"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

Puppy and Obedience Training Without Food or Fear

Dog Behaviorist

– Posted in: All Positive AKA Force Free Dog Training, Columns

What do you think about dog psychologists aka dog behaviorist? Me not so much.



If you’re talking about someone that brings the dog into their office, sticks it on the couch and asks it if it hates its mother then me not so much either. However, dogs are intelligent and anyone that has studied dog behaviour in its nuance and variations in breeds and individual dogs might consider themselves as students of dog psychology. Dog psychologist though? A little self-aggrandizing I think.

There are dog trainers that call themselves a “dog behaviorist” and earlier in my career when I thought such a thing would distinguish me from the run of the mill dog trainer I embraced the term. After a while, I thought it was silly and so now I’m just a dog trainer that believes in ethology with a strong emphasis on field observation, and has done a fair amount literature study.

There is a branch of veterinary science now that certifies veterinarians as behaviourists. I believe their intellectual focus is mistakenly inverted when compared to that of a good dog trainer, with much more theoretical and laboratory emphasis rather than field experience. In my experience, they seem to have a poor grasp of the real world of dogs and their owners. I’m sure there are exceptions but when it comes to actually training a wide range of dogs as of yet I haven’t met one that seemed to know the difference between a scientific paper and a pee pad. They seem to think that saying “No” to a dog will ruin it’s self-esteem forever.

I recently learned of a new branch of the pet mental health services and if anything has ever got anyone’s goat, my goat was got. On the truck radio there was a pet psychic. I almost ran into the ditch. If I hadn’t been driving I would have called her to see if she could figure out what I was thinking. Vomit and the word charlatan would have figured prominently.

Outside of the world of fantasy here is what you’ll find good and bad as your advisory options; people that have owned a dog or a few dogs. Their advice is often unsolicited. There are the “ignore bad behaviour – reward good behaviour” ‘All Positive/Force-Free’ trainers – often “certified” – that think they’re training for obedience but are actually not getting things much past the trick level. Then there are balanced dog trainers that excel at obedience – teaching dogs to do practical things as if it were a job instead of a trick.

Then there are trainers that have personally trained a thousand or more dogs. They can consistently help teach a dog to stop doing something harmful to others or itself, or at least reduce the impact of the negative behaviour on the dog and dog owner’s lifestyle, or and to me the mark of a true professional; be honest and say and be able to explain why meaningful change isn’t going to happen.

Over the years, people interested in becoming a dog trainer have approached me. They emphasize how much they love dogs, working with dogs, reading about dogs etc. That doesn’t move me much. Loving dogs is easy. Whatever they end up calling themselves, a good dog trainer must love people. Without that natural ability in the forefront, it won’t matter what they call themselves.

Pawsitively yours,

John Wade

*protected email*

7 Comments… add one

just wanna ask why my 1.5 yo dog sudenly growls at me everytime i pick her up?there were times when i tickled him,he looked at me and growled.im confused.he used to enjoy all of those before.by the way he is my sisters pet.


We live in a first floor apartment and our dog Blue tends to bark and anyone who walks by. However, we just noticed that this only happens when my partner is home. I got Blue a pheromone collar because I thought it would help with her anxiety. I put it on her when my partner was away on a trip and was remarking about how she seems so much calmer. My partner came home and Blue started again barking at every single person that walked by. My partner is definitely the Alpha, so I get that it is probably about protecting her…but I am just not sure what the best method is to reassure our dog that my partner is just fine and doesn’t need THAT much protection.

John "Ask the Dog Guy" Wade

I would start simply and via teaching the dog who’s the teacher and who’s the student. Multiple request requiring the dog to do something for both of you throughout the day. In addition don’t allow looking out the window without supervision. It’s a common thing to do and it causes tons of behaviour problems.



I just moved out of my parents house into an apartment. My papillon has adjusted to most of the apartment living except that he refuses to use the bathroom. He will hold his pee and poop until I take him back to my parents house. I’ve had to bring him there everyday just so he will go to bathroom. Why is he doing this? Is there a way to fix it? Thank you for you help!

John "Ask the Dog Guy" Wade

Hi Marisa,

Dog’s can be a lot like people when it comes to where they are comfortable eliminating. My ex-wife used to tell me the reason she would go camping with me was because if there wasn’t porcelain in the area then it didn’t constitute a bathroom. You can of course break the cycle but it takes some patience and organization. Download my free house training cheat sheet as it’s a great guide.



Why does my 6 yr old neutered male westie keep peeing on my 6 yr old spayed female westie. They have been together for 6 yrs, not related. They had puppies at a yr and had them both fixed right after. This has just started in the last 3 weeks. Nothing has changed in our household

John "Ask the Dog Guy" Wade

Hi Charlene,

No idea. Very odd to start spontaneously. Has either been ill? Have they been fighting more then usual? Treatment by owners any different?


Leave a Comment