Image of man chasing gleeful dog

This Just In: Dogs Act Like Dogs

February 13, 20248 min read

A salty rant from a burned out dog trainer who really loves dogs.


I love my clients. I pick and choose them carefully. If I don't think I'll work well with someone, I don't work with them. I insist on an interview call before I even give people a link to pay for and book my services.

So if any of you read this, I'm probably not talking about you. I'm probably talking about someone I screened out, or heard talking on the street, or saw on facebook. If you identify with it, that's okay - EVERYONE is guilty of this to some degree or another.

Yes. Even me.

Everyone seems to want a dog, and then immediately sets about curing it of being a dog.

Does this happen in any other pet industry?

Do the vast majority of cat owners expect cats to guard their house against burglars? Do the vast majority of horse owners expect their horse sit on strangers' laps? Do the vast majority of fish owners expect their fish to fetch a ball?

Why oh WHY do dog owners expect their dog to be silent when someone walks onto the porch, sit politely in the corner when there are new people to meet, and ignore squirrels when out on walks?

1. Dogs Bark. We Bred Them TO DO THIS.

image of a boy and a wolf dog exploring a cave

 Wolves do not bark. Dogs do. Why?

Because we WANTED THEM TO.

Until the late 20th century, there were no burglar alarms, no porch cams, no password-coded door locks.

Until the late 20th century, we WANTED dogs to tell us if there was someone on our property.

In many countries around the world, dogs STILL serve this function.

But in Canada we've just decided that they shouldn't do it any more. Any woof is too many, and a cause for concern, and needs to be addressed.

Better call a dog trainer!

Or get a cat.

2. Dogs Are Predators/Scavengers.

crazy-eyed puppy

Oh no! Your puppy is biting!

Could it be perhaps that you BROUGHT A TINY PREDATOR INTO YOUR HOME? Predators learn to hunt through play. They pounce on their litter mates, attack mom's tail, and "kill" small balls of fuzz. They strengthen their jaws and their chewing techniques by systematically chewing and destroying various textures.

This is normal healthy puppy development. It is not a cause for concern. All puppies do it. Your puppy WILL OUTGROW THIS. Just don't make a big deal about it, and physically prevent puppy from damaging you or your things.

Read more about how to stop your puppy from biting and chewing up your once-simple life by my wonderful business partner Amelia Kellum!

3. Dogs Belong Outside

street dog in the caribbean

Yes, this sounds like the kind of opinion your racist elderly uncle would spew, but it is TRUE.

With the exception of some toy breeds prized by royalty for thousands of years, the vast majority of dogs lived outside the majority of the time.

World-wide, the vast majority of dogs STILL live outside. 80% of the world's dogs are free-living dogs who have their own nighttime den, a range kilometres wide, and a daily routine consisting of familiar friendly humans and other dogs, many of whom are their own genetic relatives.

Again, until the second half of the 20th century, dogs were only permitted inside human homes when they earned the privilege - when they were well behaved enough to respect human possessions and understood that chewing a rug would result in being sent back to the barn with the other animals.

While I am not advocating for dogs to be thrown outside and chained up, the fact is that most dogs prefer outdoors to indoors, and most dogs would prefer to roam the neighbourhood instead of sleeping indoors all day.

Sure, they aren't legally allowed to do that and cars go so fast now that it is frankly unsafe for them to do that... but it doesn't change the fact that they are genetically built to roam around outdoors, not hang out in condos. So don't be confused or surprised with your dog being crazy on walks and refusing to leave the park. No matter how much outdoor time you try to give your dog, your dog wants MORE.

4. Dogs Are Bred To Behave In Specific Ways

old pencil drawing of bloodhound from a 1800s dog book

I'm not against the current explosion of "designer dogs" because quite frankly, we need some new breeds better suited to the new dog lifestyle. The current breeds are NOT.

People tend to pick breeds the way they pick Fortnite skins - based on looks. But dogs are actually bred to do specific jobs.

But people buy a breed of dog and want dog trainers to stop it from trying to do its genetically-instilled-by-humans job, or they try to DIY the process and end up with a dog who is mentally unbalanced as a result.

Retriever picking up everything in sight? Better call a trainer! Or just make him drop everything until he has anxiety and resource guarding.

Beagle won't stop sniffing on walks and focus? Better call a trainer! Or use a shock collar. Or both!

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel doesn't want to be left alone? Better call a trainer! After a year of work we might get the dog to the four hour mark!

Border Collie won't stop running in circles? Better call a trainer! Or just let her develop an obsessive compulsive disorder like a caged zoo animal.

This Just In:

Dog Trainers Can Do More Than Just De-Dog Your Dog!

Maybe you're wondering if I'm trying to put myself out of a job. I'm not. Especially since I specialize in service dogs, so I pass most un-dogging jobs on to other trainers (sorry, friends).

While the bread-and-butter of many dog trainers consists of helping people whose dogs are acting like dogs, there are many OTHER things dog trainers can do, which we enjoy much more than de-dogging dogs for people.

  • Helping dogs out through trauma from being abused or neglected.

  • Helping dogs overcome their fears and insecurities.

  • Helping dogs develop better social skills.

  • Teaching dogs to put away your laundry.

  • Teaching dogs to read signs or count to three.

  • Teaching dogs how to cross the road safely.

  • Teaching dogs how to find your phone by smell.

  • Teaching dogs how to herd sheep or ducks.

  • Teaching dogs how to sniff out cancer.

Yes, it turns out that while most people expect their dog to NOT act like a dog, they never expect their dog to do the kinds of things that dogs are great at doing! For example, using their nose to help us out, or breaking the ice at parties.

Dogs are so good at this! We love to help them with it.

De-dogging them? Not as fun.

If you don't like dogs the way they are, PLEASE don't get a dog.

Please. I'm begging you. Yes, dogs can be very cute. Yes, your friend's dog is polite and well-mannered and you'd like a dog like THAT.

But it takes a lot of work to teach a dog not to act like a dog. Don't dig, don't bark, don't sniff, don't chase, don't growl, don't socialize, don't be suspicious of strange men who make direct eye contact on nighttime walks... just stop being a dog, will you?

If you aren't willing to spend considerable effort teaching your dog acceptable manners in the presence of humans, and to give your dog ample time and space to go FULL DOG on a regular basis...

Please consider getting a cat.

A nice, quiet, clean cat who likes to play with string and does need to be walked, just played with and fed a good canned cat food.

Or you could take up horse riding! Horses smell like hay and don't bark loudly when they see other horses. They don't rush across the road to greet strange people and they don't USUALLY put their muddy feet on your pants.

Rats are very cute, easy to train, social, and yet quiet. They love to be tickled - they even laugh but our ears can't hear it very well. They NEVER pull people over or steal people's shoes. Plus they only live a couple of years so you won't have to re-home it ten years from now when you move to a place that doesn't accept pets.

Ferrets are good mousers and they do this hilarious thing in the bath where they stick their nose in the bathtub drain and it plugs the tub, and the tub fills up while they sniff the inside of the drain, and then they pull their head out SLURP and the water goes down the drain until the ferret decides they want another look and they do it again...

photo of a pair of doves

Maybe you could consider a pair of doves. My daughter has doves. They are very gentle and easy to care for and their coos are sweet and delightful! Your boss probably wouldn't mind you bringing them to work, even.

Quiet, peaceful, simple-minded doves.

If you like my salty rants, check out the rest of my blog posts

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