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Chauvinistic Dog

I have a 100 pound 23-month-old Bernese Mountain Dog. When on-leash with me he responds to all training skills we learned. With my wife, he tugs, pulls, chews the leash, and does basically whatever he likes. If they meet a neighbour walking their dog(s) he is extremely excited, completely uncontrollable, flips, flops, and pulls to the point where she feels afraid that he will hurt her. How can my wife get this chauvinistic dog to respond to the training that he has had?



Dear J.D.,

I’ve often found in these cases that when the woman is saying, “No!” the dog is hearing, “Maybe!” When the man is saying “No!” the dog is hearing – “Better Listen!” It’s weird but dogs are attracted to the latter.

Women seem to have a heck of a lot more patience with dogs sometimes and a lot of dogs take advantage of it. In situations like yours I’ve never found any need to suggest a dog needs to be loved less but in a lot of these cases, it boils down to convincing the person to start saying “No!” to their dogs less like a grandparent to a grandchild they only get to see once a year and more like to a husband that wants to got to Vegas for the weekend with his ne’er-do-well friends.

In the big picture, women are fantastic dog trainers because their powers of observation are way better then men when it comes to noticing minutiae in behaviour. They generally know there’s something bothering their kids, a friend, a spouse faster then men do. After attending a party together a woman will say, “Did you see how Bill and Brenda were interacting tonight?” Her husband’s response, “Were they there? Did you try the dip? They are great at reading dogs as well. That ability to catch the nuance allows a good trainer to shape and extinguish ideas before they turn into actions. It’s a skill set without value though if the dog doesn’t recognize the person’s posture as authentically that of a teacher worthy of respect.

Men and dogs are generally pretty good at the posturing game. When you see a bunch of dogs get together you’re going to see some initial posturing going on. Standing up straight, direct eye contact, legs poised for stability and maximum balance, chest out. Everything else being equal, dogs just take direction more willing from someone that is De Niro looking into the mirror saying, “You looking at me?” rather then Mister Rogers saying, “It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood.

The sheer size of your dog may be making it possible for your dog to take on the “fingers in the ear, I can’t hear you!” role so having a look at the equipment she’s using would be a start. Use a leather leash. It’s way easier on her hands and seems to result in more confident handling. I’d look at the training collar you’re using. Whatever it is, if the dog is able to make her fear for her safety it needs to be changed. Try one of mine. It’s a slip collar but it has a cord lock type attachment so you can keep it in place under the jaw and behind the ears. It’s like power steering and useful in situations like this.

I’m betting your wife has a whole lot of ability to tap into but she may have to neutralize his physical advantage and learn how to start sending out, “I’m not asking you, I’m telling you!” posturing signals. Find a female balanced trainer for your wife to work with. She’ll help her get things on track.

Pawsitively yours,

John Wade
[email protected]

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