Wednesday March 3rd

Do you love your dog? Have you ever found yourself wondering: ‘is my dog happy?’. If you have, that’s a sign you’re a good dog owner, no a GREAT dog companion!

Let me make it clear that this is a judgement-free zone.   We all love our dogs, but that doesn’t mean they don’t drive us crazy sometimes! Whether it’s because they won’t stop barking, jumping up one people, or doing their business right after they come back in from outside, unwanted behaviors can be stressful and tiresome for owners. Believe me – having lived in a house with many (and I mean many rescue dogs), there’s been several times where I’ve thought to myself: OMG  ‘You have got to be kidding me!’

As frustrating as these moments can be, we first have to ask ourselves: ‘Why? Why is my dog acting this way? What is he getting out of this? Is he wanting more of something, or is he trying to avoid something completely? Is he upset, scared or just happy to see me? When you feel these questions taking over, the best thing you can do is take a deep breath and remember this one simple thing: Dogs Do What Works. They are true economists in this way, never wasting their time or behavior calories on things that have no purpose to them. They simply do what works.

So what do we do when our dogs’ behavior is driving us up the wall? As adults, we should know by now that every relationship needs compromise to work – and believe it or not, this includes your relationship with your dog too! If your dog is doing something that works for him, how can we also make it work for you? What would that even look like?

Let’s say your dog is always jumping up on you. Remember how I said dogs do what works? Though it may not seem like it, jumping up on you is actually serving a purpose for them. For most dogs, it’s a greeting ritual – they greet another by getting face to face and up close and personal. Since we’re much taller than our dogs, the only way for them to greet us in this species-specific way is to jump up to get closer to our faces. Affectionate? Absolutely! But not necessarily pleasant for us.

So, what three steps can you take to have a Happier Dog and a Happier You in this scenario?

  1. Realize this is normal dog behavior. He’s jumping up because he’s excited to see you! In other words – he’s happy! And who here doesn’t want someone to be that excited to see us?
  1. Remember that you count too. For any relationship to work, it has to work for all parties involved – that means canine and human!
  1. Come to a compromise. What if your dog still gets to greet you this way, but instead of jumping up on you, you meet them halfway? How about making him sit first, and only after doing so, lean down and let him get close to your face? The rules of the game are simple – if at any point he breaks his sit, you remove your face.

What if we made this even better? What if the cue for your dog to sit was your approach? Imagine it now – your dog automatically sits every time you return home or enter a room. Voila! Everyone’s happy. And isn’t that what great relationships are all about? Both parties getting their needs met?

(As a quick note: I never recommend close face-to-face greetings with dogs you don’t know very well – only those you have a long history with).

Here’s another example. Let’s say you live in a cold climate and your dog is a small Italian Greyhound. These beautiful dogs are notorious for having thin frames, low body fat and fine fur. They’re also notorious for being very difficult to potty train. See where I’m going with this? Cold weather can be really hard on these dogs, and they often don’t want to go outside. Though you understand this, your perspective is still that you’re sick and tired of cleaning up pee and poop from your floors every day.

Again, you and your dog are at a standstill. He doesn’t want to go outside in the cold, but you’re tired of being the resident pooper scooper! So how do we make this work? I’ll be honest – it’s a tough one – but there’s still plenty we can do to reach a compromise. After all, relationships are like that sometimes!

How can we make the cold weather more comfortable for your dog?

  • Consider buying them a warm sweater and some booties.
  • Is there a covered area you could take them to?
  • How about putting a large plastic bag on the ground to protect their paws from the frost?
  • You could even hold an umbrella over their head if it’s snowing and wait for them to do their business.

However you choose to go about it, the second they’re done, you can pick them up and bring them back into the cozy house. Maybe even tuck them under a pile of blankets to reward them for their good behavior. That’s what they wanted after all – to be inside where it’s warm!

By reaching a compromise, your home is now one step closer to becoming pee-free and your furry friend is toasty warm inside where they always wanted to be.

Remember, behavior always serves a purpose, and dogs do what works. In a world where everyone has an opinion on how to train dogs, I am a staunch advocate for training solutions backed by science and research, and using only positive reinforcement instead of punishment to guide your dog towards more desirable behaviors.

I’ve put together an acronym for you to really drive this point home. So, the next time your dog is driving you crazy, don’t get stressed, get W.I.S.E.R.

WHAT – What is it that your dog wants or is trying to avoid?

INSTEAD – Ask yourself, what would you like them to do instead?

SOLUTION – Look for a solution that works for both you and your dog (don’t be afraid to get creative).

EVERYBODY WINS – Allow your dog to be a normal dog but in a way that suits you.

RELATIONSHIP – Maintain your best ever human-dog relationship!

If you would  like to discuss your dogs’ behavior in more detail, please reach out to me directly at – I’d love to help!

Kathleen McClure has worked in dog rescue for 15 years. She has lived with more dogs in her home at any one time than most people will in their entire lifetime. Dog welfare is a cause that’s very close to her heart.  She is a graduate of the prestigious Academy for Dog Trainers  and Free Certified® Dog Trainer and  with a BA in Psychology.  Her life purpose is to create empathy for the positions we put dogs in and work together to create your best ever human-dog bond and relationship.

Kathleen McClure is a Certified Trainer and Counselor and  Fear Free Trainer.  She lives with her husband and the large menagerie of foster and rescue dogs and cats.