Has Your Dog Unfairly Been Labeled A Social Bully

Being confronted by the trainer in Jack’s socialization class that Jack was a social bully, was concerning, humiliating – and embarrassing. The subject was not addressed directly but instead, Jack, a young, head-strong Siberian husky pup was timed out (crated) so many times in his socialization class that his owners were too embarrassed to return. Trainer tact or experience could have made all the difference.

Dismayed the owners were now trying to figure out the trainer’s real message. Maybe he was trying to say, “Your dog is too over bearing to actually play with other dogs” or, “He’s too much of a bully.” They just didn’t know exactly what the problem was.

In their minds it didn’t seem right for Jack to be unfairly labeled as a bully – especially if the odds were innocently stacked against him – with no explanation or suggestions of other options.

It seemed to them Jack was getting a raw deal mainly because – things were not explained to them in a way that helped them understand how to help their dog. Jack hadn’t yet had the opportunity to learn how to properly read other dog’s body language and signals and turn off his strong invitations to play.

Jack’s story


I was called to help Jack’s owners with dog obedience training and to work on his jumping, biting and pulling on leash – all typical adolescent behaviors. They had previously owned a Siberian husky and as most folks do, they compared Jack to their former dog that was a much calmer dog. Jack’s exuberant, take-charge personality had them a little concerned about what to do with all this energy and especially how he channeled it when playing with other puppies. They really needed options.

Since Jack’s exclusion from his socialization classes they were in a dilemma about Jack’s ability to “ever” play nicely with other dogs. I mentioned to them that you can’t always choose playmate temperaments in a group class setting, which was evident in Jack’s case.

I also mentioned to them that while I can’t speak to that trainer’s experience, I’ve had experience with bossy personalities like Jack where the other dogs or puppies were softer. My remedy was to bring in one or two of my older dogs to help temper – and teach – the Jacks of the world on how to play, read body language and turn off rough play.

I recommended that Jack and his owners join one of my group classes where we always have a mixed bag of dog sizes and temperaments. This gave Jack an opportunity to make play choices in our playtime before class. If he picked a dog that was too soft, we simply redirected him to a dog that matched his temperament and energy and off he went to play. In addition to honing his social skills in playtime, he is also expanding on his obedience training around his classmates.

Managing Jack’s play and energy in group class was important for Jack. It was equally important to teach his owners how to manage his energy at home for better control.

One on One with Jack

We worked Jack in private lessons to teach Jack solid basic obedience commands – sit, down, stay and the come command. Regular dog training gave Jack a sense of working for them rather that his owners always catering to his needs.

Jack learned to “Settle” by their feet in the family room. Before this training, he was jumping on the couch and biting – very unruly behavior.

Jack enjoyed long walks where he learned to “Curb!” when cars approached. We worked on other ways to constructively manage his energy as well like jogging on the treadmill.  This was great for rainy days or if they didn’t get a chance to get in a proper walk.

All is well with Jack – and Mom and Dad are happy!

“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad.  Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.  His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is Jm’s 25+ years of setting dogs up to succeed presented in an easy, step by step plan for all dog owners.

3 replies
  1. leila_admin
    leila_admin says:

    Rachal: The best thing to do is disallow play between the papillion and your dog. Your dog is being intimidated over and over and it would be best to find dogs
    that have a more similar play style to your dog.

  2. Matthew
    Matthew says:

    Interesting post. I know when I take my dog to the dog park I see some dogs really getting rough with other dogs. I’ve just automatically thought they were aggressive. But I can see how, just like kids, some dog like to play harder. Hard to control this @ a dog park but I’ll understand better now.

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