Sarah Wilson

Dog Expert

Home

Dog training for dog loversThis website exists for you; to answer your questions and provide you the very best experienced-based advice on caring for, training and living with your dog.

My credentials include earning a masters degree in the human-animal bond, appearing on PBSABC and CBS, being quoted in OParadePreventionForbes, CNNBoston Globe and having nine  books published that have sold hundreds of thousands of copies and been translated into several languages. (Read more on my wikipedia page.)

Dogs have been my profession for over 25 years.  I have cared for, and taught thousands of dogs from tiny toy breed pups to massive giant breed dogs. I’ve gotten up in the night to reassure young pups, been embarrassed/frustrated by a dog’s behavior (then developed ways to easily change it), helped them to enter this world and held them, weeping, as they left it. I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t, what helps and what might harm.

You get it all! I also write blogs helping you select the right dog beds, crates, carrierstoys, and treats.

Supporting you and your dog is my delight. Enjoy!

If you like my blogs, you’ll love my e-mails and these books: How to Train Your Dog to ComeMy Smart PuppyChildproofing Your DogDogologyTails from the Barkside.
Google+

58 Comments

  1. I love your My Smart Puppy training games. Will we see an app in the future that would allow me to reference these training games while I’m out at the park training my pup? Descriptions and videos of the training games in an easily accessible app would be awesome. I’d be willing to pay as much for the app as I did for the book! Maybe even more ;-)

  2. Hi Sarah,

    My girlfriend suggested you so here goes. I took home, well, yes, bought a dog for my daughter. I took her because I was in the store for something else and she was much older (7 months) and the guy said he would give me a really cheap deal. I am a sucker, she was a cute cairn terrier from Kansas, hence her name is Ruby. No one wanted her and she did not look happy. Anyway, fast forward one year, dog boot camp (3 weeks), the LI Dog Whisperer (who stopped taking my calls and replying to me after I paid him and his initial visit, many rugs and tons of carpet cleaner. Ruby is now an integral part of our family. Has adjusted in every way but one. SHE WILL NOT HOUSEBREAK. Help. I am at the part where I must adopt her out, don’t want to but I can’t do this to her or me anymore. I keep giving her more and more chances, less and less freedom, I feel so badly. My husband died and I wanted to give my daughter something to ease the pain, I CAN’T DO THIS TO HER TOO. Please help, I will do anything to keep our family together.

    Meredith

    • Hi Meredith –

      I’m e-mailing you a few more questions so I know where we are and where to start.

      Hang on –

      Sarah

    • Breathe Meredith❤ We’ve all been there at one point or another❤ Bringing a dog into your family is such a special addition! However, just like children, it won’t always be easy – but it is worth it! Please believe me when I tell you that Ruby isn’t being mean or trying to hurt or frustrate you.

      The best thing you have done is to reach out to Sarah! Your post is a week or so old, so
      I am praying that you and Sarah already have a plan in place to show you how to help Ruby (or you’re already having success!?) Maybe there is a medical issue behind this and a trip to your vet couldn’t hurt. Ruby has no one else in the world to help her-please don’t give up, or worse, teach your children that it is OK to give up on family.

      Learning how to teach your dog yourself is so rewarding. To have her look to you for the stimulation of learning new things and having your dog feel loved, instead of tolerated is something necessary for any animal brought into a human family.

      Please always remember that Ruby (or any animal) isn’t a child and most likely won’t have other animals around your home to model behavior from. However, just like your own child, they deserve your patience, care, support and love

  3. Great pic and love the site!

  4. Sarah, I keep sharing your articles because they’re insightful and sensible — which are important components in dog/puppy/people training! Love this site!

  5. Dear Sarah, I just recently found this page and I have a question for you. We have a 1 1/2 year old male Sheltie, we have had him since he was 8 weeks old- he refuses to use the bathroom in our own yard, we have tried everything and he just won’t do it. He has no problem using our neighbors yard and that’s not a good thing! Do you have any imput or suggestions for us? Thank you

  6. Hey Sarah,

    Terrific site! I will send everybody I know here. You always give excellent and very helpful advice.

  7. Sarah, Thank you for your advice through your forum and books. With your help, my Bouvier Rider and mutt Jazz are well behaved puppers. When ever I meet people with new dogs in their family, I recommend your books.

    • Thank you, Mark. Your words (and actions) mean a great deal and help a great deal. Pats to Rider and Jazz, for me. Ever since my Kesl, Bouv, I have a major soft spot for those dirty beards. And mutts, well, Pip is Pip. :D

  8. Thank you for your advice through books.

  9. Thank you Sarah for the joy and seriousness you bring to you vocation! I wouldn’t hesitate to put my precious ones in your care.

  10. Can you write something on managing sibling training (other than to rehome one), if you have experience with that? I need specific suggestions on how to work with them (totally separate them so they focus on me, dealing with resultant separation anxiety, etc.) or what you would do if different? I can never achieve calm, because they immediately want to interact if both released from confinement. I cease to exist. They are 20 mos. old Cockers.

  11. Long time no-see Sarah! I have talked about you often and am searching out good materials for a friend of mine to read. I love your site. I hope all is well with you and keep up the fantastic work.

  12. Thanks for your response. I’ll give it a try! Any other suggestions on dealing with siblings are appreciated as well!

  13. HI Sarah…
    I just posted to my blog expounding on another aspect of these ridiculous leashes. As part of my post, I linked to your blog for further info. Please let me know if this is okay with you and if not, I’ll lose the link. You can read my post here:

    http://halinphilly.blogspot.com/2014/01/pet-peeve-4-there-oughta-be-leash-law.html

    Thank you… Hal

    • Hi Hal –

      You are so nice to ask. My answer? Go, Hal, Go! I’m in full support and delighted to aid in your efforts.

      (Oh and when you post about being jailed for having your dog off leash, nudge me. I want to read that saga!)

      Again, I appreciate your ethics in checking.

      Best –

      Sarah

  14. Hello,

    I am torn with a decision to take my dog back from my Father. She is a 1 1/2 year old Cavapoo that went to stay with my father in another state for two and a half months. Her lifestyle at my Fathers home is very different (less structured) compared to our home and I fear that she will not be happy and will not adjust well if she returns. Help!

    • Hi Courteney –

      The good news is dog’s adjust extremely well, so no worries. When dogs visit me, my home is generally more structured than they are used to but they adjust and are very happy while here. When the time comes, I can help her (and you) make the transition.

      You are clearly a good dog momma to ask.

  15. Hi Sarah, i’m hoping you have some tips that will help me! We recently purchased a house on an acreage and with our new house & acreage came Jovi ( a 5 year old female black lab). The previous owners moved to a city & didn’t think it would be fare to take her, so they left her with us. She is a wonderful dog, listens, stays home, loves the kids… But she poops everywhere!!!!! All over the lawn, on the walkway, on the gravel in front of the doors. I just don’t understand why they would have trained her to poop in the bush. She could do it any where, she has 13 acres to choose from and she chooses to do it all around the house :( How do we train her not poop by the house??? Please Help!

    • Hi Kim – how nice of you to take in this lucky Lab. :)

      Labs being well, Labs, I would take her away from the house and toss a treat or two in the general area (not the exact potty zone) that you want her to end up in. Let her find them.

      Do that for a few days. Then put a treat out away from the house before you let her out. Go to the area and let her find it.

      Then start hanging back. Then start randomly leaving out a treat. She should start heading out in that direction on her own “just to double check”. That is the best way I know to get her independently going away from the house to potty. Take a little time but is simple and is easy (two lovely things).

  16. It’s been 23 years so I doubt you’d remember me. I attended your puppy class with my Scottie taboo. I was starting a company making things for dog lovers. But that’s not why I’m writing. I have wonderful neighbors in the city with a new maltes. 3 kids the oldest 12 and parents that have never had a dog. Who do you recommend in the city that would be as close to you as possible to help in training etc? Check out the site. We could barter

    • Hi Lisa – 23 years ago? That would have been at the training center on the Westside, yes? Was Taboo a brindley pup when young? If yes, then I remember him (and I tend to remember the dogs more clearly – kinda of a professional hazard of this work).

      Anyway – I live in St Louis, MO now. But a dear friend of mine, whom I trained as a trainer, does a lot of puppy work in NYC: Noelle Fischer: http://smilingdogstraining.com I’d try her.

      Thanks so much to your note. Love hearing from past clients. How long did you have Taboo’s company?

      Sarah

  17. How do I get my male Lab/Great Pyrenees mix puppy to stop jumping on people?

  18. Is it possible to loose the trust of your dog just by letting a stranger approach??? George has always been scared of strangers but we had made great strides in the last year. Unfortunately last week a friend of the wifes approached him while I was closing the gate & he wet himself which has not happened for ages. Since then he has reverted back to his old self going mental at strangers as they pass the house & snapping at me if I try & interveen. On his walks he just sits down & refuses to go at times which I thought we had got past a long time ago. It seems all our good work has gone & I’m back to square one :(

    • Hi Joe –

      You can’t quite be back to square one but it sure can feel like that. He should progress faster this time since you both have walked that road together already.

      What have your tried so far? What do you walk him on (collar, head halter, harness)? What does he know and respond to when all is calm?

      • Basically I have walked him on his collar in the early hours when there was no one about but slowly went out later & laterwith more people & dogs around. I did buy a harness but he wouldn’t let me put it on. When all is quiet he will sit, stay & come to me but that all goes out the window if there are any distractions. The problem I have now is that we are getting to the summer season & we will be flooded with tourists so it will be a nightmare to get him out :( in the winter I had him out on the beach & he loved racing up & down & even made a friend with a local dog but that is not possible now as he refuses to walk down the road to the beach :(

  19. We spoke on phone last summer. I need more help with my Cody and seems I’ve lost your number. Could you please contact me?

  20. Hi Sarah,
    I hope you can give me some advice. I’ve got a 4 year old female mutt (plott hound mix) and an 8 month old female lab. Now that winter is over, we are out all together more. Dogs that my 4 year old mutt used to LOVE have now become a target for her aggression. It’s almost like she is protecting the puppy? This dog has not history of aggression toward other dogs. The first time I heard her growl at another dog was a relatives untrained male (who outweighs her by about 20lbs wouldn’t stop jumping on her. We were all shocked that she did it, but he has no ‘dog manners’ and most dogs who meet him wind up snarling at him.

    There are two dogs in my neighborhood that were the 4-year old’s buddies. Now, even when the puppy is inside, she snarls and lunges when she sees them. I havent been able to let her play with either of them since we got the puppy. I don’t understand why this is happening and I’d love some advice as to how to handle it. I don’t want the puppy to pick up this bad habit and I don’t want our sweet mutt to turn into a dog-aggressive animal. She is amazing with people, and loves my children like crazy. I am scared that she may become possessive of the children if she is indeed acting possessive of the puppy.

    The puppy gets more attention than she does right now, we are training her and work with her daily. Would this factor into the older pup’s actions? The 4 year old is also a very nervous dog, she has separation anxiety and is very fearful of cars. She also doesn’t enjoy going for walks much, she usually pulls toward home and whines quite a bit.

    Thank you in advance for any advice and suggestions you may have. I am happy to provide any additions information you may need.

  21. congrats – congrats …

  22. Hi there! Really need some expert advice off you!
    Me and my partner (with 3 children between us: 7,9,12) really want a dog.. Hopefully to stud. We all love dogs, though the 9 year old is scared of big dogs, which we hope will diminish with bonding from pup.
    We have put off ownership as we are responsible people who don’t take dog ownership lightly. We ideally want a breed that lives a long life, that is fairly large, ideally doesn’t shed and is ok with some, but not a lot, of solitude. This dog will be loved and well looked after!! We have thought about a Black Russian terrier? Any thoughts would be appreciated

    • Hi Claire –

      I’m glad to see you’re doing your research!

      Wanting a low-shed breed does limit your selection. Are you all dog experienced? The Black Russian Terrier is a LOT of dog, requiring a great deal of time for both socialization and training. Not a beginner dog.

      If you are looking for a nice family dog of a similar size, look at the Standard Poodle. Both breeds are active but the standard generally has less tiger-in-the-tank than a Black Russian.

      Studding a dog is a different matter. Anyone breeding responsibly will only breed to male dogs with show or performance titles with all health clearances from known lines. Getting those things in place is time-consuming and expensive, if it is possible at all. Breeding can, as one can imagine, change the focus on male dogs quite a lot. If you want a companion for your children, neuter your dog. Good luck!

  23. Sarah, I just stumbled upon your website and it is awesome! I have a few questions and was wondering if you wouldn’t mind giving me your expert advice. I am a Police K9 handler and have been for a few years now. I recently brought home a new working dog that needs to learn how to attack on command and chase suspects as well as substance detection. She has an extremely high prey drive which is wonderful for this type of work..however…I have 3 other dogs that are pets. When they play or run she chases and attacks them, I correct this behavior but I am afraid of stifling her prey drive and preventing her from being toy obsessive like I need. How can I encourage the need to chase and bite but exclude certain things? I need her to chase, bite, and obsess but only when I want her to…any suggestions?

    • Hi Julie –

      Congrats on your new partner!

      Suggestions? Absolutely! Short answer? She is not a pet. She does not play with pets. For many reasons but the most important is that you are the sun and the moon in her life. You play with her and your play builds her mental focus and compliance. You do not want her developing other hobbies like…random dog assault. Which is, by the way, a TON of fun for her. You don’t want her developing any habit her finds FUN that does not directly involve you.

      As you already know, “correcting her” isn’t working and can cause other issues, as you state. So, your pets hang out together and she hangs out with you. That’s your world. That’s her world. And your 3 beloved home buddies would thank you, too. Hope that helps. Sarah

  24. Hi Sarah, Love your work and sharing!

    We adopted our 1st dog in 20 years so it’s like we’re brand new all over again. She’s a 3-yr-old Lab-German Shorthair Pointer who was a stray and then sat in the shelter for months because she “couldn’t” get along with other dogs. Apparently their behaviorist didn’t really spend any time with her. The “couldn’t get along” was because she’d growl and bark like crazy, serious style, when she saw another dog. Turns out that was her excited greeting. She LOVES other dogs and lives for the dog park. But our problem that we haven’t a clue how to fix is that she greeted new people the same way. It’s taken us months to convince her humans don’t like that kind of Greeting. She’s much better now, but there are still occasions when she’ll nip new people in the back of their legs. I’ve seen dogs at the park do the same thing with each other so I know it’s a friendly gesture?, but what does it really mean and how do we get her to stop?

  25. Hi, Sarah

    I’m in desperate need of your help. I’m nine months pregnant with our first child. My husband and I couldn’t be more excited except for one thing. We have a serious dog problem! We’re the proud owners of two dogs. One is nothing but a pleasure but the other not so much. We own a three year old Bull Mastiff/Pit Bull mix that can be very aggressive. (I’m an avid Pit Bull advocate and have been the owner of many wonderful Pitties.)
    Our family is afraid of our dog as he’s tried to bite a few of them. He’s very aggressive with strangers and even children. We rescued him from a neglectful home when he was six months old and on the most part he’s very loving towards my husband and I. Just nobody else. I’m terrified he’ll be aggressive to our baby. Everyone tells us to “get rid of him” but that’s not an option for us. Due to his aggression problems, we don’t know anyone that will take him and know that any shelter we take him to will put him down. We don’t want him to die. We love him. It’s either with us or death. He can’t live outside because we live in Georgia and it’s 100 degrees almost daily. I also don’t believe in having dogs live outside. I don’t know what to do about our dog, Rosco. We can’t afford a professional trainer at this time. Is our only option really putting him to sleep?? Please help.

    • Hi Katrice –

      So sorry you are in the situation with a dog you love so much. You are an experienced dog person so I respect the words “terrified he’ll be aggressive to our baby” a great deal.

      I also note the phrase “for the most part” he’s loving toward you and your husband. I fear that means that you both, as adults,

  26. My daughter and her family is living “in the bush in Nigeria” as missionaries. They have adopted and domesticated two dogs. They live in a hospital compound and can’t allow the dogs to run free to hunt for their food. She is in desperate need of a dog food recipe. They currently create a “mush” with ground corn and dried fish but it isn’t hearty enough to satisfy the dogs’ appetite. One is an 8 month old mix – medium to large size and the other about 3 months old – a German shepherd mix. Obviously the contents for the recipe must be readily available as supplies from the US are shipped 1-3 times a year or hand carried by short term missionaries so she can’t rely on product from the outside. Any suggestions on how she can help feed their much loved dogs?

    • Hi Jolene –

      Are the dog’s ravenous? Or too skinny? Or both?

      My guess is that our first stop is worming. When a pup is overloaded with worms then can be really hungry all the time. Could that be part of the issue?

      No clue how to get wormer over there or what wormer would be appropriate for the parasites that much be endemic.

      Sarah

  27. Not undernourished and they have dealt with the parasites. I believe she is hoping for a nourishing and easy dog food recipe since she is unable to purchase dog food. This is from her note. “we had to take corn, ground nut (small peanut) and dried fish to a grinder to grind it into a powder. Then about every 3 days we take a big pot and cook this powder with water then we cube and cut up yam and add to it until it makes an oatmeal like chunky mush. It’s really disgusting and smells. It swells up sometime and comes out of the container and all over my fridge. When feeding the dogs the kids normally gag as they take the food out to them. Lately this mush still seems to leave the dogs hungry so I have been trying different variations. No matter what I try it isn’t easy and every few days we are making dog food again and again and again. I would love to find something more hearty as our bush dog Bingo still tries to escape our yard daily to find food.”

    • Hmmm… don’t know what the options are but that sounds pretty good. I am assuming protein is at a premium.

      What sort of “fish powder”? The entire fish?

      What sort of fats does she have access to? Oils or butters? Any dairy?

      I’m not a vet diet expert by any stretch but if these were my guys, I’d be trying to figure out a small amount of fat and the right protein combo/level.

      Is yam common?

      At the very least, I would think the fish powder could be added to each meal and stirred in last. That would fix the stink of it in the fridge. Then grind the grains and store them ground. Mix up and cook, as needed.

  28. Hello Sarah,

    I really need some advice regarding two dogs (Bernese) that attacked me at the home of a breeder last weekend, and I’m not sure who to approach with it. Can you help?

    We drove up to the breeders house to look an adopting a puppy. The pups were 5 weeks old, she warned us they may be a bit protective but the pups should be old enough by this stage. We met the mum dog and two other adult dogs with her. They barked at first, but then settled down and were let out – we were petting them and everything was initially fine. However, after a couple of minutes the mum jumped up playfully and I fell back on the ground, and suddenly she just snapped and started biting me – and a second joined in. The breeder could not get them off me for some time, I’ve ended up with a few puncture wounds on my arms, back, and leg. I went to the hospital for treatment. The breeder asked us to tell them it was a random attack to avoid rangers coming up to her house (felt a bit like blackmail, really, whether intentional or not).

    Anyway, my partner and I are still considering a puppy. We met the puppies afterwards and they seemed fine. What I really want to know is, does this sound like a normal occurrence? Can the protectiveness of a mum lead to an attack this vicious? Should we be concerned with the genetics of the pups, or the environment she is raising her dogs in? The breed itself is not generally considered an aggressive breed in the least.

    I’d appreciate any advice/help.

    Thank you,

    Jennifer

    • Oh, Jennifer, that is HORRIBLE. I’m relieved you will be okay and horrified you were so viciously attacked.

      My thoughts:

      * GET A PUPPY SOMEWHERE ELSE! I would not take a pup from this person if they paid me to do so. Temperament is absolutely genetic.
      * That was NOT “protectiveness” of any sort. You were not near the pups, from what I can tell. And even if the bitch was protective of her pups, such an attack is not a normal or excusable event. (Had a protective-of-baby-pups bitch years ago, she lead a visitor away from her pups by the wrist, leaving not a mark on the woman.)
      * That is WILDLY unacceptable for any dog and esp. for Bernese! From the AKC Standard: Temperament: The temperament is self-confident, alert and good-natured, never sharp or shy. The Bernese Mountain Dog should stand steady, though may remain aloof to the attentions of strangers. There is no excuse and I am horrified that the producer (she is no “breeder”) advised you to lie. Maybe others have lied before you for the same reason. No idea. But those dogs are dangerous and they will hurt others.
      * Go back and amend the bite report.
      * Get ALL medical bills covered by her.

      You did NOTHING wrong. You were viciously attacked.

      A good Berner is a wonderful companion. You deserve a wonderful companion.

      Sarah

  29. I have a mother dog and her two pups a boy and a girl they are both 6-7 weeks and I’d really like to keep both of them but I can only keep one. I just wanted 2 know if I sell one in the next week or so will there be a negative effect on her and her mom and sibling and if I leave one with the mom will there be a negative effect from losing the other puppy and from them staying together?

    • Hi Skye – Placement into their new home anytime after 7 weeks is normal. I would not do it sooner.

      At this age, they each should be getting individual time with you – away from each other and their Mom – to build their bond to people and their individual confidence in the world. That will help them both.

      Introducing them to a crate, walking on leash, sit, down, coming when call, handling and socialization can all be in full swing!

      Keeping one can be done but you’ll want to work on separation and bonding with you to allow the pup to grow up as a normal, confident adult dog.

      Your risk is more negative effects from staying too long with the Momma and each other than separation, but you’re not at that point yet.

      Hope that is helpful to you – Sarah

      • Sarah I need your help :'(

        my mom suggested I give one of two of my puppies to my dad, my parents are seperated so I go there there every second weekend. I’m scared that if I do have to give her to my dad she’ll be sad because it will be two weeks without seeing her and then another two days with seeing her after me being her former owner. My dad also has a few other dogs and their all grow up. I don’t know if that would be the best for her because obviously I’d love to see her but at the same time I want the best home for her and I don’t know if that is. Please help me.

  30. Hi Sarah
    When im at the point of the pup being too long with the mother how can i help them?

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.