Featuring Jen Larson, KPA-CTP & Whitney Spence
Concept by Courtney Emken

You likely wonder about what your dog is thinking all the time, but have you ever wondered what your dog trainer is thinking (about you or your dog)? We’ve got the answer for you! From our least favorite things clients say about their dogs to misunderstood behaviors and misused terminology. Delve into our dog training minds!


– I’m Jen and this is Whitney and we’re here today to talk to you about what goes on in a trainer’s mind. You probably hear a lot about what your dog is thinking, but today we’re gonna tell you a little bit about what we’re thinking during a training session or consult.

– Jen, what’s one of the least favorite things that your client says about their dogs?

– It makes me sad during a consult, when I hear an owner describe a dog as stubborn. Because usually dogs aren’t stubborn at all, they’re just either lacking the proper motivation to do some things, or maybe the owner’s not using the right reinforcement, or they’re trying to work the dog in an environment where the dog isn’t feeling comfortable. And oftentimes it’s not stubbornness, it’s just a lack of communication, or miscommunication between the dog and the owner. A big part of what I do on consultations, is teach people how to better communicate with their dogs and to understand the signals that their dogs are giving them, so that they can see that the dog isn’t stubborn, they just needed to be communicated with a little bit better.

– What’s a common misconception people have about their dogs?

– Something that I run into pretty often, is when people tell me that their dog is doing some kind of problem behavior because the dog is trying to be dominant. Dominance theory has been debunked countless times by the scientific and behavioral community, and it’s really an inaccurate way to describe dog behavior. When a client usually says something like that to me, I try to explain that the dog is not trying to dominate the person, but they’re just trying to get to whatever it is that they want. A common thing that I see is when people say that their dog is pulling on leash and so they’re trying to dominate them. The dog is just excited about being outside and wants to go where they wanna go. It’s not really an issue of dominance at all.

– How do you feel when someone calls their dog aggressive?

– I think we have to be really careful when we use the label aggression, because it means something pretty serious. It means intent to hurt or kill, which is not accurate for a lot of dogs that are described as being aggressive. Most dogs that I run into that their owners describe them as having aggressive behavior, it’s usually fear related. The dog is afraid of something, or uncomfortable, and so they’re acting out to create some distance between them and the thing that they’re afraid of. A lot of dogs that get described as aggressive, really aren’t at all.

– What’s one of the most common reasons that you see problem behavior?

– One of the most common reasons that I see, is that the dog just isn’t getting what they need. They’re not getting the proper amount of exercise, or enrichment, mental stimulation, and training. Oftentimes the behavioral problems are coming because the dog is bored, or frustrated, or not getting worn out enough during the day. If owners take the responsibility to really give their dogs what they need, problem behavior decreases.

– Is there such thing as a bad dog?

– There is no such thing as a bad dog, only bad situations, bad environments, and bad training.

– What’s your special secret to dog training?

– I would say my secret is just using a really good combination of environmental management, so setting your dog up for success. Preventing or reducing opportunities for your dog to practice problem behavior. And then using a good combination of enrichment and exercise to give them what they need, in combination with behavioral training. Teaching, practicing, and really reinforcing the behaviors that you like and wanna see from your dog.