

Now is a great time to teach him that he has a safe den, a refuge from the chaos that is a normal home. Somewhere comfortable, warm and dry to rest and sleep and eat his meals without being disturbed. A den should be a place of rest. This is intended to be used wisely as part of a structured introduction, not as an excuse or reason to ignore your dog. This is not isolation or punishment.

If you set up a timetable that fits in with your normal routines but adds sensible and regular exercise, regular feeding at the same time every day, time for grooming, petting, massage, and some “down time” during the day you can very quickly have a dog who gets the picture that there are times for work, rest and play.

This will very quickly allow you to go to the store for groceries, spend a couple of hours at your computer or go see a football game at the high school without your dog having a panic attack and destroying your drapes, disemboweling the throw pillows off your sofa or digging and chewing a hole in the wall of your house looking for an imaginary rat.

It also will mean that when you want to do meditation or yoga he is not trying to hump you, or biting your wrists, to get you to play. Just being a dog!

The crate can be in the kitchen or family room during the day if that is where you spend most of your time, somewhere where he gets to observe from a safe distance the comings and goings, the relationships between the members of his new pack. He will observe your relationship with your family members and your spouse, and other dogs, cats and birds for example.

You can have another comfortable crate in the office if you work from home, then he can be lying by you inside the crate. Even one outside in the yard for when you are pottering around in the yard if you are a gardener or just like to sit on the deck watching the birds he can get used to lying calmly not digging up your drip irrigation system behind you.

Another accessory that can really help and can be used instead of, or as a supplement to, the crate for some of these scenarios, is a three foot leash attached to a strong leather belt around your waist. You need to be hands free as you do your chores and also you don’t want to be using the leash for correction at all. Taking that into account the purpose is just for the dog to follow you around for a while and get used to you doing normal stuff! Stopping when you stop, going when you go. Don’t pay a whole heap of attention to the dog, you might make him nervous, you can praise him gently when he does something you like and label the behavior when he is doing it. “Stand still”, “This way”, “Stop”, “Let’s Go”, “Where’s Timmy?” whatever you think is useful for the rest of his life. If he sits, say “sit”, wait a second, then praise “good boy”, if he lies down, say “down”, wait a second, then praise, “good boy”.   Be consistent. Don’t be telling him “sit” when he is standing, or “down” when he is jumping on you! You get the picture?

Practicing calmness – time to add labels to the behavior.

This protocol is not for ever, but it can be. If you get used to it and your dog becomes accustomed to a nice clear structure, rituals and routines you may find you prefer to continue for a while.

Set him up for success.

Maybe your new rescued dog is the one in a million who is happy go lucky and just fits in straight away? The perfect dog from day one?

Here is the thing, it is so much easier for you, less stress, less conflict, more joy to do this protocol and coach the habits and behaviors you want now than it is to come back and try and correct stuff later, so why not make it easy for him and set him up for success rather than failure.

Remember this is my work as well as my passion. It is what I get paid for, trust me on this!

Remember also that the goal is a happy, healthy, relaxed dog with whom you can build a long term loving relationship. Don’t rush it.

This is a gentle, caring, loving introduction to your home and family. You can continue for as long as you feel it takes your dog to settle in to your home. My recommendation is for at least three weeks, most dogs will come out of their shell in three weeks, you will find the dog settles into the routine and so will you. You will know the dogs tendencies and sensitivities, what needs work and what you are happy with.

However there is no harm in continuing for a longer period!

You are taking care of all the dogs essential needs, he is starting to feel secure in his home. He has a special safe place, can start to predict certain things, walks and playtime the same time every day, regular nutritious meals, a loving affectionate parent who is not stressed or unpredictably angry for inexplicable reasons. He is not overwhelmed, he can learn and adapt at his own pace. Trust grows.

I have had dogs who take six months or more to settle in, or who have attitudes that need adjusting and who need to be kept safe while the training and rehabilitation is in process.

PS. I have seen a protocol called a “two week shutdown” several websites promote. Some rescues insist on it for all adopters. There seems to be some debate over it’s worth. Some people swear by it, some people swear at it.

I don’t see the benefit in any form of isolation, the feeling of abandonment and separation from the pack is probably in my view one of the most painful and emotionally punishing ways to distress a dog, a pack animal.

Do not isolate the dog in the back yard, or the laundry room, or the spare bedroom either. Spend loving time growing your new dog to be the best he can be.

Using “dominance” to explain dog behavior causes more problems than it resolves.

Jumping up can be affectionate, even actively submissive behavior.

“The blanket assumption that every dog is motivated by some innate desire to control people and other dogs is frankly ridiculous. It hugely underestimates the complex communicative and learning abilities of dogs.”

Science debunked this myth years ago but pop psych, ego driven and unqualified tv personalities continue to pander to their own insecurities by insisting that “might is right”.

Don’t believe it!

Here is an excerpt from a research paper three years ago.

Press release issued 21 May 2009

Paper in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior:

Clinical Applications and Research

Study shows how the behaviour of dogs has been misunderstood for generations: in fact using misplaced ideas about dog behaviour and training is likely to cause rather than cure unwanted behaviour.  The findings challenge many of the dominance related interpretations of behaviour and training techniques suggested by some TV dog trainers.

Contrary to popular belief, aggressive dogs are NOT trying to assert their dominance over their canine or human “pack”, according to research published by academics at the University of Bristol’s Department of Clinical Veterinary Sciences in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research.

The researchers spent six months studying dogs freely interacting at a Dogs Trust rehoming centre, and reanalysing data from studies of feral dogs, before concluding that individual relationships between dogs are learnt through experience rather than motivated by a desire to assert “dominance”.

The paper “Dominance in domestic dogs – useful construct or bad habit?” reveals that dogs are not motivated by maintaining their place in the pecking order of their pack, as many well-known dog trainers preach.

Far from being helpful, the academics say, training approaches aimed at “dominance reduction” vary from being worthless in treatment to being actually dangerous and likely to make behaviours worse.

Instructing owners to eat before their dog or go through doors first will not influence the dog’s overall perception of the relationship – merely teach them what to expect in these specific situations.  Much worse, techniques such as pinning the dog to the floor, grabbing jowls, or blasting hooters at dogs will make dogs anxious, often about their owner, and potentially lead to an escalation of aggression.

Dr Rachel Casey, Senior Lecturer in Companion Animal Behaviour and Welfare at Bristol University, said:  “The blanket assumption that every dog is motivated by some innate desire to control people and other dogs is frankly ridiculous.  It hugely underestimates the complex communicative and learning abilities of dogs. It also leads to the use of coercive training techniques, which compromise welfare, and actually cause problem behaviours.

“In our referral clinic we very often see dogs which have learnt to show aggression to avoid anticipated punishment. Owners are often horrified when we explain that their dog is terrified of them, and is showing aggression because of the techniques they have used – but its not their fault when they have been advised to do so, for example by unqualified ‘behaviourists’ recommending such techniques.”

At Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, rehoming centre staff see the results of misguided dog training all the time.  Veterinary Director Chris Laurence MBE, added: “We can tell when a dog comes in to us which has been subjected to the ‘dominance reduction technique’ so beloved of TV dog trainers.  They can be very fearful, which can lead to aggression towards people.

“Sadly, many techniques used to teach a dog that his owner is leader of the pack is counter-productive; you won’t get a better behaved dog, but you will either end up with a dog so fearful it has suppressed all its natural behaviours and will just do nothing, or one so aggressive it’s dangerous to be around.”

Barking Mad

Dogs Bark! – Latest News!

Most dogs bark. Toto talks. His growling and barking is awesome. He mimics voice tone, emphasis and pace to perfection. He repeats your words back to you. In dog. People tell me he growled at them, they dont believe when I tell them he was just having a conversation with them. Until I do it again!

Dogs bark when they are happy!

They bark when they are sad!

They bark when they are angry!

They bark when they are mad!

Dogs bark when they are bored!

They sometimes bark when your team scores!

They bark when they are excited!

They bark when they are glad!

They bark to say Hi!

They sometimes even bark to say bye!


“My new dog is a female, two and a half year old Scottish terrier which weighs 18 pounds and is fed raw, I’ve had dogs all my life. This dog barks when it is on leash and it sees another dog”. Posted to an aggression list …

Madam, it’s a dog!

Not a Beanie Baby!

It’s a Scottie, for heavens sake!

They are supposed to bark, we bred them to bark!

It comes with the terriertory!



All joking aside, I think this might come under the heading “Realistic Expectations?”

We have in the past selected some breeds for particular behaviors. Labradors and Goldens are Retrievers. So playing fetch is probably going to be an easy lesson.

German Short Hair Pointers point, so a “stand-stay” is probably going to be a simple connection and you don’t have to work hard to get them to run around.

You can train a Scottie to bark less. It can be done but it is going to take a bit longer than to train a Labrador Retriever to achieve the same standard. See my response to the next email for a more detailed explanation.

The process is identical but overcoming genetic traits is always going to make the process longer and the results probably, but not always, more prone to regression.

Just Saying!

Rescued Beagle barking a lot!

I came across you website and was hoping you might be able to offer some advice for a barking beagle problem. I already have one beagle, male, about 4 years old, that I trained from puppy-hood and is a total delight.  A month ago I rescued a field beagle, male, about 1.5 year old.   He  and my other guy get along great, it is wonderful to watch.  

My big issue with the new guy is that he gets overly excited when we go for walks.  He barks a lot at squirrels and other dogs and just can’t seem to help himself even with correction.  He seems to bark out of excitement (he wants to meet and play with the other dogs) as opposed to being afraid or angry.  When he starts barking he gets so caught up in it that it is really hard to get him to pay attention to me and calm down (I have taught him how to sit and look at me and he can do it when we are in the backyard and there are no distractions but not when there are other dogs around). I have tried several different training approaches with minimal success and am thinking that at this point it might be good to get some advice from someone that knows more than I do .  Do you work on barking issues and, if so, what is your suggested approach in this situation (I have heard everything from distraction with food to electronic bark collar and everything in between)? 

Thanks, Susan


Hi Susan,

Thank you for contacting me. That is a very good question and I will use it as an opportunity to discuss barking at some length. It is a frequent topic on my radar.

It is tough to give you specific advice for this particular dog because your interpretation of what is happening might not be entirely accurate, but lets give it a go, try to understand what is going on and see what makes sense to you.

Try to not only select the parts you agree with already. You can only learn if you at least explore the different angles and perspectives and tenaciously debate their merit.

It seems to me that often with rescued dogs their experience is so limited regarding daily life, and neighborhood walks especially, that everything in their new world is quite stimulating.

Some dogs are more sensitive, more aware of environmental stimulation than others, they definitely come right across the bell curve. With rescued dogs our main goal is to try to bring them somewhat into the centre of the bell curve, it is not to deny their past or their genetics but to bring them by gentle coaching to be somewhat “normal” and live with us in gentle harmony.

I will emphasize that the behavior you are describing may have nothing to do with him being a rescued dog. I have worked with registered, papered and rescued dogs. Young, middle aged and older dogs.  Pure breeds, mixed breeds and unimaginable breeds who have been with the same family from eight weeks old or only just arrived and exhibit similar behaviors.

So really he is just being a dog and your concern may be more to do with how other people see the behavior and how they interpret your parenting than with him expressing his personality.

Bearing in mind you have only had him a month it would seem that he is still in the throes of working out what his new life is all about.

Be patient.

Gus in his element, watching, waiting.
Why do Beagles bark?

Excited beagles bark (not just beagles!).

When is a bark not just a bark?

Barking or Vocalization is a natural behavior for dogs. While we humans in our arrogance and our ignorance often think a bark is just a bark the tonality, frequency and duration of the bark have an almost unlimited variety which is definitely not random. Each dog has the innate ability to communicate different meanings at a distance, which means that what you think your dog is saying is probably incorrect.

If you live with a dog for fifteen years you will start to learn some of that dog’s language and if you are attentive and keen to learn you will pick up some of the expressions and give them meaning.

The chances of you being accurate in the translation are relatively slim except in broad general terms because the subtlety of the inflections are lost on most humans. We have developed our own languages to communicate more precisely, however even with this skill we often get the communication as a mixed message, even with people we know well. If you think, for example, how we can change the meaning of a simple phrase from a statement to a question or even sarcasm by having a lilt or rising inflection at the end of the last word you might start to wonder whether dogs have a fluency in barking that most people totally ignore most of the time.

Barking in and of itself is an expression, a communication and often the act of barking repeatedly can be self-rewarding. It feels good to the dog, like a mini orgasmrunners-high. There is a release of endorphins into the blood stream. Whoosh! There goes your little drug high! The challenge with this can be that the dog gets used to the high feeling and needs more stimulation to get the same feeling! (We see this a lot in fence guarding scenarios where the bored dog runs up and down the fence barking at passers-by wearing a groove in the ground).

So the barking gets worse more enthusiastic!

This actually is very useful when out chasing foxes, it is what we bred Beagles for!

Tally Ho!!!!

This is a good moment to point out that in order to get a strong behavior we want to mark it accurately and reward it instantly.

Timing is everything in effective training.

You will clearly see that in this instance the mark (identifying the fox or other dog visually or by smell) and internal reward (rush of blood to the head)  are very close together, fractions of a second between barking and feeling good. The response is autonomic, root-brain stuff, it is in the genes! It happens every single time with no exceptions. Powerful stuff! So this reward structure is very strong and very effective at creating a strong habitual behavior.

Think about drug takers, even though many times the long term consequences are clearly understood intellectually, the reward, the rush, comes so closely after the injection/ingestion/application and is so overwhelmingly feel good that the behavior is very difficult to eradicate. Almost impossible to eradicate in someone else, no matter how much you want it to happen!

Adding punishment after the reward is a complete waste of time. Again when the drug taker comes down from a high they feel like shit bad but they almost inevitably go back and do it again!

Punishing the dog sometimes makes you feel better. :-(

It makes you feel as if you are doing something, people feel frustrated and angry and by lashing out they release that pent up animal-like emotion. Humans are animals too!

Feel better? Feel bad? Feel guilty?

For some people it makes them feel better by diverting their anger and frustration and taking it out on the dog. However it is almost completely ineffective at changing the behavior of the dog. The dog may hesitate, cower, avoid you or bite you, depending on the personality of the dog, (the first three of which unfortunately is rewarding to us, “he knows he did wrong” is something I hear a lot, so we get in the habit of doing it!) but it does nothing to reduce the frequency or intensity of the reaction next time in the dog!

Which is the long term goal!

Be aware of this very human tendency and avoid it at all costs!

In fact the punishment is often so “remote” ( 2 seconds is way too long) from the initial response that the dog has already been rewarded and has no idea why you suddenly got pissed, the only thing that changed was another dog got close.

So the dog then goes from

“Look Ma! Another dog! What Fun! Can we play?”


“Aha! It must be the other dog you are angry at!!”


Oh F**** Oh my goodness, there’s another dog!”


“Now my mom is going to go batshit crazy get upset!”

“Go away all other dogs!”

Bark! Bark! Bark!

“my owner goes crazy when you get close”

“I think she will jerk me, bark at me”

“hit me again, shock me or spray me with Chanel No. 5!”

“Bark! Bark! Bark!”

Not you of course, but you may have seen someone else do this and wondered what is going on!

I don’t think that is quite the result they were looking for when they started this, but what happens is that some people find it does not work real well, get frustrated and so they do it harder, faster, more reactively and more aggressively! 

I recommend most emphatically

that you avoid any type of punishment.

I really think that you can turn a dog quite neurotic by punishing them for being a dog, feeling excited or anxious, you sure don’t want to add to the excitement or add to the anxiety, it is sometimes tough to tell these apart.

I have observed that often the dog does not even seem aware that it is barking, not consciously anyway, it is not deliberate, it is not defying you, it is frequently an automatic reaction and so in this instance the punishment comes “out of the blue” and from the dogs perspective is not connected to the behavior at all.

I see a lot of fall out, unexpected consequences, when people use punishment in scenarios such as this, sometimes where the dog refers the excitement from the stimulus and turns on the owner and responds to aggression with aggression. You see this at the dog park, a lot, where the aggressive owner has the aggressive dog. The other thing to think about is that a dog who is more aggressive brings out aggression in other dogs. Don’t be part of that equation!

Happy family dog went to coercive dog trainer who used prong collars and electronic stimulation collars. Has now bitten three people since his training! None before!

Don’t do it!

You become part of the problem not part of the solution and it is not building a long term relationship that will end well for either of you.

It is a huge breach of trust that can be very difficult to repair.

I think you will find that the behavior will probably fade if you ignore it. If you feel you have to do something you can try a number of things, some of which might seem as if they work simply because time passes and he would have settled down anyway.

I would be tempted to think that he will settle down as he becomes more familiar with the surroundings and your habits and rituals.  He is already starting with an elevated excitement level  being in his new home and all the new stuff that is expected of him. If you stay calm, go about your routine, you may well find that he will become less and less bothered by new stuff.

It is called socialization, becoming comfortable in a social setting, desensitization where we are dealing with stuff that he reacts mildly too, familiarization to stimulus and so on.

The one thing you do want to watch out for is becoming part of the problem, tensing up on the leash when you see another dog, for example. Joining in by barking with your dog as he barks, is another example. You think you are barking at him, he thinks you are barking at the other dog.

You can use positive reinforcement for a strong “look” which you talk about but just did not do enough work on yet. If he will do it in a level one distraction, in the back yard, then build on that with a level two distraction, and 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,  before you ask for the performance in a level 9 distraction scenario. That is called systematic progressive training.  Check out my suggestion for where and how to do that further down the page.

You could label “quiet” when he is being quiet, unfortunately most people bark “quiet” when their dog is barking which does not help at all if they have never trained “quiet”!

Here is what you should do

1. Reduce the anxiety, excitement and distraction.

While we are training perfect behavior, management dictates a temporary reduction in opportunities to practice the behavior we dislike. Walk a different route? Different time of day?


2. Train an alternative behavior.

You can use distance to manage the intensity of the distraction so that you can practice success, mark and reward the success. Success might be defined as your dog seeing another dog in the distance and turning away from the dog and looking at you calmly, holding your eye contact for five seconds working up to a continuous minute or more. Ultimately you are looking for a performance of maybe three minutes attention that allows the other dog to pass by and leave without engaging with your dog. A behavior that is very specific.

Buster practicing steady and continuous eye contact
as a six month old puppy in Foundation Training.
I am not waiting for him to become reactive with other dogs.

As a puppy he was already lunging forward to meet dogs.

Herding dogs, i.e. German Shepherds, Border Collies and Australian Shepherds have a natural tendency which we have selected for
in the breeding for assertive, dominant eye contact
to help them manage animals larger than themselves.
This often makes other dogs uncomfortable.
So we train the eye contact, cued by the first sight of another dog
to head turn and gaze adoringly at us while the other dog passes by.

Yes! This is what I want!

Not vaguely, I hate it when you bark at this, bark at that and bark at the other.

So you might for example work him inside a tennis court or fenced area if that is enough distance that he does not react. You can train him on walks but you might find it hard to avoid getting too close to the stimulus, it requires constant attention to your surroundings at a distance that most people are not used to being aware of.

Then you can mark and reward him when he looks at another dog two hundred yards away and is quiet. Use the 2 second rule.

Only a Fool breaks the Two Second Rule!

If he looks at another dog for two seconds then you attract his attention and divert his attention. Never allow a gaze or stare at another dog to last for longer than two seconds without him turning his head, redirecting his attention, to you. Any longer than two seconds, (do not wait for a reactive moment) and the welling up inside will reach threshold relatively fast and then the emotional content will take over and make it so much harder (sometimes impossible) to get his attention back on you.

You will probably need to work on timing the mark so that you are precise. You can then add a word label, “quiet”, or “look” or “rhubarb”. You see the label does not mean anything to the dog in and of itself, (it does not speak or understand the english language) only what you have attached it to, rightly or wrongly.

The idea is to use familiarization first, preferably without him reaching the threshold at which he starts barking. This distance might be half a mile away. :-)

Manage the environment to set him up for success.  For example I use a local dog park. We don’t go in, or even near, but there is a good chance that if I stand with a dog in the middle of the soccer field next door that I can get a satisfactory performance, then over a period of days I might get a little closer, a little closer and so on. Always marking the behavior I am looking for (your look at me command for example) and ignoring any other. If I get a reaction on day three for example, it is not a dog problem, I just rushed the training. My mistake, snakes and ladders, go back a day and start again.

This is a lot of information so feel free to ask more questions.

Thank you for taking the time and making the effort to work this through with your new boy.

Warm regards,


Buster goes to the dog wash

This was a visit a couple of days ago.

This was a practice visit, he was settled and secured. He is somewhat relaxed, his right elbow is wide so his chest is not tense. Buster was rewarded, then we left. A couple of days later we returned and he was familiar with the environment and relaxed almost immediately.

The goal of this type of exercise is to get Buster used to (conditioned to) being handled, pushed, pulled and squeezed by humans.

This transfers into the home environment relatively simply and when done well Buster will generalize the acceptance of handling, the trust in humans and the different environments, groomers and vets.

To start with we are getting him used to it.

“Getting used to it” is termed “desensitization” in dog training terms.

Not entirely enjoying it, but stable and quiet.

After the desensitization we can work on “counter-conditioning” which means that he is not only tolerating it because it is not such a big deal, but actually welcomes it.

As an aside it is important that you work on the behaviors and reduce the anxiety first, the desensitization, before working on the counter conditioning. If you have not taken care of the anxieties first, trying to counter-condition can make the behaviors worse or block progress entirely!

The extra value in this environment is that any dog who is a bit reactive is being lightly stressed while getting a wash, shampoo and dried, (they would rather be somewhere else) so you get to learn something about your rescued dog in this environment. I will often bring the dog in shortly after arriving from the shelter as part of their behavioral and personality evaluation.

During this workout session I make sure that I touch Buster anywhere and everywhere, in particular his legs and feet, also his mouth, tongue, lips, ears, armpits, groin, tail and butt.

Each time I raise his paws individually I will restrain him for a few seconds and then release, putting my finger between his toes and in the palm. This is useful later to search for burrs or foxtails and also when he needs a blood draw. This is often a sensitive area. For many dogs this is quite threatening as a dog who has his paws damaged is at a real disadvantage in a prey/predator survival situation.

So I am careful to mark each moment of relaxed compliance with the clicker and a treat and do many repetitions with no negative consequences from the dog’s perspective. Soon when I take his paw he lets it go slack immediately and looks up in anticipation. We are making good progress!


My role is to evaluate the dogs performance under stress so that I can see what aspects need work. Do not try this at home with a newly rescued dog, the dog will already be stressed from all the changes.

To place them in this stressful environment early in the adoption and poke and prod them can be quite unsettling for a dog who has no experience.

(The first visit to the vet when they stick a thermometer where the sun doesn’t shine always seems silly to me. Hey, not on a first date!)

So you can see behaviors exhibited here that are unusual for the dog in normal circumstances when he has settled into your home.

For a Labrador or a Golden Retriever, often the water side of the equation is a minor surprise and no more than a minor irritation, some of them actually enjoy it! Although I think more frequently I see a dog that will dive into Lake Tahoe in February without a second thought when chasing a stick somehow turns into a quivering wreck when confronted with a warm bath!

For some dogs, with a few notable exceptions, I would generalise Border Collies and Aussies among them, it can seem as if you are a monster intent on killing them.

Have you ever seen anything more pitiful than Ellie in the bath?

Would you want to do a personality evaluation on this dog?
Check out what she really looks like in the next photo!

Personality and Behavioral Evaluations
are environmentally influenced!
Behavioral Evaluations in the Shelter environment
are not worth the paper they are printed on!