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Dog Behaviorist

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

[email protected]

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33 thoughts on “Dog Behaviorist”

  1. richard

    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 confused.he used to enjoy all of those the way he is my sisters pet.

  2. 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.

    1. 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.


  3. Merrisa

    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!

    1. 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.


  4. Charlene

    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

  5. Hi John. My 8 year old pitbull Nala started to become extremely fearful of thunderstorms and fireworks a few years ago. Every summer after the first few storms and fireworks happen she turns into a nervous dog. She doesn’t want to go out past 6pm. She is constantly looking around “waiting” for something to happen. She starts shaking for no reason in the evenings, since that’s when most of the bad noises happen. This has happened the past 2 summers and is happening again now. I try to walk her more, play with her, distract her with games. But when she is in that mode, nothing works. What can i do to get her over this constant anxiety???

  6. I have shepherd/hound mix and recently got a puppy. The puppy is a shepherd lab mix. When I’m homethey seen to get along ok. When I go to work in the morning and my partner is home the older one goes after the puppy and our cats. Why is he doing this it’s driving me crazy and my partner is afraid forthe puppy

    1. Hi Sandy,

      You haven’t provided enough information for me to speculate. I would need you to be more specific by what you mean when you say “goes after”? How old is the dog? How is it triggered? Does it appear to be random, constant or only when the puppy or cats are near or approach your partner?


      John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
      Embracing Science and Common Sense

  7. Hey there.
    My dog(spaniel X) used to be obsessed with chasing lights and reflections and shadows. It’s not as bad as it used to be at all as she used to sit staring at a wall for hours waiting for something to move. I have read into the subject and know it can be a serious issue for some dogs causing anxiety in the long run. My question is could she be an exception and actually enjoy it? I wonder this because she actively seeks out and picks up reflective items and creates the sort of shadows she likes to chase and then chases after them! Would she do all that if she didn’t enjoy it?


    1. Hi Julie,

      The theory is that she enjoys it in the context of relief. Far more common in high drive dogs that don’t get the daily level of brain and physical stimulation that their genetics thinks they’re supposed to be getting.


      John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
      Embracing Science and Common Sense

  8. Hi I have a border collie mix named Sadie I also have 2 smaller dogs and a Great Dane lab mix named tank so here is the problem ok so when ever Sadie is in my room and then tank walks in she immediately becomes hostile and aggressive towards him snapping and starting a fight and it’s only towards him and only in my room every other room she and him are fine but it’s only my room she becomes aggressive she is never hostile towards my smaller dogs because one one of them is the alpha and the other is the beta so she doesn’t mess with them

    1. Hi Carlso,

      I need more information, age of dogs, history etc. Generally speaking, this is a form of resource guarding with you being the resource that is being guarded. This isn’t the same as “protecting you”. This is protecting a bone, something she thinks she owns and has decided has exclusive rights. If that’s the case I’d look into addressing her skewed sense of who is living in who’s home as this sort of problem tends to escalate. Common enough problem but more so in multiple dog households. Read this before deciding on how to best move forward. ‘John Wade’s Guide To: What Are The Different (and best) Puppy and Dog Training Methods?’


      John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
      Embracing Science and Common Sense
      London’s #1 Referred Puppy and Dog Trainer


  9. Hi John,
    I have an almost 12 year old male Australian Shepard who licks his paws incessantly only when we retire to bed (once the light is out). He also gets up to pee twice per night. The vet has ruled out medical issues and this behaviour only happens when my husband is home (not when he travels).

    1. Hi Leslie,

      I’d have him screened for dementia. I can send the questionnaire if you’d like. More likely it’s a relationship conflict that might need working on in order to provide him with some relief. I’d need to know a lot more for something like that. If you want to book a Skype consult let me know and I’ll send the details.


      John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
      Embracing Science and Common Sense

  10. I have a 9 months old golden who is terrified of other dogs. He’s training to be a service dog. What can I do to make him okay with other dogs?

    1. Hi Lauren,

      I’d need some clarification as to what you mean by a service dog. No legitimate service dog trainer or organization would continue. He would and should be disqualified for his own good, the good of the public and the needs of the person he was to serve. You have to start out with a stable dog. You are describing a dog that needs his own service dog.

      That doesn’t mean you can’t do something to alleviate his distress but I’d need to know more.

      To be honest I would hesitate to contribute without knowing how this dog came to be considered a legitimate service dog candidate. If he hasn’t got what it takes he shouldn’t be on the streets in the context required of a service dog. It’s not fair to him, the public, other dogs, and the reputation of legitimate service dogs.


      John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
      Embracing Science and Common Sense

  11. Hi John,
    Me and my girlfriend recently adopted a rescue pitbull. They think she was likely used for fighting and then breeding. She is the sweetest thing people and has absolutely no human aggression. We also don’t have any other dogs so don’t have to worry about that, but we do have a cat.

    When she sees the cat, she goes absolutely nuts. I’ve seen dogs chase cats before for fun, but this is very aggressive behavior towards the cat. If we let her loose with the cat around we are afraid she will kill the cat, so we have to keep them separated and the dog kenneled when we are not home.

    We have tried some training sessions giving her high reward treats like hotdogs for when she looks away from the cat (and at me) using a clicker, but she’s just learned when she wants a hot dog she just has to turn around, gets her hotdog, and then goes right back to the cat. Not a care in the world for another hot dog, much more interested in trying to lunge at the cat (shes on a leash and has a muzzle).

    Any help on successful methods to train her to leave the cat alone?

  12. John Malcolm

    My dog will sometimes look for me in different locations in the house even though he knows where I am. He will leave my side and go look in the bathroom to see if I am also sitting there. Do dogs have a singular notion of other animals or do they “suspect” there may be multiple instances of an owner? Just curious.

  13. Riah Perry

    I rescued a new dog from a local human society a couple of months ago. She was 1 year old when we got her. She is a Pit Bull. She was my second dog that i brought home to keep my dog company while i was working full time. I already had another dog that i rescued from the same humane society almost a year and a half ago now. We introduced them properly and they seemed to love each other. After the second day, the new dog (Genie) got possessive over my bed. That’s where it all started. From there it only got worse.. now Genie is possessive over EVERYTHING! Oakley (the dog i had before i got Genie) cannot do anything without Genie growling, snarling and snapping at her. It’s like she is being bullied. Genie has no problem with other dogs, she plays so well with any other dog. When she is home, Genie will not let me touch her, and she will not let Oakley do or have anything. When we try to take them outside to play Genie only wants to steal the toy and not let Oakley have it, but Genie plays with any other dog without an issue. I am at the point now where i don’t think Genie likes me, or my dog. She loves my boyfriend though and will only listen to him except when it comes to being possessive over everything that Oakley tries to do or touch. If you try to hold Genie back from hovering over Oakley, she starts growling at you and trying to push her way out, like she gets angry if you try to keep her from being possessive. What should we do

  14. Hi,

    My dog is 6 months old and makes a mess in his crate when ever we leave him, i have tried lots of things as i think this is a behavioral issue but nothing seems to work. Do you have any advice?

    1. Hi Nicola,

      This is usually a separation anxiety issue. Search my site for separation anxiety so you can learn a little more about what it is and it will give you an idea of the direction you need to go.


      John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
      Embracing Science and Common Sense


  15. Hi John.
    Me and my partner always go to bed with our Pug, Pikachu. Within the past 2 weeks however when my partner has been hugging her from behind she will sometimes growl. Twice he’s kissed her on the head and then suddenly she’ll jump up barking and growing at him. She has never been aggressive to him before ever until now and we don’t know why she’s suddenly behaving so differently. It’s really upsetting ☹️

    1. Hi Kiarah,

      There’s not enough information to even speculate. If I knew her age and history and some other things I might be able to guess. Usually, it’s because the dog has been raised as if it was a grandchild visiting only occasionally and has moved into adolescence/adulthood and you begin to reap what did not get sown. She perhaps thinks your partner is sleeping in her bed. I’d recommend reading one of my training books or booking a virtual consult.


      John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
      Embracing Science and Common Sense

      1. To give you a bit more information and history she is 10.5 and was adopted by my partners mum at age 3. About 2 months ago my partner and I brought her to out apartment where she now sleeps in our bed as opposed to with the other pugs she used to live with. I have also hugged her many times from behind and never had this reaction.

        1. My guess then is that she doesn’t see him as a loving authority figure but more as a roommate that is taking up too much space or what she sees as proximitie liberties in what she sees as her bed and elsewhere throughout the day. It will likely escalate so my earlier recommendations stand.


          John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
          Embracing Science and Common Sense

  16. Hi John
    My 7 year old springer spaniel cross (rescue, not sure what the cross is) has loved running with me for the last 3 years. We choose between two 8km routes that we do identically each time but a few weeks apart she has decided that she doesn’t want to go beyond a certain point on each one. She digs all 4 heels in and insists on turning back, happily acting like nothing has happened and will not be tricked into continuing via a circuiticious route. We will still do the same distance by adding on a loop somewhere away from these areas. She is generally getting more bossy with where we go on these runs. She’ll happily walk the same routes and revisit the areas she won’t run past. Does not respond well to treats due to treat trust issues.

    Any insights would be appreciated!


    1. Hi John,

      Sorry, I haven’t updated the entire site to say so, but because I get so much mail, I’ve decided to give response priority in a manner that I can do the most good. That means a shift from providing written replies/articles to people looking for help to asking that they include some video of their dog as well, and permission to use the video in my response, so I can upload a more thorough and accurate response than is possible through the written word. I hope you decided to send a short video as I think this would make an interesting vlog post.

      Sending videos of what your Springer is up to has four major advantages:

      1. Actual video of the behavior(s) that you are concerned about vs. a written description can often eliminate a lot of guessing on my end and provide a much clearer idea of what is going on and subsequently make my reply far more likely to be useful to you.

      2. My reply video uses your video of your dog as its backdrop to more precisely illustrate what I see and what to do about it. In much the same way coaches use practice and game-play video to improve performance.

      3. It’s equally more helpful to others struggling with similar issues.

      4. It’s free.

      Here’s the link for sending me videos:

      Send Video Of Your Dog To Ask The Dog Guy For Input

      – John Wade (

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