Fix the owner fixes the dog

Change the Client Then Fix the Dog Problem

I learned years ago that I must first educate and change the client to fix the dog problem. This is definitely easier said than done – that’s for sure!

One of the most challenging hurdles for any dog trainer in a dog behavior counseling session is working through the owner‘s misconception of their dog problem and what the dog trainer will do in a series of lessons.

See if some of these misconceptions sound familiar.

  •  Something is wrong with their dog.
  •  The behavior modification program will center on the dog’s behavior.
  •  The dog trainer will straighten out the dog and the problem for them.
  •  The success of the program should be guaranteed.

Now let’s shine a little more light on these misconceptions so that you can see more clearly where most of the work should center and why.

This is where it starts:

  • Being considerate of the owner’s opinions, 
  • Thoughtful about their concerns and 
  • Being sincere in my desire to help them with a humane solution to their problem is always my concern.

If I can get the owner to open up about their real feelings and opinions about their dog, this opens up the line of communication for us to work together and form a plan that is:

  • Comfortable for them
  • Doable for them
  • Commitment from them to work the plan.
Fix the owner fixes the dog

When that happens we have a clear path to helping their dog.

Dog problems are very personal to people. I’ve found that a one to one evaluation is the best way to find out what’s going on.

Leila and I get to know the owner. And more importantly, they get to know us and know we do care. I guess you could call me old fashioned about this.

The evaluation usually confirms that the owner believes it is “a dog problem,” not “an owner problem.” And often times the client’s own interaction with their dog actually enables the very behavior they complain about.

Most times the biggest challenge is convincing a dog owner to consistently restructure the way they interact with their dog every day. This is the way to a positive change.

Change things like, how they give their dog access to their space: beds, couches and chairs can make a huge difference.

We frequently find that some owners will constantly pet, coddle or carry their dog around thinking that this love and affection is what the dog wants and needs.

I’m not saying banish your loving dog from the furniture forever, just change the way you address this need or want of your dog and be consistent!

Probably most important is to understand the reason why you would want to do it differently and how that will have a positive impact on your dog.

This understanding of why you are making the change WILL lead to a solution to your problem.

It’s simple: Understanding “the why” helps you make the change.

It is my responsibility to genuinely listen to you, recognizing that the way you feel about your dog is based 99% on emotions, not intellect.

But equally important to a positive solution, is your understanding how your feelings affect your pet’s behavior.

How you would want your dog to feel goes hand-in-hand with how you treat your dog.

 Here’s the rub.

Your feelings are not necessarily interpreted by your dog in the same way you intended him to understand.

Let me say that again as it’s critical: Your feelings are not necessarily interpreted by your dog in the same way you intended him to understand.

Misunderstandings and mixed signals begin to cause stress which eventually leads to unwanted behavior.  In fact your feelings, the emotional connection you create with your new dog in the very beginning weeks and months of your relationship, begins to shape how he relates to and interacts with you, other family members, friends and strangers in the years to come.

Will you create a confident and well-balanced dog or, will your dog develop insecurities laden with anxiety, stress and tension?


Here are some facts about relationships that could change your approach to training your puppy or dog and insure he grows up a more confident and good member of your family:

Most all of our relationship with our dogs is emotional. They draw us to them. There’s that puppy breath with new puppies – their total cuteness – not to mention they are so warm and cuddly. It’s the whole package really!

We feel like our dogs are very sensitive to our feelings. We can pick up on this almost immediately. Come to think of it, if this sensitivity were not there, we probably wouldn’t have them as pets.

  • Dogs do not do well with an over abundance of our emotional energy. Too much love and affection when we are home can really cause our dog to miss all that attention when we are gone. This could make them feel insecure.
  • Dogs may become afraid when they sense anger or hear yelling and screaming. This kind of emotional energy creates an unstable environment and creates anxiety and stress in our dog.
  • When your dog feels emotionally insecure about his relationship with you, he becomes anxious and stressed.
  • Your puppy then tries to relieve the tension caused by the stress and becomes frustrated – then behavioral problems surface.

Once you discover how to look at your dog problem in a new way, you will become motivated to finally change the way you interact with your dog which allows a solution to your problem to begin to form. If you change, your dog will change!

As for the guarantee, I can’t guarantee that you will do the work. The reality is that you must understand why you must change, believe in the change and consistently do the work yourself.   BELIEVE.

I’m always curious about your input – it’s important to me.  

We’re always learning and there’s a bunch of you out there we are grateful to be able to serve and learn from.  

I’m really interested in your thoughts and opinions on this.  I’m here to help.

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

Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8700+ clients, 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 the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process so that your dog understands what you expect of him, you empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in a human home.

2 replies
  1. Kathi
    Kathi says:

    OUtstanding! As a fellow dog trainer I 100% agree with you. The hardest part in fixing any dog behavior problem is getting the owner to take responsibility for their part.

    It’s like anything else, before you go point fingers elsewhere (like @ your dog), look at those fingers pointing back at you (the owner)

    Keep it up Jim!

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