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Getting Started

The beginning exercises require little or no interaction between you and your dog. They provide a rapid way to start this program, confidently. By building success upon success, you will help to ensure your progress and positive results - including possibly your safety if your dog has bitten you. As you move ahead, be sure to reinforce the sequence as often as you can. This lays in the foundation you will need later.

The Right Attitude

From this moment, give your dog loving, firm and clear leadership. Make learning fun for him by taking him through one success to the next. Be neither harsh or rough with him, nor coddling or overindulgent Give your dog every opportunity do well, but reinforce your expectations of him at once when you know he has the skills to understand and obey you. Patience and perseverance will go much farther and last much longer than reprimand and ridicule. Again, each step is sequenced to help you achieve that goal.

When to Start

As a general rule, you can begin these exercises at any time after your pup is using his senses and responding to the world around him. In fact, an early start helps prepare your pup to be more responsive to all future training.

"Give your dog every opportunity do well, but reinforce your expectations of him at once when you know he has the skills to understand and obey you."

Obedience training, if it is done through motivation rather than pressure, can begin at any time. We use our inducive methods - overlaying, eliciting, and light contact - coupled with positive reinforcement to teach pups to come, sit, heel, stand and lie down when they are as young as eight weeks.

Of course, regardless of your dog's age, he should be trained to obey at least these basic commands and to handle social situations successfully. Proper grounding in the Rapport Skills(c) will help make that training easier, as well. Begin right away: Don't wait until it's too late.

The System

The system that follows provides a sequential and cumulative series of exercises that will help you establish and maintain leadership over any dog regardless of age, sex, breed or previous experience. While they are intended primarily to help owners whose dogs are dominant - or tend to be - they will do no harm with dogs that are shy or timid. However, because shy, timid dogs need to have their confidence built in most situations, we have developed special modifications to these exercises to help such dogs. They appear at the end of this chapter.

Establishing A Safe Place

This exercise reminds him of the safety and security that puppies feel in denning. Having a "safe" place is essential to your dog's well-being, and your own. Within the house, the dog needs to know there are certain places where he can feel totally secure.

Frequently, the dog will pick his own places and you will find him lying in areas that, to him, resemble dens where he can rest and feel protected from nearly all sides, yet keep an eye on everything. Often, the larger the dog, the larger the "den". Some larger dogs may even consider an open hallway near an entrance door as their den - particularly if the area enables the dog to see into other rooms.

Encourage his "safe" places, but restrict them to one per room, in areas that are convenient for you. This will give him sound alternatives to the sofa or your favorite chair.

When you send your dog to his place, use the phrase, "go to your place" and, initially, guide him to that place. Always do this in a friendly way, and at first, get him used to this when things are calm. This is a variation on our light-contact technique. You can also watch for times when the dog goes to his place on his own and, when he gets there, say "place" in friendly tones. This is a form of our overlaying technique. Finally, you can also go to the dog's place yourself when he's elsewhere, call him to you with a treat in hand and give it to the dog when he gets to his place. Do these often and say "good place" once the dog is already there. This will reinforce his sense of security in being there.

Never send your dog to his place as punishment and never take him from his place to punish him. If he does something you do not like and high-tails it to his place before you can catch him, consider him "home free". By running to his secure place, he has already acknowledged your displeasure with him. You have won. There is nothing to be gained by making his place unsafe by dragging him from it. Just be certain in the future that you do a better job of preventing the problem from occurring at all, or move more quickly to catch him in the act of misbehaving.

Bedside Manners

This exercise will help you assert your pack leader rights to have a special place for you to sleep where your dog, another, lesser pack member is not allowed to intrude. Some dogs, when allowed to sleep with their owners, become overly protective of them and may begin to exhibit over-protectiveness toward their territory as well. Male dogs who spend most of their time with female owners may regard them a part of their "harem". We have dealt with cases where dogs in such situations have been known to attack boyfriends and husbands for even giving the female owner a hug.

Never let your dog sleep in the bed with a member of the family - no matter how cute you may think it is. If you want your dog to sleep in your room for companionship or protection, provide a proper bed for him at a level lower than your own bed, and let him sleep there. If you feel the dog may sneak up on the bed during the night, run a leash from one bed leg to another, slip an "O" ring on it, and clip the dog's collar to the ring. Or, clip it to an eye bolt that you have screwed into the baseboard. This allows him to be with you, properly restrained, but still have mobility. As you establish the dog's proper bed, teach him to use it through patience and praise. Be certain that you assert your rights to "sleep" in his bed when the dog can notice you doing it. You are establishing your growing rights as his leader.

Caution: If your dog has been overly territorial or has been punished in his "dens", wait until you have progressed beyond the "Hugs and Squeezes" exercise before you attempt to lie in his bed.

Feed by Hand

This exercise is based upon the fact that adults are the source of food, thus survival, for puppies.

From now on, your dog must come when called and eat a few pieces of dry kibble from your hand before he can have his meal. It is certainly more convenient to fill the dog's bowl and just let him eat. For many people, it is even more convenient to let the dog self-feed, or eat from a seemingly bottomless supply of dry food in a hopper.

For some, this new technique may be downright inconvenient. However, it is a simple, practical and effective way to establish a rapport with your dog that reaches right into his brain and will carry over into later training.

After he eats the handful of dry food, say "good" in long, drawn out tones, and present his dish to him, holding it at his chin level. As he starts to eat, lower the bowl to the floor.

If he refuses to eat from your hand, or from the bowl as you hold it - or if he tries to jump up as you show him the food, stop immediately. Take the food away at once, wait ten minutes, then try again. He's learning he only eats if he does so on your terms. So give him the food only when he has eaten from your hand and has kept all four feet on the floor.

If he refuses the dry food or jumps up after two opportunities at ten-minute intervals, put the food away and try again in an hour. If he still refuses the dry food or jumps up, let him skip a meal. Once more, he is learning that you are willing to share food, but only on your terms. He is also discovering that jumping up goes unrewarded. Keep fresh water down at all times, however.

If you are concerned about starving your dog through either of the two feeding exercises, don't be. According to Dr. Michael Fox of the Humane Society of the United States, during World War II, dogs in the K-9 Corps were able to perform all their functions fully after more than two weeks without food. In the wild, canids can go days without eating and often do. In our experience, no dog has ever refused saliva-moistened food from his owner for more than three days. Just be sure your dog has adequate water.

"Never let your dog sleep in the bed with a member of the family - no matter how cute you may think it is."

Moistening A Treat

This exercise approximates the behavior of wolves and many dogs to regurgitate digested food for their weaned pups, bring back partially digested food to their young pups before they can hunt or eat on their own, or eat first as the pups mature. So moistening treats may be a reminder of the care-dependency puppies have toward adults in the pack. In addition, eating first is a right of a pack leader and the leader's saliva would be on the food.

Before we had sequenced the Rapport Skills©, we found that many owners of dogs with behavior problems could not get their dogs to accept food that they had moistened with their own saliva. In fact, in the early stages of developing the Rapport Skills©, we observed some dogs that even growled at their owners when they tried to give the dog a saliva-moistened treat.

In a significant number of cases, the dogs that refused the moistened treats had exhibited dominance tendencies and the owners were unquestionably not showing good leadership skills. Some had allowed their dogs to take over, and get away with it. Overall, once owners can get their dogs to accept moistened treats regularly, they are more successful in rehabilitating their dogs' other behavior problems - including general disobedience to commands.

If you find it only mildly difficult to get your dog to accept any food you have obviously moistened with saliva, try offer him a more tasty treat such as a bit of cheese. Just be sure it's always something that can be consumed in one bite. A treat that can be eaten quickly avoids problems in working with dogs that have been guarding or territorial. Do not move ahead with these exercises until the dog will accept and eat the treat. Be sure, however, to take into account such possible factors as a full stomach, his general health, or a dislike for that specific treat.

Once he accepts the moistened treat, say "good" in long, drawn out tones and end the exercise. Do so even if he drops the treat on the floor after taking it. In time you will have established another way to reinforce his desirable, puppy-like behaviors.

As an observation, accepting the moistened treat because it was your idea is a far cry from taking a treat from another animal's mouth because it was his idea. Clearly, the dog would know the difference.

Because this control step is so important to further progress, you may need to withhold all other food and treats just for as long as the dog refuses to accept the moistened treats. Be sure to keep fresh water down at all times, however.

If, after two or three days the dog still has not eaten and still refuses to accept the moistened treats, you might try this: Assuming that he been eating his meal according to the steps in the previous exercise, put his food down and spit in the bowl before you call him for his food. It's one more way to get your saliva on his food before he gets to eat it. We promise you the dog won't think it's "gross", and his acceptance is very important to reinforcing the behaviors you wish to encourage.

Once your dog is responding well to this exercise, make certain he does not come to depend upon you to moisten everything before he will put it in his mouth such as an item you plan to use in retrieve training, later. To avoid this, just phase out the moistening of treats a few weeks before you begin to teach him to retrieve.

The "Easy" Command

While we find no comparable correlation between this exercise and the leadership behaviors of canids, we have observed that pack leaders frequently intervene when other pack members tend to get rambunctious or over-exuberant. In any case, it is important at this point in the Rapport Skills(c) training to have owners teach their dogs to move forward calmly or take things gently in their mouths instead of diving in. It is yet another way to establish control.

This is the basis of the "easy" command which follows. Given to the dog as "Eeeee-Zeeee", this command will ultimately become his signal that it is okay to move forward, as long as he does it slowly and calmly.

Follow the principle that all good things come from you and all bad things happen when he does not heed your good advice. With all dogs other than young pups, take this approach: Have a treat in your hand and entice the dog to come to you. Move your hand into the general vicinity of the dog's mouth, but do not offer him the treat. Close your empty hand into a loose fist with the thumb on top. Position this hand under his chin.

If the dog tries to snatch the treat, close your "treat" hand and move it away. As he lunges, say nothing. Never allow him to snatch the treat. Instead, put the treat away for a few minutes, then try again. When he remains calm for about ten seconds as you hold the treat in front of him, command "easy" and allow him to take the treat from your hand. Again, if he lunges, close your hand and take the treat away.

If, on the third attempt, he still lunges, try closing your hand around the treat most of the way, requiring him to nuzzle in gently to gain access to it. If you're concerned that he might bite your hand, wear gloves and hold the treats in pliers or ice-cube tongs.

As he shows progress, praise him by saying, "good easy". In future sessions, begin holding the treat farther away and require him to advance slowly to receive both the treat and your praise.

With young pups, a variation on this is to offer the pup a treat held between your fingers. If he nips your fingers as he tries to snatch it, yelp out loud much as another pup might if it were startled or slightly injured. As you do, take the treat away. Do this about three times, or so, and the pup should learn to take the treat more gently. We also use this technique with young pups that try to nip at fingers.

You can also teach "easy" by placing something in his dish that is uncomfortably warm for him. A dog has a higher body temperature and a higher pain threshold than a human, and can tolerate slightly higher temperatures than humans can. So, hot water that you can barely tolerate on your wrist will be just about right for this test.

Mix it into his food then offer him the bowl as you command "easy". If he dives into the dish, he will back off, momentarily. After two or three experiences, he will learn that you give good advice and will come to respect the "easy" command.

Another technique is to put the dog on a stationary command in a hallway where he can not slip past you. Then entice him toward you as you stay close in front of him but start backing up. As he advances at your pace, repeat the words, "good easy" to him. Reward proper performance with praise.


This is a direct modification of a behavior wolves and many dogs use to display their leadership. In fact, authors of books on the behavior of canids in the wild have clearly noted how wolves use this behavior to display dominance or leadership.

While it may sound strange at first, one of the ways to build your dog's attentiveness to your actions is to march around the room with something in your mouth that he wants. The ideal would be his favorite toy or bone. To prevent the possibility that you might pick up parasites, scrub the toy or bone, rinse it in alcohol, or surround it in plastic wrap.

Only do this after the dog has left the item alone for at least an hour. Then you will run little or no risk in doing this exercise - in the proper sequence - even if your dog has been aggressive or over-possessive in the past. In the wild, anything that is abandoned by one canine is fair game for the others.

Some adult wolves frequently carry around prized items such as a piece of hide or a favored bone and make a point of letting the others know they have it. If you ascribe to the "dominance theory", the action might be compared to an adolescent child with a baseball bat who says: "It's my bat and you can't have it," causing all the other children to clamor around him. We believe that both the child and the wild canine are carrying out attention-getting behavior and are attempting to gain a higher status in a primitive, yet non-aggressive way.

From the standpoint of behavioral neoteny, parading might be regarded as "teasing" in the way an adult human might tease a child. The dog, by reacting much as the child might react, ends up reinforcing its own puppy-like behaviors.

To carry out this exercise, put the object in your mouth and then march around the room where your dog can see you. If he's lying down when you start, this is fine. Deliberately ignore the dog. Make no eye contact at all. In effect, you are giving him the cold shoulder. At the same time, act proud and preoccupied with the item. Walk back and forth with it and circle in front of the dog varying your distance from five to fifteen feet away. If the dog follows you, let him, but say nothing. If he nudges or jumps, make it impractical for him to continue by changing your direction.

You can even "growl" under your breath as you continue to otherwise ignore him. However, if he growls or, worse yet, becomes demanding, you may have moved to this exercise too soon. Slow your walking pace and create any distraction by tossing something behind him without letting him see you do it. When his attention is redirected, put the parading item away. Give the other exercises more time before you return to this one.

Petting and Praising

How pack leaders and followers interact with one another has its own set of rules. This exercise will enable you to pet and praise your dogs that are consistent with being the pack leader.

Some people do not have enough contact with their dogs and their dogs suffer for it. Others have the wrong kind of contact with their dogs, often unwittingly, and both the owners and the dogs suffer for it. How and when you pet your dog also sends more messages than most owners realize.

Say you are sitting in your comfortable chair at home and the dog comes up to you. He nudges your hand or arm and, without thinking, you reach out and pet him. He just got his way. For better or worse, he has learned that nudging you is a way to get you to pet him. It's a form of demand-grooming - a right of pack leaders.

As long as he is allowed to interrupt your activity and be petted for it, he will continue. However, if you try to ignore him at some future time, you might find that he will escalate from nudging to pawing or mouthing. If you give in even a few times, you reinforce the behavior even more. Then if you try to ignore him, he may even resort to nipping or growling. We've seen it happen. If he gets away with that, and you later try to ignore him, or even yell at him at that stage, you may soon have a biter on your hands.

As a general rule, never comply with what your dog demands, no matter whether he asked in a cute way or flat-out insisted. Doing so takes too much control away from you, the owner.

Instead, when your dog nudges to be petted, absolutely do not respond. Do not give in. Wait at least ten seconds then give him a command he knows well, Such as "come" or "sit." When he obeys, pet him for his obedience to you. Now you are on the right track.

Where do you pet him? Certainly not under the chin. In the wild, and even among some litters of domesticated dogs, pups nudge adults under the chin, and pull at their flews, to beg for food. They are trying to cause the adults to regurgitate food for them. It stands to reason then, that when you pet your dog under his chin, you may be sending him messages that you are the puppy - as well as the underdog, the dog that is under the other one!

So, where and how should you pet him? Do as an adult dog would do to a puppy: Grasp the bridge of his nose, or the top of his entire muzzle, gently but firmly, and shake it in a kindly way. If your dog does not allow this "muzzle handshake," you should not be attempting this yet. You need to do more work in building up the previous skills.

Caution: Some dogs may snarl or snap at someone who tries this if the dog has come to think he can get away with it. If he merely tries to escape your attempt to grasp his muzzle, pet the top of his head, then "nibble" the bridge of his nose with your fingertips. In both cases, say "good dog", but only if he allows this form of petting. Over several days, work your hand over his muzzle gently, then firmly.

You can also pat his side firmly but in a kindly way as you say "good dog". If he does not respond well to that kind of physical praise - which is like an adult dog using shoulder nudges to praise another dog - try petting his sides lightly for several days, then gradually turn your strokes into pats.

Encouraging Facial Submissiveness

Here is another form of petting that can help you achieve positive control over your dog. It has no exact correlation with dogs' natural leadership behaviors, however, it is a logical extension of the petting interactions just described. There are also some neurophysiological implications here that are beyond the scope of this publication.

As you are stroking your dog in the proper manner, massage his jowls gently but firmly in a way that pulls the corners of his mouth back toward his ears. At the same time, stroke his ears back so that they lay closer to his head. As you do this, continue to say, "good dog" in soothing tones. These are submissive facial postures among dogs. When you manipulate the dog into assuming them, and then reward him through praise, you actually reinforce submissive behavior in the dog. Do this at least once a day. You might even try stroking the tail into submissive positions, as well.


If your dog tries to lean against you, he's looking for love and affection, but on his terms, not yours. To put yourself back in control even in this seemingly harmless situation, either sidestep or pull your leg away and say nothing, even if he falls over. He should soon learn not to assume he can lean on you. If he persists, however, rest your foot on his paw, just firmly enough to encourage him to move. From the dog's perspective, your being over top of him puts you in the top dog position.

Wait at least ten seconds after he has moved away before you do anything further with him. Then, if you would like to pet him, proceed this way: Give him a command he can obey. If he carries out your instruction, pet him - properly. If he refuses to obey, he did not want your love and affection that much after all. Enforce your last command, say nothing, then ignore him. Setting the terms even for the giving and receiving of attention is another form of behavioral control.


Your dog has another instinctive behavior you need to be aware of. It is called "T-ing" because the physical postures of the dominant and submissive dogs frequently form the letter "T". As you have seen from the earlier exercises, the dog that is above the other dog is, literally, the "top dog".

Since experts say dogs are adaptive enough to understand human versions of their behaviors, you can use T-ing to assert yourself over your dog in still another way. The first few times you do this, just lay an arm over his back, or a hand on top of his head. As you are certain he is willing to accept this, you can put more of your body across him.

If your dog tries to slip away when you begin this exercise, you are not ready to be working at this level. Concentrate more on the earlier exercises before reintroducing this one gradually.

Does your dog try to stand over you - or on you - as you're lying on the floor, or put his head on your chest or in your lap? Does he lay a paw or his muzzle on your lap or over your arm? Does he try to sit on your foot or put a paw on it? If so, his actions may be more than accidental. These are also forms of T-ing.

He may be testing his pack status. He need not do anything as obvious as jump up and put his paws on you. Each minor assertion, by itself, may not cause any problems. But, added together, they could be one of the reasons for a dog's misbehavior.

Dogs that are allowed in owners' laps which may be another form of "standing over, could become spoiled and begin to assert themselves even more. Lap dogs that are incessantly groomed by their owners, in our experience, are even more likely to demand things their way.

Whenever your dog tries to "T" anyone, do not allow it. Distract the dog, walk away from him, change your position, or give him a command according to how he will respond best at this level.


This behavior, called "micturition" or "marking", occurs when a dog habitually sprays small amounts of urine in varying places. This is usually a form of staking out territory - leaving his calling card as a notice to other dogs. It frequently occurs in male dogs but can also occur in females. In fact, females even do leg-lifting but often do it with the hind leg raised underneath the body where most owners don't see it occurring.

We have also seen marking occur when a female wishes to "advertise" that she is in heat, and in both males and females that were "protecting" litters of pups, older, geriatric dogs in the household, and even children in the family "pack" that had illnesses or diseases.

Of course, marking behavior should not be allowed to occur anywhere, especially not in the house. If your dog truly accepts your leadership over him, he will not need to "mark" the area. So teach him to urinate outside at your command, then prevent him from marking anywhere else, at any time, while he is under your control.

To do this, take him out on a leash every time you are convinced he truly needs to relieve himself. Stand with him and as he starts to go, give him the same command you use in the house to ask him whether he has to do his "business". We say, "do your business" which is a form of the overlaying technique, again. Then, when he is finished, we say "good business".

Since puppies don't mark, the guidelines that follow are for adult dogs. For at least ten days, repeat the "business" routine every time you take him out to urinate or defecate. Make certain he has no opportunities to urinate unless you are with him.

Next, take your dog out daily and allow him to relieve himself only on command, at the place you select. Then walk him for another five minutes near objects he might logically may try to mark. Likely targets are trees, posts, fire hydrants and similar items other dogs might have marked.

Each time he tries to mark, grasp the lead firmly and stand still - rock solid. Don't move until he approaches your side. Then say nothing except "good heel". Soon your dog will respect your ability to keep the territory "safe" without his needing to mark it. Now you are even taking control over where and why your dog urinates. Put in human terms, you want him to say, "These people are even in charge of when I lift my leg or squat!"

"From the dog's perspective, your being over top of him puts you in the top dog position."

Hugs and Squeezes

This exercise is an approximation of "mounting and clasping" which is as much a dominance display behavior as it is a sexually based one. Indeed, it may occur more often as a dominance behavior than as a sexual one. Now that your dog is accepting your control over his behavior, this exercise becomes another non-violent way to show him that you are boss.

Caution: A really testy dog could try to resist this exercise. Do not attempt it until you know you are consistently success doing all of the prior exercises.

When your dog is standing, face in the same direction and straddle him, clasping lightly around his waist. If he starts to struggle, release him at once. Do not give him the chance to thrash and fight to escape. He may still conclude that he "won". But do not run the risk of having him become aggressive. Go back to the earlier exercises. If he does tolerate the grasp, praise him gently as you hold him.

You can also now start restraining him by placing your hand in the inguinal, or groin, area just in front of the back legs to inhibit him from moving. Later, at the groomer's or the veterinarian's, you can use this point of contact as a means of control. Again, it would be foolhardy to try this exercise until your dog responds favorably to each of the prior ones.

Rolling Your Dog Over

This exercise allows you to put your dog into submissive postures that he would ordinarily display to the pack leader - and then reinforce those displays. At times, the Alpha will cause the lower status dog to assume this posture. It may then even stand over the submissive dog. Sometimes the dominant animal may also stare and growl at the submissive one. If the subordinated animal were to resist, the "top dog" would display even more dominance - even to the point of pinning the other animal back to the ground.

After your dog is responding one hundred percent to all the exercises thus far, you can try this positive adaptation of what has been called an "Alpha rollover", which in the old form has gotten people bitten. In this exercise, however, you are only putting the dog through the posture of submission, not using it in a harsh way. Your purpose is to build your dog's desirable, puppy-like behaviors in yet another manner.

When the dog is awake, but lying down, kneel behind him and pet him. Then gently ease him over further until his stomach is exposed. Then praise and pet the dog for assuming this posture. If your dog appears intimidated or otherwise resists, stop immediately. Avoid challenging or frightening your dog. Say nothing and walk away. You have not yet established the proper rapport with your dog to this level. Try again at least an hour later. If he remains calm, praise him and then stop. If he resists, you need to work more on the previous exercises.

Praise all successes. Your goal here, as elsewhere, is to carry out another form of humane control over your dog's actions and even his postures. You are trying to build his confidence and trust in you.

Misreading A Roll-Over Cue

Owners who see the dog lying on his back as though looking for attention, frequently think he is showing a gesture of submission, so they go over and scratch the dog's stomach and throat. There is only one thing wrong with this: The dog took the initiative, not the owner. He has gotten your attention and caused you to "groom" him - an Alpha behavior on the dog's part, pure and simple.

"The first step is to avoid creating the problem, and certainly to avoid reinforcing it if it does occur."

If he nudged you or got your attention before rolling over, you can assume he knew precisely what he was doing. To give in could teach the dog to demand grooming in the future and seek other ways to take over. When carried to the extreme, rewarding dogs' attention-getting behavior is a major reason why dogs become spoiled and hard to handle.

Ignore the behavior and you remain in charge. Then, to reaffirm your leadership, immediately expect and reinforce a desirable behavior. For example, give him a command he knows, and expect compliance. When he does your bidding, praise him verbally and give him a brief "muzzle-handshake". Then walk away. If he starts making demands or begins growling, you have more of a problem than appeared on the surface. You must work harder at the previous exercises to establish your proper role in the relationship. In extreme cases, you may need the help of a qualified behaviorist.

Improperly Rewarding Your Dog

Some owners praise and pet their dogs at the wrong times and actually reward them for behaving improperly.

Case 1 -- A visitor comes to the door. The dog barks incessantly. In an effort to quiet the dog, the owner strokes him and says, "It's all right. It's all right." The dog has just been rewarded and his barking has just been reinforced.

Case 2 -- The dog snaps at a friend seated on the sofa. The owner pets the dog to calm him down and show him "that the guest is friendly". On the contrary, the owner has just reassured the dog through petting that the dog was right to snap at the guest.

Case 3 -- Lightning flashes and thunder rumbles across the sky. The dog pants furiously and dashes about the house in the early stages of panic. The owner pursues the dog and comforts him, telling him "Everything is okay." The dog has now learned that in a thunderstorm, panicky panting and running about leads directly to reward by the owner. More often than not, the dog that fears loud noises has been intimidated either by intentional or unintentional training.

For a dog to remain calm under all conditions, the owner should deal with him calmly and not do anything that might reinforce the negative behavior.

Excessive barking, snapping at people, panicking during a thunderstorm, and other forms of undesirable behaviors often occur in a dog that lacks a strong pack leader. Frequently, such a dog is spoiled, dominant... or even aggressive. He may even show fear-motivated aggression toward visitors and guests. No matter what the dog's personality, avoid reinforcing a negative behavior through indiscriminate petting and praising when he shows any kind of fear.

Helping a dog to overcome any kind of fear is a difficult task, but it can be done. The first step is to avoid creating the problem, and certainly to avoid reinforcing it if it does occur.

Helping the Timid Dog

Nearly all dogs respond favorably to all of the Rapport Skills© exercises. However, you may need to make the following modifications for a dog that is truly shy, introverted, insecure or "soft" in other ways - after you are certain that your own relationship with the dog is not what makes him insecure.

  • Spend more time with your dog, petting and grooming him after he responds to a simple command. Pet him in ways that communicate your respect, but not subservience.
  • You can even pet him under the chin periodically to give him more of a sense of confidence.
  • Avoid the "Alpha rollover" exercise. If the dog already acts submissive in the house, just be sure to reward that submissiveness mildly on occasion.
  • If your dog is so timid that he periodically urinates slightly in your presence, he is communicating his submissiveness in still another way. Under no circumstances should you scold for that. It will worsen the problem and make him even less secure. Merely distract him by doing something pleasant with him.
  • Take him with you more often wherever you go. Make each trip a pleasant one that builds his confidence and trust in you.
  • Keep your voice tones friendly. Shouting and harshness can make a timid dog even more so, or can teach the dog to turn "deaf." You may even sound angry to your dog without meaning to.
  • Strive to have more of a "this-is-fun" attitude in all your contact with him.

© 1989, Stephen C. Rafe. All Rights Reserved.

Stephen C. Rafe has been a canine-behavior practitioner since the early 1980s as well as a member of the Animal Behavior Society. His work in this field has been endorsed by leading professionals including Drs. M. Fox, D. Mech, R. Lore, and J. P. Scott. Mr. Rafe has completed more than six years of psychology, sociology and related courses. He holds Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees. Steve has contributed to the research in the field of animal behavior.

The Starfire Noiseshyness Cure Systems, his cure systems for dogs that fear gunfire, thunder or fireworks, are considered by professionals and owners to be the most effective available. Steve is also the author of Your New Baby and Bowser, Training Your Dog for Birdwork, plus numerous manuals and pamphlets on training and behavior topics.

Steve takes no personal income from the outreach program he has maintained since 1982 to help dogs and their owners. For free information on Steve's products and services: Starfire P.O. Box 8241 Reston, VA, 20191. Tel/Fax: (703) 391-1039 - or for a copy of his free, on-line catalog email Steve Rafe at:

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