Sarah Wilson

Dog Expert

Dog Training Tip: You Have No Choice What Your Dog Needs


dog training tips from PipPip was an exhausting puppy. Smart, pushy, suspicious, and covetous, she required levels of consistency and persistence I did not want to give. I am, as a professional dog trainer, well familiar with both, but she needed it 24/7/365. I did not get a moment off, and those around me at the time will remember me kvetching about it. But here’s the truth of the matter and a dog training tip she drove home: We don’t get a choice about what our dog needs, our only choice is whether or not we do it.

She needed relentless clarity and constant guidance for the first year plus. Your dog may need more exercise than you planned, more supervision than you enjoy doing, more time than you easily have.

Oh well.

We can either deliver it or live with the dog that not doing what they need produces. So I put my nose to the training grindstone; every word I issued to her was a promise between us: every “Sit,” every “Down,” every “Come.” A promise that I meant the same thing this time as last time and the next time, too.

Repetition of command was a failure for her; a crack in the wall that she was more than ready to take as truth. She drove home the “I say it, you do it” simplicity that is not simple. I lived one of my favorite mottoes of “never optional, always pleasant. “ And it paid off. By giving her what she needed, I got what I wanted: a responsive, connected, calm companion. And that was well worth every bit of my effort, and I can say with great confidence it will be worth every bit of yours.

What does your dog need that you did not plan on having to do or give?

Like these blogs? Check out my books: How to Train Your Dog to ComeMy Smart PuppyChildproofing Your Dog


  1. LOVE this blog post!

    Button and I are taking it to heart as she is a non-stop, 24/7 kind of puppy. She is doing fabulously though, and gaining some mental maturity (some= seconds or minutes), and I am seeing glimpses of the fabulous dog to come 🙂

    Do I want to take a break from training? Yes I do.
    Can I? Nope. Her needs trump my wants 😉

  2. Love this blog too! Dooley was(is) a lesson in helping him learn that to get what he wants, he needs to go through me instead of doing his own independent problem solving. We work together, and we share in the fun. 🙂

  3. Excellent blog! It should be required reading for all new puppy owners.

    “Her needs trump my wants .”
    Well said, Shirley. That’s it in a nutshell.

  4. I’ve always said that anyone considering becoming a parent should first take on an infant pet so they can at least have some idea of how demanding parenting can be. It sounds silly but a properly trained pet always indicates the level of parenting the animal had received growing up and if you think a dog, for example, is demanding then try raising a human child properly!

  5. I never knew how hard having a fearful dog was. And OHMYGOODNESS the exercise levels she needed were insane.

    So, I became a better person so she could exist in this world, and a healthier person so I could keep up with her.

  6. I feel so lucky to have had Maia for 9+ years… I remember you asking for volunteers in puppy class many moons ago… and saying, “Anyone but Maia?! – She’s like the kid who sits at the front of the class raising her hand for every question the teacher asks… Oooo, pick me!” Ugh… And she really was.
    That said, she has her quirks, and so do I, but I have never had a better dog, and oh, I loved Munchkin and Jesse. This girl and I are in sync, and she is so easy to live with! Smart & sweet as cherry pie… but not without a stripe of spunk, thankfully… So we still work on stuff, like distractions…
    But, I have never seen, and likely never will, a dog that drops bacon on command, or many of the other great things about her…
    Some suggest I should ease up now that she’s getting older (not ready to acknowledge that), but she loves the attention, routine and stimulation that comes from working together… So we continue…
    This was quite long… Sorry about that… I enjoy reading your posts, Sarah. Thanks!

  7. ‘Every word I issued to her was a promise between us…”
    Truer words were never spoken. The importance of following through so life is predictable for a dog whose life at times feels filled with uncertainty.
    I’ve just begun to stop wishing that Karma were a different kind of dog and instead have started to appreciate her for what she does every day. As hard as I work to help her become a well adjusted pup, she has to work twice as hard. It’s got to be incredibly scary and unpredictable to live in a body 24/7 where you just can’t manage your arousal level on your own. And she’s getting there!
    Every time she comes towards me with tail wagging, willing to try an exercise or game again – well you just have to admire that in a dog.

  8. Love these truths. Kenny is a great dog because you taught us how to bring it out in him. Thank you Sarah!

  9. Love this blog! I don’t always live up to it, but when I don’t – I know the resulting behavior is MY fault, not Holly’s.

  10. Thanks for this tip, you have been helpful 🙂

  11. This is a great article. I remember the puppy days as mine was in what I call “a constant state of movement” at 6 months old. Maggie Mae just recently turned 13 years old and it is very different caring for her changing needs.


    • Thanks, Janeane. Congrats on Maggie Mae’s 13th birthday. So glad you have her and you are so right, aging dogs suddenly need as much care as pups. Happily done at both ends of their life but a shift, for sure.

  12. I just read some of this to my family. Dear husband told Maggie to sit, and she downed. He said “close enough” and I said,nope. Down is not sit. Then I saw this blog – perfect timing!

  13. 8 years in, and Voodoo still requires a level of management I never believed I was capable of. My boy will need containment/leashed forever outdoors, unless I’m 100% focused on him. The moment I’m not? He’s not.

    Love this post.

  14. Love this post! This describes my dog perfectly!

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