Sarah Wilson

Dog Expert

Understanding Your Dog: It’s Not Personal


English Bulldog puppy looking upIf your dog doesn’t listen to you, it’s not a personal. He’s not questioning your authority or being “defiant”.


He’s not.

I know it can feel like he is but feelings are not facts.

He’s confused.

That’s it.

We see our dog’s actions through our own inner lens.

As one woman told me of her young sweet dog, she was seeking my help because her dog was a “cold, withholding, b*tch.”

But the dog wasn’t. The woman just saw her dog that way because she expected her dog to be that way. She interpreted her dog’s actions through that expectation.

Big difference.

Or, as another woman told me, venomously: I fight with my husband, I fight with my boss, I fight with the kids and now I fight with this *&*$^ dog.

She could not see that she was the common denominator in each of these relationships. To her, it was all random. Just the sort of thing that “always happened to her”. “Everyone” was always fighting with her. She could not see that she was repeating the relationship she expected, over and over again – as painful as it was. And now her goofy, giant breed puppy was on deck for continuing that pattern.

Our dogs are our mirrors, if we know how to look. They are silent, blank screens on to which we can project our expectations.

A puppy chews a shoe.

He’s doing it to get back at me.
He’s lonely.
He’s playful.
He’s angry.
He’s sad.
He’s hungry.
He misses me.

Same dog. Same shoe. Different lenses.

What do I say? He’s a puppy – a puppy who had access to a shoe. 

We always bring ourselves to the party with dogs. Whatever our baggage and beliefs, they enter the room with us.

One of the kindest things you can do when understanding your dog is to see each behavior as a reflection of his current knowledge/ability.

Nothing more; nothing less.

Watch the labels that come up in you for your dog’s behavior, but don’t take those words too seriously. They are rarely accurate or helpful. They are often just echoes of your experience and the stories you tell yourself about that experience.

Take the negative emotion out of the picture and everything becomes easier – for both of you.

If you want to learn more about your relationship with your dog, check out: Dogology: What Your Relationship with Your Dog Reveals about You (KINDLE EDITION)


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