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Leerburg » Dog Training Q&A Archive » Q&A on Rescue Dogs

Q&A on Rescue Dogs

Q&A on Rescue Dogs

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I try and answer every question I receive on dog training. I may often come across as a little on the blunt side, (some may call it brash). That is because I consider myself an advocate for dogs and not dog handlers. I am an advocate for common sense dog training and not the latest fad that appears on the horizon. Good dog training is not rocket science. It's common sense.

  1. I am considering volunteering at our local shelter. The women who runs the shelter trains with clickers and head-harnesses. Does your training comply with these tools?

  2. I have a 1 year old rescue that hates the crate and barks the entire time it is in the crate. When we let her out she is wild. What should we do?

  3. We adopted a 3 1/2 yr old male Lab 2 weeks ago. While out on a walk with my 12 year old son, he broke his harness and attacked another dog. The other dog's owner wants to sue us. What can we do now?

  4. We just adopted a 5-6 month old GSD. She is very shy and timid. How can we gain her trust and bond with her?

  5. I rescued a female Pit who lead a terrible life. She had open sores and Mange all over her body when I got her. We have bonded well, but she is aggressive to strangers and other dogs. What can I do?

  6. We just adopted a GSD that is about 5-6 months old. How do we get her to trust us and bond with her?

  7. I live in the country and there are many drop-offs. Many counties in this state don't have shelters. What are your thoughts on doing what's right?

  8. We rescued a Shepherd a year ago and are now having aggression issues. We don't want to return him to the shelter. Can you help us?

  9. I think we went wrong somewhere with introducing our dog and cats. Any advise on where we went wrong and how to fix it?

  10. An experience with a rescue dog who bites.

  11. We rescued a stray who turned out to be pregnant and now that she has had her puppies is very aggressive around them. What should I do?

  12. My husband and I adopted a rescue dog last year. He seems to think he owns the neighborhood, and is trying to assert his dominance over all other dogs? Why doesn't he do it to all dogs?

  13. Last Saturday we picked up an 11 month old Australian Shepherd / Shih Tzu mix from the SPCA after being spayed. I have two children and a cat and she has been a huge handful. Do you think she is the wrong dog for us?

  14. I have in the last 2 weeks taken in a rescue Aussie. She was a puppy mill mom for an unknown amount of time. I'm not sure what else I can do to get her to trust me and be a normal dog. Any suggestions?

  15. I am considering adopting a 6 month old Doberman Shepherd cross. Would it be a mistake to adopt this dog if I have minimal experience with dogs? Will proper training offset my lack of experience or am I better off not getting involved with these breeds?

  16. I adopted a “White German Shepherd mix.” Comments from other “dog people” have led us to suspect he may be a low content hybrid. Should I be overly cautious, or am I just scaring myself into thinking he may become some kind of monster?

  17. We were recently contacted about a pair of 8 week old wolf pups. Now after getting the pups home they are so horrified that they won't come out of the corner and the male urinates all over himself. How can I get through to these guys?

  18. Do you have a video on training for the invisible fence? Or best video I should use to help train my dog to stay in the yard?

  19. What DVDs would you suggest for the husky that we just brought into our home?

  20. I took in a Yorkie. She does good when I'm around, but tends to have accidents when I leave the room. What's your suggestion?

  21. My rescue dog won't go down the stairs to my basement and I want to take him down there where it's cool so we can play. I don't want to force him, can you help me?

  22. I adopted a dog from the shelter and in 2 weeks time he's killed 8 of my neighbors rabbits, destroyed thousands of dollars in landscaping and is now attacking me when I try to take him for a walk. What should I do?

  23. We adopted a new dog, he’s bonded with my wife but he runs away from me.  How can I win his trust?

  24. I have a shelter dog I adopted last month. he’s 85 pounds and wants to go after every cat, squirrel and yappy dog he sees.  He also pulls all the time, even with a prong collar on. I’m 51 years of age, 5 foot 2, 103 pounds and I have bulging discs in my neck and back. I also have pulmonary hypertension. When I try to control this dog is hurts me.  Will the dominant dog collar help with his pulling?


I have a question. I have just started volunteering at a small shelter. The new director seems to like click-training with a clicker. She also likes using a head harness called a Gentle Lead (goes fairly tight on the mussel and behind the ears). Before I order the video are these methods consistent with your teaching methods? Please comment.

Perry, Iowa


No they are not.

The only place I think a halti (head harness) is appropriate is with a dog that can be a little nippy towards the handler during training – but even then I don’t like them. A head harness is not a legitimate training tool.

I am not a big fan of clickers. But some people like them. Frankly there is no difference in saying GOOD DOG than there is in clicking a clicker.

The people who run animal shelters are well intentioned people. I give them credit for the work they do in saving unwanted dogs and finding new homes for dogs. They deserve a lot of credit for this. The fact is a great many of them need better training on how to handle problem dogs and head harnesses and clickers are not going to help them with this.

I will be releasing a completely new version of my Basic Dog Obedience video – it will be 4 hours long and only available on DVD – you should wait and get that DVD – then let her watch it. It will help her.

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I did read pretty much the whole site. Couldn't find a question completely like this one and it is probably something other people deal with.

We have a really good GSD. She is easy to train and easy to live with. We have not had her that long, but she is 1 year old (rescued).

When we kennel her for any length of time, she tries to get out of the kennel non-stop and barks non-stop. I understand that we can use the e-collar to fix the barking problem. Again, like another of your questions, the 1 min, 2 min, 5 min does not work. When we get her out of the kennel she is hyper beyond belief. Usually runs around jumping, spinning, barking, and then drinks up a whole bowl of water. Last night we kenneled her for only about 1 hour. We waited until about 1 hour after she ate and let her go to the bathroom prior. She puked in the kennel (looked like her whole meal + any treats she might have had). My guess is that she is working herself into a frenzy in the kennel and got so worked up after dinner that she couldn't hold her meal. I assume she will eventually grow to like her kennel and understand that she can't dig her way out (which she tries to do - This is a metal crate with a plastic tray, so isn't very 'diggable'). Anything else I can do? I work out of my house during the day, but usually do not kennel her unless I am away on business for the day. Should I kennel her every day even if I am home to prove to her that is what she will be doing during the day?



More than anything this is an obedience issue. The dog needs to learn that a large part of its life is to follow what the pack leader (you) wants. So, obedience training - correct obedience training - is one of the biggest issues. I can almost guarantee you that this dog will not mind under distraction. When you do not have control when the dog comes out of the crate you are telling me the dog is not trained.

I would keep this dog in the crate almost all the time. I would only allow it out when I took it outside. It may take a week or so but such is the life of a dog. They do not control your life - you control theirs.

Its your choice to have the dog wear a no bark collar (I would set it on low level) or just put up with the barking. Eventually it will stop.

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Two weeks ago we adopted a 3 1/2 yr. Golden Labrador dog for free, from a reputable kennel.

Before deciding on the dog, we asked:

- Is he well behaved around people, other animals? Since we have 2 children, 2 birds & a cat, the dog had to have an excellent temperament around other animals and children.
- Knowledge of commands, what?
- Name, Address & Number of previous owner.
- Medical History, shots, neutered, dates shots were last administered.
- Exact breed lineage.
- Veterinarian, last address & number.

Those questions were answered as such; We were told that Chinook was a very well behaved dog. He had been in the Kennel for 7 weeks, after his owner dropped him off and requested he be placed with a good family. (The owner has gotten a traveling job, and couldn't keep this otherwise wonderfully obedient dog.)

According to the kennel, he was quite well trained. The dog was known to behave well with the other kennel dogs and cats. He knew commands: sit, heal, no, hi 5, roll-over, go, stop, down. Food was no problem, he ate anything we gave him.

The breed was Golden Lab. mixed with a larger breed. He weighed 110 lbs.

Shots were up to date, but no papers were available at the time.

We were wanting to know more about the dog's past in order to help with his transition into our family. So, I asked the kennel if they could contact the previous owner and get copies of the papers, owners/veterinarians name address & number, temperament history, anything in his past that we should know about to help us relate to him better, any other commands that he may have been taught. His likes/dislikes, his history as a puppy, where he lived and how he grew up. Plus all papers that are available for proper adoption of the dog and licensing purposes.

The kennel assured us that they would contact the owner and relay all information.

We brought the dog home. He was just so well behaved. Understood commands well and behaved fabulously with the children. Our concern began when he lunged at the cat. We called the kennel, they assured us that it was just that Chinook wasn't used to the cat and that they would be getting along well in no time.

We let him out into the yard daily, where we leashed him onto a running course. He had the run of the yard, but could not jump the fence (low fence). We walked him for 1hr. daily.

He had a wonderful 12x12 laundry room of his own during the night.

He seemed happy and content. Choosing my younger son as his favorite, we were happy to see him bond with all of us in a wonderful way.

Everything was wonderful... until last night.

My 12yr son took him for his daily walk. A Retriever was being walked on the other side of the road. Chinook, with all his force pulled on his harness and BROKE the hook which connected the harness to the leash. Son got up, ran across street after dog, by which time Chinook clamped down on the dog and caused damage to his right shoulder. My son pounced on Chinook hitting his snout, and tore him away. The other dog in defense, attacked my son.

(I should add that the other dog was on a long leash, and when the attack happened the owner did nothing to pull her dog closer to protect him. Might have been shock related).

The other owner screamed at Son for his tel. number, and that she would sue. Son was bleeding and didn't have paper pencil which she demanded from him. Holding his hand, neighbors came to the rescue of Son and patched him up. While dog owner kept screaming at him, but refused to provide her info. to him.

Now, the owner of the other dog is pressing charges says their dog is not expected to survive the bite. We are very concerned for their dog and wanted to contact the vet. but the owner has refused to give us any of their or the vet's information.

My son's wound isn't bad, but a chunk of his skin was taken, expecting scaring on his palm. (The other owner has not asked about my son's condition, even though we have asked about her dog).

Police and Animal Control came by and told us to return the dog back to the kennel tonight - we did.

They also want the papers, which the kennel owners say they don't have. (How can you put a dog up for adoption without papers?)

Animal control says we are being charged with "Not having control of a vicious pet" and "negligence: child under age 18 walking a dog " HUH!? I've never heard of such a charge, besides it was our CHILD that stopped the fight while the adult stood by screaming at the kid.

As for vicious, we were not aware that the dog would be vicious, and asked about his temperament before adoption.

Animal control says that we are liable for vet costs and replacement value if the other dog dies. Which they say may very likely happen.

Our lawyer says that we have no worry, our home insurance will cover all costs.

Police said that other owner and Animal control have exploded the scenario to larger proportions than is real.

We would like to contact their vet to check on the status of the injured dog, but have no way of contacting the owner.

Who should we contact?
What are our rights?
What recourse?
Why the attack after 2 weeks of honorable behavior?
What should / can we do now?


You have made some serious mistakes here. I don’t know what your liability would be as a result of these mistakes. In fact I don’t know where to draw a line between a lack of education and stupidity. I don’t mean this in a mean- spirited way – I am just not sure where that line is.

Here is the short list on mistakes:

1- Using a harness to walk a dog – a harness is NOT a training tool.
2- Allowing a 12 year old to take responsibility for a mature adult dog.
3- Allowing a 12 year old to walk a dog in an area where there are other dogs.
4- Not verifying that the dog was indeed trained properly – which it was not or it would not have attacked the other dog.
5- Not doing an adequate job to verify that you have a safe dog before you exposed your neighbors and their pets to the dog.

Now can a lawyer offer a defense? Yes – that’s what lawyers do. If they can defend OJ Simpson they can certainly defend you. Will you lose you home owners insurance as a result of this? Probably.

What can you do now? Do a better job of learning how to live with and train a dog before you get another one. While you obviously think you acted responsibly I look at your email and only see “IRRESPONSIBLE.”

If you want to see what you should have done – read the article I wrote The GROUNDWORK to becoming a Pack Leader – introducing a new dog into your home.

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QUESTION on Bonding with a Rescue Dog:

We just adopted a GS who is probably About 5-6 mos. Old. She was a stray and had lived with a family for a couple of months and they wanted to give her up to a good home because they already had 2 dogs. We’ve only had her a day, but we want to start out right. She is very shy and timid. We finally coaxed her into her crate and now she won’t come out. She has always lived outside. We would like for her to live inside with us and our other dog who is a 5 yr. old mix breed. We have a collar on her and a leash just to get her used to it, but even with a small tug, she won’t come out. I don’t want to drag her out. We are going to get some treats like your website says, and use those as rewards for coming in and out of her crate. I don’t know if she was mistreated sometime, or if she is just weak nerved, or if its just because she doesn’t really know us or where she is. How can we gain her trust and bond with her? We have your video on obedience and are going to send it in for the new DVD (we loaned it out, and just have to get it back). Until then, any advice will help. Thanks!



Have patience with this dog. Try pieces of hot dog tossed in the crate to get her to go inside. Feed her in the crate.

Read the article I wrote titled TRAINING WITH MARKERS. Dogs like this respond to that – in fact you may want to use clickers with her. GET THE NEW DVD on Basic Dog Obedience – it will help a lot – its got all new information.

If you have to drag her out, then give her food and mark it as soon as she comes out.

You may want to read the article I wrote on GROUND WORK BEFORE OBEDIENCE TRAINING. If this were my dog this is how I would handle her but not until she had been here for a week or so in the crate. Let her get REAL BORED in the crate so she is happy to come out. In the beginning don’t do any interaction inside – even though you eventually want a house dog – all of your interaction should be outside – when she comes inside she should go in the crate.

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QUESTION on Rescue Dog that is Aggressive to Strangers and Dogs:

I just found your site and read most of it. I think it's given me some hope with my dog Woo, but I still have some questions.

Woo is a 2 1/2 year old (approximately) pit bull mix. I've owned her about a year. Her original owners abused her pretty horribly, and then her " rescuers" neglected her to the point of abuse. Her first owners set her on fire. Amazingly she survived, and was taken in by some acquaintances of mine who were running a dog rescue. They're good people, and meant well, but really didn't know the first thing about dogs. The rescue dogs were allowed to run loose in their yard with their pets. When the dogs packed
up, they just let them "fight it out." They also could not afford to obtain medical attention for the dogs beyond basic vaccinations. When Woo came to me she had a case of mange so bad that she was completely bald and covered in oozing scabs. She had a staph infection over her entire body, and a
yeast infection in her wounds. Her burns had never had a chance to heal and were infected as well.

She won me over with her gentle, sweet personality. She was so ugly, but I fell in love with her. She's healthy now, and a beautiful, but scarred girl. She's very well mannered at home, and very gentle with my two chihuahuas and my cats. She loves my fiance also.

She hates all other men. I have never allowed her to be unsupervised or not on a leash with strange men, but I feel very sure she would bite them if I let her. She does not hate strange women as much, but is so leery of them that I do not trust her. She used to like other dogs, but over the past few
months has begun to react very negatively to them as well. I absolutely cannot allow her to go out for walks with the chihuahuas, as she becomes so protective of them that she is hard to control.

Woo is fine on a leash, and I was so happy to see what you had to say about idiots who leave their dogs off the leash. I can control her just fine on my own, but then when somebody's dog comes running up and won't stay away I get scared. I know my dog will bite, which is why she's on a leash; I wish
other people would show some courtesy as well.

Anyway, my question to you is, if I cannot alter her negative reactions to strangers and other dogs do you think I can still safely keep her as a pet? I do not intend to have children, and Woo is crated when we have guests over. I love her very much, but feel a responsibility to prevent her biting someone or killing another dog. I have tried to find a trainer to help me, but whenever I say "pit bull" and "aggression" they are not interested. The behaviorist at our local SPCA has met with me, but I'm not sure her suggestions are effective. She know "sit" and "wait," and she waits for me to go through doorways first, and when I put her food down she knows to wait for me to say "OK" before she eats. I can take away her food and toys with no protest. I would like to train her further, but feel uncertain of my ability without a trainer who is willing to work with us. Any advice or insight you can give would be greatly appreciated.



You sound like a good person with excellent intentions - which is why I am answering this.

You can save this dog if you wish to make the effort. Get a muzzle and make the dog wear it all of the time when you are out of your house. This is not uncommon, in Europe all Pitts have to be muzzled 100% of the time out of the house.

Do not ever vaccinate this dog again except for rabies. It will just suppress her immune system. Read my web site on vaccinations. Rabies is a law so you have to do it.

I would put the dog on an all-natural diet.

Then you need to start to train the dog. You can do this yourself. Get my Basic Dog Obedience DVD and a prong collar. Prongs look nasty but are much more humane than choke collars when used properly. You can do this training. Dog training is not rocket science - unlike a lot of people who write me you sound like you have a brain in your head.

I NEVER ALLOW my dogs to be around strangers. No one touches my dogs and I NEVER ALLOW strange dogs to be near my dogs. Read the article I wrote on my web site about DEALING WITH DOMINANT DOGS. Not that your dog is dominant but it explains a lot about how your dog looks at you.

When out for a walk carry a walking stick. Its also not a bad idea to carry pepper gas for those loose dogs. When strange dogs come around - don't be afraid to threaten these dogs to stay away. Even whack then if you have to. You are the pack leader and your female expects you to protect her. The hell with their owners... if they don't like it they should control their dogs.Read my article on DOG PARKS - also the article on How to Break Up A Dog Fight without getting Bit. (just so you know what to do in case of an accident).

Now I have supplied you with a lot of tools. It's up to you to read, study and learn. You have come the first mile for this dog. I think you can learn to live with it and keep control of its environment so there are no accidents.


Hi Ed,

I have great respect for your knowledge on dogs and am learning much from your articles and DVDs.

Since I moved to TN to care for my elderly mother 3 years ago, I have acquired over 40 drop-off dogs and various other animals. We live in the country and needless to say there are many drop-offs (abandoned, abused and/or starved) in this economically depressed area. Many of the counties here have no shelters, including this one. And the lack of education, exposure and willingness to grow, combined with local corruption make it all the more challenging.

I am an animal lover through and through and want to give each one a chance, but the fact remains I, along with a handful of other like-minded rescue people, am swimming hard to stay afloat on many levels. I'm on Petfinder, advertise in the papers, the vet sends people my way and I even went twice to a truck stop with puppies (not my normal m.o.). I try to train and make adoptable all of the animals and your information helps me here, but there are some animals that remain 'not the best' pet-types for most people.

I have tried to come to terms with putting some to sleep but after doing that once, I just can't do it again. I just can't put a perfectly good animal to sleep. Whether they're adoptable or not though, it's very hard to find GOOD homes for these little souls.

What thoughts do you have on the rescuing of animals to help me do what's right?

P.S. Last week I acquired an 18 month old, high-energy Red Husky / Akita mix (I think) who is extremely dog-aggressive and disrespectful to me. He's even bitten 'towards' me when walking by another kennel dog (I raised his feet off the ground until his legs became weak and he did a little better).

I have your 'Basic Dog Obedience' and 'Aggressive and Dominant Dogs' DVDs and have sent off for your dominant collar but am using a chain choker in the meantime. He absolutely continues to pull even when snapped and with his wind cut He has had at least 3 previous owners who neglected him (from not knowing how to handle him I imagine). He needs much training but I think he's worth it. Do I just keep at it?

Thank you for make this world a little smarter when it comes to canines,



I do have empathy for you and I hope you can make this work.

In our county we had an ass hole drag a dog down the road by a rope and kill it. He was arrested and part of his sentence was to donate $5,000 to build a no kill shelter (this was many years ago). It has grown because of people like yourself.

I guess I would start a community / county fund raiser or awareness program.
Not everyone in the county is poor and sometime well to do families will sympathize like you do.

Find a lawyer who will donate money to start a non-profit organization, then open a bank account where there is oversight on how the money is spent. When people see that the money is not being ripped off they come together. I would keep a web site up - showing how much money has been collected and list the things it was spent on.


I have searched several forums to find some info on aggression issues in shelter dogs and haven't found anything specific to a rescue dog.  We rescued a Sheppard last May and he has aggression issues with my 14 yr old daughter.  We are not sure why this is happening only with her, we also have a 12 yr old son whom he has no problem with.  He has bitten her about 4 times up to now and he strikes without provocation.  We don't have much history on this dog as he has been in & out of shelters for most of his life, he is now almost 3yrs old.  I have been researching the use of an ecollar, but am not sure if this will help. 
We need help!  I would hate to have to put him back into a shelter without having tried all the possibilities.

Thank you in advance for your help.


The first thing that jumps out at me is your misunderstanding about pack behavior and dog training in general.

Dogs (unlike people) don’t live in the past. They live in the present and react to what's facing them in the moment.

This means to categorize a dog as a RESCUE DOG and expect to find solutions based on a dog being a rescue dog is a huge mistake.

You have not established pack structure in your home. I have written a free E-book on this - My web site has a large number of FREE eBooks that I have written.

I believe that the DVD I recently finished could really help you. It’s titled DEALING WITH DOMINANT AND AGGRESSIVE DOGS and was a 5 year project.

This DVD is 3 ½ hours long. You can go to the web page and read the outline of what’s included on the video. My DVDs are not meant to be watched one time. The fact is anyone who needs this information needs to watch it many times because every time they watch it they will pick up new ideas.

This dog also needs to be obedience trained in a meaningful way. If you want to learn how to do this its explained in my Basic Dog Obedience DVD.


I adopted a 2 year old cavaleir mix from the animal shelter about 6 months ago. She knows a few commands, but I have not trained her at all. A friend gave me your web site and I have been reading and reading. I have put her on a lead, and in there lies the problem. When she sees the lead she runs away. I have to hide it, call her and then bring it out and put it on her. Once she has it on, wherever I stop she sits and does not move at all. I put her outside and told her to go potty and went inside and made dinner. Went out to get her and she hadn't moved. A cat even ran by and she did not move. I wanted to see what she would, so I took the lead off and immediately she started running around and was "normal." I have her on the lead inside the house and she just sits there and her whole body shakes. She is in a cowering position and her tail is between her legs. How can I train her? I am assuming that she was abused or was treated harshly while on a lead or leash, but without it she just goes about her business and does not listen. I could use your help. I don't want to damage her any more and I want her to be trained. I realize now that I have been doing this all wrong. Also, we just got a 11 week old female american eskimo. I did the intro wrong, but I am trying to correct that now. She shook on the lead before we got the puppy though. I need to train both of them now. Right now I am keeping them both in their crates and doing the pack training. I would appreciate your help. Any suggestions? Thank you.


I am glad you are doing the groundwork, that will help a lot.

I would use marker training to make the leash a pleasant object. Read the article I wrote titled Training With Markers. There are three phases of training, the learning phase, the distraction phase and the correction phase. We use markers to introduce our dogs to the LEARNING PHASE of training. I wouldn’t even attach it to her during this process, I would reward her with some really high value food item every time you have the leash in your hand.  I would also only offer her regular meals in conjunction with the leash being present. If she doesn’t want to come near the leash, she doesn’t get her supper.  If you are free feeding this dog, you need to pick the food up and put her on a schedule.

For the pup I would recommend you purchase the DVD titled Your Puppy 8 Weeks to 8 Months

Ed has owned and trained German Shepherds for 45 years. In the past 30 years we have bred over 350 litters of working bloodline German Shepherds. We give this video to all of our puppy customers and we never get questions on how to raise a pup.

Read the description of this puppy DVD on my web site. Dog training is not rocket science its simple common sense ideas on how to handle and train a dog,  The DVD has over 3 hours of training information.

You should also consider the 4 hour DVD on Basic Dog Obedience. The fact is you have much more to learn than your dog. I recommend the handlers start studying this DVD right away even though you won’t use some of this training material for several months (usually not until the pup is 4 to 6 months old). You can also use the methods in this dvd with your shelter dog.

I also recommend that you go to the web site and read the article on “Ed’s Philosophy of Dog Training.” I believe you will not only learn something about dog training, I hope you will also adopt the same philosophy on dog training.   


After finding your website today I have discovered I have been doing a lot of things right when training our new stray and I have even more to learn.  I plan to order the basic training DVD as well as one of the books.  I loved when you said "Don't take a completely untrained dog to obedience class!"  I had planned to wait about a month, or  until he masters sit, stay, come, lay down and leash walking with me in the house, neighborhood and yard, and many of your comments confirmed what I have been doing out of what I felt seemed like common sense.  My question for you is in regard to introducing the dog to the cats.  I think I rushed it, though I pretty much did the stuff you posted on the articles on your website.

Our dog is very friendly and is smart, and he is already learning "who's the boss." In adapting him to our cats, we are trying to teach him that they are the "TOP DOG" since they were here first.  He is curious and at first barked in a friendly way, but has quickly learned not to bark or chase, and to always approach slowly.  Because he is so smart (Poodle/Bishon) he has learned very quickly, and he is not at all aggressive towards the cats.  He would like to play though…

We did give separate living areas, and we have crated the dog at night.  We allow the cats free reign over the house when dog is asleep, and we put the dog to bed an hour before us so cats can socialize with us, since dog is getting 500% more time than them at the moment because of training.

One of our cats is still a bit leery of him, but is adapting well.  He still fluffs up, but holds his ground without fear nor with aggression.  The other cat refuses to have anything to do with adapting to the dog.  For the first two weeks, we had her food and litter box upstairs, and we kept the dog  downstairs.  After two weeks we moved the food back downstairs, and when we saw her eating a few times.  Then we took the litter box downstairs so the cats had to come down to use it,  Both cats came down to eat and also socialized with us in the presence of the dog the very same day.  We were thrilled. Then we put the second litter box back into use upstairs so they could use the up or the downstairs box and boom: kitty stays upstairs and doesn't come down to eat, sleeping about 22-23 hours a day (she normally sleeps 18-20), and of course she  is losing some weight.  For a six pound cat, one ounce is like ten pounds on a person, so I am really concerned about her.

Should we start all over again?  She has an eating disorder, so her eating habits are a touchy thing to mess with.  Moving her food threw her for a loop both times, so if I move it back upstairs,  I am fearful that she will see this as a signal to stay upstairs forever. She does not seem to FEAR the dog, but she simply seems to shrivel in disgust at  his presence in our home.  I am unwilling to keep a new animal at the expense of our old animal, and I am hoping you might have advice, since we absolutely enjoy our dog, and really want to keep him.

We also introduced the animals quietly and under controlled conditions to help the cats feel a little more secure about the dog, and to help the dog's curiosity abate.This really helped both dog and cat,  as long as we didn't let the time go for more than 3-6 minutes at a time.

Feel free to tell me if I am doing something dumb and am not seeing it.


PS.  I saw you recommended an electric collar and a Prickly Collar (I don’t' know what it's called".  For our very mild tempered dog, we have found a "head Lead" works.  It's a collar that is connected to the lead right under the chin.  Works for our dog much like the electric collar seems to work for other dogs.


I would have kept the dog crated for a longer period of time, instead of moving the cats out of the living space.  The dog is the new member of the pack, and he needs to earn his way to freedom and interaction with the family.

If you have read the article on introducing dogs into homes with cats, that will be a good start.  I also think you should put the groundwork program into effect for the dog before you do any obedience training.  It’s absolutely ok to start over and do things a bit more slowly this time, as I think it’s better to take a long time in the beginning so all the cats and dog have a very clear understanding of the new structure within the home.

Please read this article about becoming an effective pack leader.

This article was written for people like yourself, people who have great intentions but not enough knowledge of pack structure. There are links within the article that will take you to other articles on my web site.

The Basic Obedience DVD will guide you through the training steps once you have established all the rules and boundaries for the dog.

I hope this helps.


We have a dog that has bitten 3 of it's family members [myself, my 8 year old son and my 10 mth. old daughter].  We are at the end of our rope.

We got the dog from a shelter and the first night she came to us she displayed aggression.  We figured new environment so we let it go.  But over the past year she has bitten and broken skin and yesterday was the last straw when she bit my son.  We took her to obedience school when we first got her.  She goes to the bathroom all over the house so she can no longer come upstairs.  What gets me is that she does good for a number of days and we reward her and then its like she forgets what she has just learned.  What the heck is THAT???  Anyhow, we inquired about returning the dog to the shelter that we got her from and they said since she bites she will have to be put down.  That's not what I want for the dog.  She is a playful dog and is a good dog.  But its like she is schizo or something.  I was there when she was bit my son.  We were all playing outside.  We were chasing each other and I saw her turn around and bite my son out of aggression.  It wasn't like my son was being aggressive or anything.  I know about dominant/submissive behavior and the dog does listen to me but she also bit me before.  I chalked up that experience to her having a bad former owner.  The shelter had NO history of the dog and I find it outrageous that they are going to kill her if we return her.  That's not what I want for her.  I think she would do better like at a farm or a family that has no children.

I've read several of the e-mails that were sent in and its not a case that we are bad owners.  We have tried our best with her.  We have bought her toys, chews, we play with her.  But like I said, its like she gets a bad thought in her head and just goes after one of us.  One day I'm not going to be quick enough to protect my children and she will really bite them bad like she did me.   I ended up having to go to the hospital to get a tetanus shot and stitches.

Are there any other aggressive techniques we can use to get her to stop?  Killing her is not an alternative.  Please HELP.



Good Morning,

I am hoping that you can help me with what I believe is an unusual situation.  Almost two months ago, we found a Shiba Inu running stray in our community... she was in beautiful shape but very skittish, scared, impossible to catch.  We called every agency, checked every website, nobody was looking for her. My teenage children and I set out to gain her trust - it took over a month, but we were able to catch her in a crate - we had anticipated a bad reaction, but she had obviously been crate-trained at some point. Had her checked out by a vet, she cleared a cursory examination (Frontline, Heartguard, took off ticks and checked her blood for the normal problems - all clear - also vaccinated her) and sent us on our way.  She moved into our home with amazing ease, and was clearly happy to be in a home. Somebody obviously spent a good deal of time training her, as she crates and walks like a champ. Two weeks after taking her in we noted that she was getting much bigger - took her for a second vet's appointment and this time we learned that she was pregnant, and about to deliver pups. 

She delivered them (5) in my home this past Saturday. Everything went well, and she allowed me to help her (first pup was breech/dry, and I needed to assist), handle the pups and check them..... she seems to be a very good mother, extremely attentive. Here's the problem - yesterday she became aggressive with me... would not allow me to handle the pups, charged me when I reached for one, growling, teeth bared... and later in the evening, after she had been walked, when I walked toward the whelping area she nipped my heels.  She has been fine outside of the whelping area, continues to walk well on the leash (though she is in quite a rush to get back), follows the few commands we have taught her (I had been using your podcasts and had successfully begun with marker training). 

She obviously doesn't know me or my household well enough to trust me completely. I know from your articles that it is normal for a mother dog to be protective, and even aggressive, but I also know that I need to take control. She does not respond to "Come"... I understand that Shiba Inus rarely do, and I haven't had her long enough to train her well. Am I trying too soon? Do you have any suggestions?

I appreciate your help very much.



Maternal aggression is common and normal but sometimes doesn’t show until the pups are a day or two old, especially in new mothers.  This will fade as the pups get older so what I would recommend right now is to NOT handle or stare at the pups when the mother is in the room with them.  Slip a leash over her head and take her outside or put her in a crate while you look at the pups or touch them.  Keep her on a leash and under control at all times when she is not with her puppies and if her whelping area is not private, either move her and the pups to an enclosed place or make some barriers out of big cardboard boxes or something so she doesn’t feel so defensive.

This could be a trust issue but some females are like this to everyone when they have a new litter, she’s just following her instincts to protect her babies. I don’t believe in allowing dogs to get away with aggressive behavior but this is a hormonally induced type of aggression that corrections will only make worse.




I've read your information on aggressive dogs, but I didn't find anything that quite matched my situation, so I thought I'd see if you could give me some advice.

My husband and I adopted a rescue dog last year. The dog is neutered, about two years old now and weighs 40 pounds. Over the past year, our dog (a mix, the vet thinks he could possibly be a shepherd/beagle) has taken an obedience class and had to stay at a kennel for a weekend when we were out of town, and in both cases he loved playing with other dogs and was never aggressive. Also, we live in a condo in a neighborhood with lots of dogs, and our dog goes on four walks a day. During each walk he usually meets at least one or two other dogs, most of whom he has met before and are his friends in the neighborhood. He even plays with dogs regularly at the park. However, in the past two days, when out on a walk, our dog has seen another dog (one of the two he sees on a regular basis) and tried to bite it in the face. The first time, it was a dog he usually sees, and they usually sniff each other. My dog was doing the same thing as usual, when suddenly he went to sniff the other dog, and instead growled and lunged at its face. I was able to pull my dog back in time, and he only startled the other dog. Today, however, my dog and another dog met on the sidewalk. I walked to the side of the sidewalk, in the grass, but my dog looked happy to greet the other dog, and the other dog was friendly as well. I thought perhaps the day before had been an isolated incident (perhaps the dog had a strange smell on it, etc., and also my dog had seen several other dogs in the meantime, and had been happy to play with them) but once again, my dog appeared friendly, but when he got close enough to sniff the dog, he bit it in the face, and it happened too fast for me to pull him back.

I don't know what could suddenly be causing him to act this way - the two times it has happened, he has been in his normal environment and he hasn't been scared (or at least hasn't appeared scared). The only thing I can think of is perhaps he thinks he owns the neighborhood, and is trying to assert his dominance over all other dogs? However, if this is the case, why doesn't he do it to all dogs? Since this behavior is new, I'd like to stop it, but I don't know what's causing it, so I'm unsure what to do, other than to keep him away from all other dogs when we go on walks.

Thank you for your help.




I have talked extensively on my web site about this.

Your dog has reached maturity and you don’t understand pack structure and drive. I am sorry to have to tell you this but this happened because if your lack of knowledge on this. You don’t understand how strong a dogs pack drive it.

Read the free eBook I wrote on dog parks. Read the ebook on pack structure.

From this point on you should not be doing what you have been doing – allowing this dog to meet and greet other dogs. While you may think he thinks this is a friendly meet and greet your dead wrong. There are NEVER equals in the dog world. NOT EVER!! One dog is always superior to the other and while some will willingly accept it others will fight for RANK. That’s what you have. This did not just happen today – you have missed the signals that have been going on for a long time.

Here are the training DVDs I recommend to people like you:

Establishing Pack Structure with the Family Dog
Basic Dog Obedience
Remote Collar Training for the Pet Owner

If you ignore all of this advice I suggest you become and expert on my article on how to break up a dog fight without getting hurt because you’re going to need this information.

Kind Regards,
Ed Frawley


You came highly recommended by a coworker and I could really use your advice. Last Saturday we picked up an 11 month old Australian Shepherd / Shih Tzu mix from the SPCA after being spayed. I have two girls one 8 and one 12 and a 13 year old cat. So far the cat and dog definitely do not get along and the dog has gone from constant submissive urination to becoming aggressive, hyper and even destructive. Unfortunately, I have had her crated all night and then again during the day while we work.
Last night she was jumping on me trying to rip my sleeves and just being completely defiant. My children are not able to get her out of her crate when they get out come home from school because she will growl and bark at them. She does sit, give her paw and lay down if I have a treat but otherwise she is no good on a leash or listening to anyone. I have enrolled in a beginner class at Pet Smart beginning tonight but I am not sure if it will help. After spending a full night crying due to fear I will need to take her back to the SPCA and just plain frustration at her behavior I thought I would ask your advice if you think there is a chance for her. I am willing to do the work but I do not have a large fenced in yard or a farm. I live in the Phila suburbs and my children have a very active life. If her behavior improves I would love to bring her with us to soccer games etc. Do you think she is the wrong dog for us?

If there is a possibility that she will calm down and be the good family companion I am searching for I would love to purchase some of your videos.

Thank for in advance for your help,


I have reviewed your email and believe that the first thing you need to do is to establish clear leadership with your dog. This is achieved by restructuring your dog's daily life and controlling all privileges through our groundwork program. Please read this article first

Pack structure and how to live with a dog in your home are the very first issues to deal with whenever you add a new dog to your family or have problems with an existing dog. We are taking orders for a new DVD that extensively covers the way Ed and I live with dogs in our home.

You also need to look at this from the dog's point of view. I can only make assumptions by my perceived tone of your email but I get the feeling that you are unsure and emotional about all of this. This kind of attitude on your part will actually create hectic and unsettled behavior in this dog.
She's already feeling insecure from being in a shelter and then is taken in to a home where nobody really knows how to deal with her. She's asking for leadership in the only way she knows how.

You don't need a fenced yard or a farm to be a good dog owner. You need to be willing to put in the time and do what it takes to help this dog adjust to life with you and your family. If you are not willing or able to do that, then it would probably be best to rehome the dog.

If you spend some time using the search function (located in the upper left hand corner of the website) you will find many useful articles and posts that address all the problems you are having. You can start by searching on the term "cats" and you will find out how to deal introducing the dog to your cats correctly.

I hope this helps.



Hi Cindy,

I have in the last 2 weeks taken in a rescue Aussie, I have my own Aussies. She was purchased at auction by Aussie rescue and was a puppy mill mom for an unknown amount of time. She is totally un social, doesn't care for or want attention. If given her own choice she would lay in a crate or dog house forever and not move. But I don't want that for her I want to at least make her secure or trust a little. Everyday it's like the first day she has seen me she cowers, ducks the collar which has to be a choke etc since she lives to get away and will any chance she gets. When I'm working with her inside she is panting like a marathon from stress, but I have made tiny progress in she will take a piece of cheese from my hand. What else can I do to help this dog? We take walks, she interacts through the fence with my other Aussies but if I let her out with any she runs away. I haven't been allowing her to do what she wants. I stop her from pulling, I go out the door first,etc. I treat her just like my others she gets a bath I use the blow dryer she gets brushed what little coat she has. The only thing she does now that is any different from day one is, if I put her in her kennel and walk away now she barks. Any suggestions?



I think that if I had a dog like this, I would only feed her from my hand. She would take all of her meals directly from me. I would continue with all the other things you are doing and let her adjust to her new situation. Adult dogs can take a while to settle in even when they come from a stable upbringing, with dogs like this you just have to be patient and let them make the choice themselves to become interactive with you. By manipulating food you can make yourself more important to her, without forcing yourself on her.

You can’t make a dog trust you and you can’t make a dog feel secure.
You just need to show her clear calm leadership and let her make the steps to want a relationship. If you haven’t already read this article, I would suggest it.

Once she will reliably take food from you, I would start marker training with her. Read the article titled Training With Markers.

I hope this helps.



Good morning.

I have searched the Q&A section and I have read about introducing a dog to the resident cats & your philosophy of dog training. I plan to do much more reading now that I have found your site.

Here is my situation & I am hoping you can offer some advice …

I am considering adopting a 6 month old Doberman Shepherd cross. She is in a shelter, found as a stray with her 2 sisters. She is good with other dogs & cats – unknown with young children. (I have 2 cats at home – age 5 & 7 years.) Would it be a mistake to adopt this dog if I have minimal experience with dogs? Will proper training offset my lack of experience or am I better off not getting involved with these breeds? 

Thank you very much for your time.



I have found that anyone who is willing to put the time into the relationship and training with the dog can be successful. Many people with loads of experience have issues because they don’t want to invest the time or energy.

I would throw a word of caution out there. Just because the shelter reports that this dog is good with other dogs & cats doesn’t mean this dog will not be a problem with your cats and you will want to proceed as if the dog has never seen a cat.  Many times shelter dogs will behave differently in the shelter setting than they do once they settle into a home. There is a honeymoon period with most shelter dogs, where they behave beautifully at first and as they feel more comfortable they begin to display behaviors that sometimes catch the new owners off guard. Consistent, firm leadership is the key.

Since you have limited experience, I’d make a few recommendations for materials that will help.

If you adopt this dog (or any dog) I’d start with our Groundwork program and the video that picks up where the article leaves off - Pack Structure for the Family Pet.

Basic Dog Obedience

The Power of Training Dogs with Markers

I would direct you to the search function in the upper left corner of the website for any additional questions you may have. If you type in your key words it will guide you to articles, Q&As and posts on our forum. 

I hope this helps!



Hi –

I have read with interest your discussions on hybrids.  I adopted a 6 month old male pup from our local SPCA in December. He was described as a “White German Shepherd mix,” but looked pure bred to me at the time. I currently own a female GSD which I obtained from a breeder at 9 weeks of age. As Diablo (the male) has grown and developed the last 3 months, his body shape, fur, facial structure, some behaviors, and comments from other “dog people” have led us to suspect he may be a low content hybrid. I contacted the SPCA to ask if they knew where the litter came from, but they have not replied. He is very sweet and playful, but timid toward strangers. His eyes are yellow. His body is thick, and his fur is much more dense and fluffy than any other GSD I have ever had, although his tail is like a GSDs, not husky-like at all.  His muzzle is more elongated than a traditional GSD and most telling (to me, anyway) is that Diablo does not bark – he has NEVER barked – he whines or yips.  A herding dog that does not bark seems very strange.  He either lays down or paces when in the house.

That being said, we love him – we are socializing him, he attends obedience classes, he is a wonderful pup. Since I really cannot positively determine parentage, should I be overly cautious, or am I just scaring myself into thinking he may become some kind of monster?  Thank you so much!



I wouldn’t worry about this at all.  Projecting your worry about it won’t help the dog and there isn’t anything you can do to change it. 

Since you don’t know what his background is it’s all guesswork & the fact that he doesn’t bark really doesn’t mean anything. I know plenty of GSDs that don’t bark. I owned a sheltie for 17 years, he never barked at all (which is highly unusual for a sheltie).

If you need help with training materials now or in the future, let me know how I can help! Thanks.



Ed and Cindy,

My name is Shona and I have been training SAR dogs for several years. We also rescue dogs, clean them up, put some obedience training under them and find them good homes. We were recently contacted about a pair of 8 week old wolf pups. When we went to pick them up the man told us he had given the pups an attitude adjustment. He also had the parents and a sister and brother from another litter. The male 2 year old was so scared he ran around trying to get away form everything. Now after getting the pups home they are so horrified that they won't come out of the corner and the male urinates all over himself. How can I get through to these guys? I want to be able to turn them into self confident animals that I know they can be. It is as though their spirits have been broken. Thanks for any help you can give.



I’d use marker training to get these pups to interact with you. 

The Power of Training Dogs with Markers

I wouldn’t force anything on them, I’d merely mark and reward any positive behavior or interaction. 

You may want to join our discussion forum too, it's a great resource.



I have a two year old German Shepherd. This is a rescue dog that we have had a little over a week. It has jumped over my block wall several times. I have extended the wall height where I could. I would like to put an invisible fence on the wall. The German Shepherd Rescue of Orange County said you had a video on training for the invisible fence. I could not find it. I am assuming the Remote collar training is the one they were talking about. It is fine when we are around, but within minutes of our leaving she is gone. 

Please advise the best video I should use to help train my dog to stay in the yard.  Any other advice would be appreciated. 



This dog needs to kept in a secure crate or kennel with a top on it when you leave.  You’ve only had the dog a week, and many rescue dogs are worried about being abandoned or they develop separation anxiety. I feel the remote collar is a wonderful tool, but you haven’t even established a relationship with the dog yet. 

We have a q & a section on rescue dogs. They typically come with their own set of issues.

Here are my recommendations for a new dog.

I’d start with our Groundwork program and the video that picks up where the article leaves off - Pack Structure for the Family Pet.

Give her a safe and secure place to be when you can’t supervise her or when you need to leave home.  We do recommend the invisible fence systems in conjunction with a solid barrier, but I would not leave any dog alone until we had established clear leadership first (for an adult dog that will be much longer than one week).

Once the dog is settled in and you have a nice handle on the relationship, then obedience training on leash and with the remote collar at that time (if you decide to go that route).

Basic Dog Obedience

Electric collar Training for the Pet Owner

I hope this helps.




I was told about your DVDs by a dog trainer. We just adopted a 3 year old husky from the shelter, who counting us is now on the 5th home. She was given up by a couple in a divorce, given to a friend where she killed 2 cats, sent to the shelter and returned because of escape problems.

I see no escape problems because I know she just doesn't know where she belongs and is scared of being left again. She did however in the first 3 hours of her coming home with us, she attacked my dog because he was trying to get around her in a close space and we where we were eating dinner.

She gets very excited and overly hard at play that seems to turn into too much aggression. We are having a dog trainer come to the house to access her in our surroundings. It was also suggested to get your DVD and I was told about wolf pack mentality.

Which of these DVDs do you suggest?


Establishing Pack Structure with the Family Pet - 4 Hrs.
Dealing with Dominant & Aggressive Dogs - 3 Hrs. 30 Min.
Electric Collar Training for Pet Owners - 2 Hrs. 45 Min.


I would begin by recommending you put into practice the information in my free eBook on ADDING A NEW DOG TO A HOME WITH OTHER DOGS.

The way you introduced this new dog is a bit dangerous and not conducive to long term living arrangements.

You are correct – a dog like this needs to know that you, your family and other dog are her new pack. She needs to learn your pack rules (I.E. no aggression allowed, etc.). This is taught in my DVD on pack structure, Establishing Pack Structure with the Family Dog.

The dog also needs to get sound obedience training. This is handled in my DVD Basic Dog Obedience. If I were you I would become an expert in marker training – STUDY the information in my eBook on this (also free) THE POWER OF TRAINING DOGS WITH MARKER. I have a DVD on it as well called The Power of Training Dogs with Markers. This work establishes a level of communication that is based on trust and reward. It’s very clear – black and white to a dog.

If we had a dog like this in our home we would not take it off leash for a long, long time. That includes in the house. This is part of the pack structure program. It’s a subtle way (without corrections) of showing the dog that you control every aspect of its life. Dogs have to ear off leash privileges. To do that also requires the use of a dog crate. I have free streaming videos on my web site about how to get dogs used to dog crates. It’s also explained in detail in the DVDs.

Some time down the road you will get to the point of off leash work. Frankly this could be months. To enforce this we recommend low level stimulation with a remote collar. The emphasis is on low level. Those who start too high too soon will forever not be able to go back and do it correctly with low level. This work is explained in detail in my Remote Collar Training for the Pet Owner DVD.

Cindy and I both use  a Dogtra 280ncp remote collar when we train our dogs. This collar has a very small receiver (on the dogs neck) in addition to a digital readout on the transmitter. This is critical in fine tuning the low level stimulation we use in the training.

I always caution people when they talk about bringing people into their home that are supposed to be trainers. Probably 80% lack experience in pack structure. Most are either "yank and crank" trainers or "100% clicker" trainers (with no corrections) Read the eBook I wrote on MY PHILOSOPHY OF DOG TRAINING. You will learn something about what to be weary of here.

You may want to join my web discussion board. It has 13,000 registered members. You may also want to look at our newsletters. Each semi-weekly newsletter has a free streaming training video.

Good luck

Ed Frawley


Hi Cindy,

I just want to share my successes from the advice on your site, as well as working with a professional trainer with my 2 dogs. I’ve written before about the GSD/Formosan dog I rescued last year. He was handler aggressive. He’s not anymore (we took care of that first thing). But I have to say, he is an anxious dog with HIGH working drive and HIGH prey drive. I’ve learned to recognize his anxiety and redirect it easily so he’s really great in class now. the trainers at school use prong and compulsion, but I wouldn’t call it “yank and crank.” They do have us teach all new behaviors in positive way, not compulsion, like getting in the kitty pool to cool off during a hot day, I had to get in with my dog and make it fun for him rather than correct him into the pool. So just to share, they are not yank and crankers but like Leerburg advocate the use of prong for getting the dog’s attention and correcting it for behaviors they know.

Here are a few things I’ve learned from using your theories for success with him.

My dog knew the word “down/platz” and during a heel, we had to down our dogs at school. Only whenever he’d down, his down would be his feet facing any old direction, forward, sideways, whatever position he felt like taking. The trainers at the time asked me to not accept it and to use his  prong to correct him to the right position. Well, every single time I’d do this, it would raise anxiety in my dog Loki. He’d “talk back” to me, growl and get anxious, slightly naughty, sometimes refuse to work. Then it dawned on me what was going through his head: “Down” is “tummy on the ground!  Why am I getting picked up and corrected to the down when I did it right in the first place?” He didn’t understand “feet facing in the direction of the heel” So…. I took him home and marker trained it. no prong, just a game. He knows the marker training game. He gets himself all frustrated and worked up sometimes and talks back, but there’s no aggression. Usually he talks back, then offers another behavior. Sure enough, when his feet were facing forward “Yes!” and boom he figured it out. It took all of ONE training session and several repeated times in that session to drive it home to get him to down in heel feet forward, NO CORRECTION necessary.  I never ever have to use correction on heel to down him now, UNLESS he’s not paying attention and blew me off, then he always accepts his correction. He KNOWS when he gets a low level correction for “pay attention” that it’s fair.

So then it dawned on me to train a few “other” behaviors they have us do at school using marker training where he gets a little anxious. Such as the off leash heel and the “finish your dog to the heel position” after a recall. We used to use the leash and a small pop to finish the dog to the heel. Again, Loki always hated being “compulsed” into this position. He’d talk back.  I never need to do that now because I marker trained it using a tap on my leg and “phoos.” To teach it in marker training, I used the “touch” command to link behaviors and drive him around the right side and back side of me, into the heel position. So when they say “finish your dog” I don’t even need to pick up the leash. He walks around the right side to the back and then to my left and sits. I CANNOT believe how fast/successful marker training can be.

For the off leash heel, they would teach it by simply dropping the leash and popping the dog back into your position. That didn’t fly with loki, when the leash is dropped, he knows it and feels “free” to be distracted or move around. I marker trained (and also use prey drive toy) the off leash heel. And now I have a great off leash heel. Rarely, I have to lean down to a low level pop if he is truly not paying attention. And when making turns, I just tap that leg and give him my “foot” signal and he knows which direction we’re going on the turn. No pop necessary. He’s already in high drive at school from knowing he has to work and the distraction of other dogs. Over-stimulating him with the prong just makes him way more anxious so I only use it under fair conditions, when he’s truly wrong.

Loki KNOWS that when a correction is UNFAIR and has taught ME when a correction is unfair because he never gives me any trouble when I correct him for something he knows. When he gets anxious about a correction in training, I have to think about why he’s getting anxious: is it fair? Does he truly KNOW the behavior? And sure enough, every time I teach something in marker training, he GLADLY does it. Because he has a really high drive to work.

I even recognized an unfair correction by a junior trainer. I was working on Loki’s “sit during a recall” because he already has  a good “down during a recall” but it was taking me 3 tries to get him to sit during his recall. I want him to sit during recall first time. well the trainer thought it would be a great idea to hang onto the 5 foot leash when I recalled him, only my dog Loki, is nicknamed “Nitro” at school because he is not only super magnetic on his recall but fast out of the gate, even if I make my voice low and quiet. Anyway, it’s a bad idea to hold the leash on a dog nicknamed “nitro” when handler calls the dog. Loki ran out to the end and got an immediate correction for his RECALL! I hadn’t even had a chance to give him the sit. So the trainer, thinking I had commanded the “sit” gave him several corrections until he sat. Well in MY mind and Loki’s mind he got a HUGE correction for me recalling him! OMG! Did that EVER raise his anxiety. Why in the world would anyone give him trouble for going to his master? So of course his anxiety went through the roof and I recognized the unfair correction and took him out of the group and gave him about 5 minutes of easy “wins” like “touch” to rebuild his confidence. He was able to go back to work (I didn’t participate in that exercise again) and even at the end of class demonstrate a beautiful down on recall and off leash heel for the class…even though he had a freak out anxiety attack from an unfair correction.

We’re now using an e-collar and your e-collar video, so I can get a perfect immediate recall out of prey/play, which is still a weak point with him. It’s getting better. I have to make him wear the collar a lot w/o using it because he won’t even go into those drives sometimes. He thinks he’s getting in trouble for being at play with my other dog instead of getting in trouble for not recalling, and will just instead avoid those drives when the collar is on. But I’m confident it’s going to click over in his brain pretty soon. 50% of the time he “gets” it right. the other 50% he just refuses to go into those drives and just hangs out by me to avoid getting in trouble! Either way, he’s not wrong!

Because of all your articles and videos, I’m learning to work with a challenging, anxious rescued dog who’s becoming absolutely awesome. He even got invited to the “masters” level class which is hard to get invited to! Your articles and videos really add to the work I’m doing at school because it’s so easy to miss important cues from the dog on why something is not working in a 1x/week class. Especially in a dog with some anxiety that in the beginning quickly escalated to aggression. The articles/videos really round out working with a professional trainer. It’s funny because I also see cues in my other dog, the “low” drive husky. When she’s confused or over-corrected, she doesn’t talk back or get vocal, instead, she plops to the ground. My husband works with her (because he needs to build a bond with her, she’s fearful of him) and when she’s scared and afraid to work, or over corrected, that’s her behavior. I explained to him why she does that and what he needs to do to rebuild her confidence to work again. all your videos and articles are so helpful for both types of dogs!

So thanks a lot for everything. MARKER Training Rules! And I love the Michael Ellis podcasts. though it’s a refresher for me, I still usually find a nugget or 2 in there that I didn’t know. And I still find myself making mistakes like saying yes and grabbing the food at the same time! doh! I’m not a perfect marker trainer!

Thank you again, your site rules!

Julie, Loki (the GSD/Formosan) and Juno (the Siberian Husky)


Hi Ed,

I am new to your site, but have been researching and reading materials from it for the past week. I have printed numerous articles to share and read with my husband as well. We have two boys ages 3 and 5, a male (fixed) boxer who is nearly 8 and has been with us since he was a pup and then a female (intact) boxer who is 3 and joined our family about 6 weeks ago. Our male is a mellow guy, we’ve never had an issue with him. Quick learner, obedient, GREAT family dog, we take him everywhere with us. 

We added the female to our family (Sophie) and things were great at first. I knew she’d take a bit to get used to our family and surroundings, etc. and since she came from a breeder and was used to a house with about 20 dogs, she’d need some training, etc. She knows basic commands, but chooses when to follow them.  She follows me everywhere, which I find endearing, but I also think it’s because of low confidence. She did a lot of shaking at first, when I would raise my voice to correct her she’d put her ears back, hunch down and shake. She’s getting a little better with this, but I know it will take time.  Last night when I told her to go lay down while we were eating in the dining room she ran under the table instead and I had to fish her out.  I took her over to the living room and when she tried to slink back I only had to tell her to go lay down and she did go back, but was a little nervous for a while after that.  Almost as if she was unsure what to do. I brought her up to her bed area to try to show her should could go there as a safe place if she was stressed. She didn’t stay there and didn’t lay down, just sat for a moment while I pet her slowly and told her she was ok and a good girl. Otherwise, she wants to be close, does bark when people come to the door, but is comfortable with them once we’ve greeted them, she’s good on a leash, I can take toys and bones from her and she’s not aggressive, I can pet her while she eats and she’s fine with that too. 

Well, I got way off track… the real reason for my e-mail is the one lone concerning incident that happened last Sunday with Sophie.  We had a couple over watching the game, there was yelling and she got nervous, but stayed in the living room with us. At halftime I got down on the floor by her, and didn’t realize she was actually sleeping. I then proceeded to do something completely stupid. When I got on to the floor, my intention was to lover on her since I knew she was stressed, again, I know it was dumb, I was still charged up for the game, I was right in her face and smooshing her muzzle and making play noises at her. I basically scared the crap out of her and she snapped at me. Because I was so close to her face I had a bruise on my cheek and did have two small cuts on my nose. She did not clamp down on me, did not growl, she made an odd noise, but not an aggressive one, one more or pain, and she immediately ran away. My husband picked her up and threw her outside. She was nervous and cowering when she came back in. While I know that what I did was dumb, I also know one of my kids could have done the same thing. I feel like I protected them from something bad happening to them, because we had not been as diligent about how they were around Sophie, we took for granted the wonderful demeanor of our other boxer.

We have had no problems with her since. I called the local boxer rescue that night and they told me to put her down. I took her to our vet the next afternoon and they told me to put her down after her 10 day quarantine period.  I tried to find a decent home for her, but could not, and did not and do not feel that this is a dog that needs to be put down. I had people tell me to get rid of her and get a puppy so we knew we were getting a dog without issues, that puppies are for houses with kids. I feel that she and our family, need some training. I talked with a dog behaviorist, and other vet and a trainer and all said she was sacred and if she wanted to hurt me badly she could have and would have. I have her enrolled to beginning obedience classes on Monday with the children being involved as well so she knows they are above her in our pack. 

As a mother, I am just afraid that I am making a bad decision and it’s going to come back and haunt me.  Was this a wake up call that she needed to go and I need to protect my kids, or was this a wake up call that I needed to do something different so she is safe and secure, knows her place in our pack and does need some training. I can honestly say that I would not have enrolled her in classes had this not happened. I would not have maintained a quiet place for her to retreat to, had this not happened. I just don’t want my kids to be hurt and don’t want to live in fear that they might be. The articles I’ve read by you make sense and I wanted to get your opinion on this. I also like how you say right away that you are pro dog, not pro stupid owner…..I am shocked that NO ONE I have talked with has told me that what I did was stupid. 

I am so lost and anything you can do or say would be GREATLY appreciated.  Thank you. 



First of all, what you did wasn’t necessarily stupid…just a mistake.  Look at the bright side, it was a wake up call for you and no one was injured seriously. 

I think the dog was not introduced to your house the proper way, and you haven’t shown her the leadership and protection she needs to be more confident.  The good news is that you can start now.

Read the article Ed wrote on how to properly introduce dogs

Start with our groundwork program and Pack Structure for the Family Pet.  

This dog would only be out of the crate when she was on leash with me, and I would not put her in any situations like the football game gathering. I wouldn’t get in any dog’s face in the manner in which you did, it’s just asking for an accident. Thank goodness no one was seriously injured and that it wasn’t a kid. If one of my family grabbed my face and did what you did to the dog, they’d probably get smacked out of reflex, if not out of being startled and scared. I’m always shocked when organizations like this rescue tell people to put dogs down for just such a thing.  It’s human error, not dog aggression.

The obedience classes are a good idea but to think that a child can be a pack leader to a dog is incorrect. Classes won’t do anything for the issues that you are worried about, the things you need to work on are how you live with and interact with your dog.  If you watch the streaming video on this page, Ed explains it. Pack Structure for the Family Pet as the parent, you are to be in charge of the dog AND the kids and control their interaction with each other.  With that said, I really don’t think the dog snapping at you was anything other than her being startled out of a sound sleep.  Poor dog management, but not a dog that should be put down.

I’d also direct you to the search function in the upper left corner of the website.  It will find posts, articles and Q & A’s that deal with your search terms.

I hope this helps. Cindy

20. Question:

Here is the history. I've had Yorkie's in the past and they are the very sensitive, loyal, and loveable dogs. As a breed, I don't feel they are the most brilliant, but smart enough if you work with them to catch on to basic tasks and potty training. A couple of months ago, I was in a store and overheard a man talking about a breeding kennel that had a little Yorkie that would not breed and they were getting rid of her. I could tell by the way he talked that she needed a home immediately. I walked up to him and asked for the dog. He dropped the dog off. She was blind in one eye, matted terribly, and stunk so bad you couldn't stand it. From this, I knew her living conditions were awful. Poor thing didn't even know what grass was when I got her. She's a 2 years old and weighs a mere 3 lbs.

Basically, she never leaves my side. We've crate trained her (she stays in this at night and we have a small 4 x 4 penned area around her doggy door leading to the outside potty area. Both dogs stay in the penned area when we are away for short periods. She's done pretty good (some accidents). My mini Schnauzer is her mate and they get along well.

Here is the issue: I work from home and I'm trying to allow her more freedom by letting her have the run of my bedroom while I work. We'll eventually allow her access to the rest of the house. In my bedroom, she can get to her doggy door and outside. If I'm in the room, she will go outside and potty. It seems the only time she uses my carpet, is if I leave the room for a drink, etc and shut her in my bedroom (close the door). She doesn't necessarily try to follow me to the other room....I think it's the closed door she doesn't like, but until I can trust her completely.....I can't allow her the run of the house. What's your suggestion?

I have scolded her for accidents, and learned real quickly not to do that because she regresses and stays hidden in her crate. Now it's a simple "No" when she pees and I carry her outside to her designated potty area. I've also carried the soiled tissue outside and shown it to her. Not sure that helped.

I could put a leash on both of us and have her take every step I take, but then I'm a prisoner. I want her trained...not me. Ha!



I think you answered your own question, until you can trust her then she can't have the run of the house (or even the run of a room).

You don't mention how long you've had her but it sounds like she's showing her anxiety by being left behind with the closed door. Dogs like security and structure and leaving her loose with no guidance and supervision she is worried. Too many people get in a big hurry to give dogs freedom they don't yet deserve.

Here's the groundwork program we use whenever we get a new dog. Scolding her won't do anything unless YOU CATCH her in the act. It will only diminish the relationship between the two of you. I would disagree with you about keeping her leashed. This is the next step in teaching a dog our rules, they are either in a crate or on a leash attached to us, sometimes for months.

I'd also recommend Pack Structure for the Family Pet and our house training eBook.

I would recommend learning to use our SEARCH function, which is located in the top left corner of every page of the website. If you type in your key words or question it will find you articles, Q & A's, free streaming video and links to threads on our discussion forum.


21. Question:

Dear Mr. Frawley:

I have inquired with other trainers who have not helped me in my situation: One year ago I rescued a sweet 1 year old 100 lb. white Field Lab who is very, very laid back, sweet and wonderful. However, he does not get enough exercise even though I have a fenced in back yard. I take him to the doggy park but all he does is just lay on the cement and watch the other dogs. My problem is (I have a one story ranch) my basement is unfinished but I cannot get him to go down the stairs. I want to do fetch and all kinds of fun things down there especially when the weather if too hot here. I have tried food incentives but he just resists going. I do not want to take him by the leash and force him because I don't know his past history. He might have been raised with a cat because at night he purrs. Please help me if you can... what should I do? Thank you for any advice.

P.S. I had an English Lab that I rescued at the age of 7 who has since passed away and he used to love going downstairs and play on the cool cement floor.


A lot of dogs are reluctant to try stairs and most people are impatient and don't want to allow the dog to work it out in a confident manner. I'm glad to hear you don't want to force him (that's what most people would do).

First of all, I would stop feeding him his regular meals for now. The only food he gets should come from your hand when he approaches the stairs. I would feed him little bits from your hand every time he even thinks about approaching. If he doesn't want to do it, no big deal. Put his food away until the next day. Use the food in your had like a lure, to get him to move forward. Don't cave in and feed him his regular meals! If you so, you will lose the use of a very important dog training tool (FOOD).

Don't worry about how long this takes, your goal is for him to be confident. Going down stairs is much harder for most dogs than going up.

It would help if you could communicate with him what you want and when he's right. I would read our article on training dogs with Markers. I've successfully taught a lot of dogs to do things they were totally NOT interested in (swim, cut nails, stairs, get in the car) all with the use of marker training.

I highly recommend it!

You might also be interested in The Power of Training Dogs with Markers and The Power of Training Dogs with Food.

Good luck!

Cindy Rhodes

22. Question:

While searching the internet for "2 weeks after Neuter. my black lab is attacking me," I found your website and information on why dogs attack.

I called one of your staff members today and told her my plight, she didn't know the answer so she guided me to your email address.

Of all the websites I've searched, and all the phone calls I've made, some how, I've been lured to your site.

Anyway, here is my story:

2 weeks ago, I went to the local humane Society to find a dog. I found a black lab/Shepard mix, with no real information only that he is 2 years old, has his shots, is an "escape artist" needs a large yard and needs to be neutered and that he was found wondering the local streets and that no one has come to claim him in 1 month of his stay.

OK, not much info, but he's beautiful, I take him out of his pen, visit with him each day for a few hours, I love him, ready to sign the papers.

Murphy is what we name him, put it on his tag on his collar and begin to purchase $500.00 worth of food and supplies. My yard is a few acres of beautiful botanical like gardens, koi ponds, etc. Already he's found to be basically Trick trained, he can "Sit" "give Paw" "lay down" and "roll over" on command, clearly someone trick trained this dog, well.
Well, I realize after 1 day of ownership, that he has killed one of the neighbor rabbits... How you ask? He jumped the mutual fence and got to the rabbit cage.

The next weekend, we built a stronger and taller fence.

1 week in, he's destroyed $5,000.00 worth of landscaping, killed Koi and 8 more rabbits, has began to run loose into neighbors yards.

2 weeks in, he's destroyed a total of $10,000.00 of prize roses, trees, landscaping and has taken down one of the fences. Not too mention, he's now attacking me whenever I go to try and take him for a walk, or bring him his food, or toss about a toy. He lunges at my clothing, tugs at my flesh and then clamps down on my wrists to the point of drawing blood.

I can't punish a dog, but last night, I held him down and smacked his butt and said "NO!", he lunged up and bit me in the face, teeth showing....

Needless to say, everyone around me is begging me to take him back to the pound. Have I already bonded with him, after only 2 weeks? Well kind of. But, this dog needs to be "Put Down!" as my neighbor of the dead rabbits, puts it.

I'm at a loss, Do I keep him, and purchase expensive training with a trainer, let him do what he wants to my property, risk loosing a body part when I want to give him love, or take him back to the humane society and tell them... This is no Black Lab/Shepard Mix, more like Black Lab Pit bull or worse....

[Sorry for the detailed story... ]



The problem is that this dog isn't being shown any leadership whatsoever. Taking a known escape artist straight from a shelter and turning him loose in a big yard is basically giving him permission to do what he pleases. Dogs chase and kill small animals, it's a genetic thing and they need to be taught what the rules are. If you can't supervise the dog, he should be in a secure escape proof kennel or crate. When he's with you he should be on a leash at all times, no exceptions.

When you held this dog down and smacked him he was merely defending himself, I really don't blame him for biting. From his point of view, you were attacking him. He sees you as a subordinate, which is why you can't control him. You have basically given him complete freedom to do what he wants and now you either need to take back control (which will likely be very uncomfortable for both of you at first) or you should return him to the shelter. His behavior will likely get worse the longer you let it go unchecked. There are no quick or easy fixes here, it will require you completely restructuring his life and being consistent.

Owners of dogs like yours underestimate the genetic power of "PACK DRIVE." Pack structure is not something new and it is not optional, and if you don’t provide the structure and leadership a dog NEEDS then he or she will behave as canines have for thousands of years and will structure your family and household their own way. Your dog is simply being a dog, a dog that needs some guidance and rules. If you want to fix a problem like this you can but it takes some work.

I would start by running your dog through our groundwork program and the video that picks up where the article leaves off; Pack Structure for the Family Pet. Here is a DVD that I would recommend titled Dealing with Dominant and Aggressive Dogs. If you go to the link on this DVD you can read about what it covers. You will also see a detailed outline of what’s in the video.

We also have a number of eBooks, which include topics that may help you.

For future questions, you might benefit from learning to use our SEARCH function, which is located in the top left corner of every page of the website. If you type in your key words or question it will find you articles, Q & A’s, free streaming video and links to threads on our discussion forum. Our website has over 16,000 pages and it’s very likely you’ll find the information you are looking for. I hope this helps.

Cindy Rhodes

23. Question:

Dear Cindy,

My wife and I have just adopted a rescue dog named Trouble. He is a 6 year old toy poodle. We also have another 4 year old toy. Trouble has bonded with my wife. He seems to be very cautious towards men. He is very scared of me and runs when ever I go near him. I keep a happy tone of voice when ever I speak to him. How do I gain his trust?


I think you would benefit from watching this free 3 part video on fearful dogs & puppies.

I’d also make sure Trouble was ALWAYS on a leash so he can’t run away. You need to break the pattern. Don’t pay any attention to him at all, don’t look at him, don’t try to buddy up… you should be taking him on some walks and things of that nature but be aloof. Your wife needs to make sure she doesn’t undermine this by babying him or holding him. He’ll be a much happier and more balanced dog if he can relax in your home. 

Start with our groundwork program. People tend to drag their feet on this work with little dogs, because they are small and cute but they need this just like a German Shepherd or Lab would. Pack structure is universal, no matter the breed.

I’d also recommend Pack Structure for the Family Pet.

I hope this helps.

Cindy Rhodes

24. Question:


I have a dog that has the largest prey drive and the strongest body I have ever had to deal with. He wants to go after every cat, squirel and small yappy barking growling dog. He pulls all of the time not some of the time even with the prong collar on. I am not strong enough to hold him next to me and walk by me as I have buldging disks in my neck and back. When I try to resist him it hurts me.

I have tried the halti collar and it did not work. I also have the gentle leader which works a lot better but he still pulls and when he saw a cat in the bushes he hurt himself yanking on the halter really hard.

I am 51 years of age, have pulmonary hypertension, 103 pounds and 5 foot 2. My dog is 85 pounds and big and long. I adopted my dog from the shelter last month. The shelter policy was no leash walking because they were not set up for it. The only thing we could do is visit in a room.

I had no idea that he was a prey dog. He wants to go after the animals I mentioned. I can only let him walk in front of me and I lean back while he pulls me with the choke collar, when we walk. I can tell him to sit when walking after he sees a prey animal but he is still excited. Also I can tell him to sit in general when we are walking and heel him butt he never will stop pulling me, it is a no win situation with he and I. I would never ever get any where down the road, he would not get to use the bathroom and I would be hours fooling around if I told him to sit so he would not pull anymore. I have a shock collar that I bought last month but have been waiting to use it.

My question is this:
I see you have a collar that is called the dominant collar, will this keep him from pulling somehow? Or is it just for aggression? Would I have to pull the collar up every couple of feet to get him to see the message that I don't want him to pull?



The dominant dog collar is not going to help with pulling. The dominant dog collar is for aggression/excitement but if you have neck and back problems you are not going to be able to use it properly It seems to me like the shelter didn’t do a very good match, I’m not sure this is the right dog for you.  This dog is going to hurt you and/or possibly someone else. 

I’m much larger than you are, with no health issues and it would be difficult for me to control an 85 pound dog under these circumstances.

This dog could probably be trained with the electric collar but he will need to be taught on leash as well, do you have anyone to help you? I can recommend equipment and resources, but unless you can physically handle this dog I’m afraid I don’t know what to suggest.

If you do have someone to help you this dog needs to have his entire life structured, Start with our groundwork program and Pack Structure for the Family Pet.

I’d also recommend Basic Obedience and Dealing with Dominant & Aggressive Dogs.

Honestly, if you were a neighbor, friend or family member of mine I’d recommend you find a dog that has a more manageable size and temperament for your situation. I’m afraid you are going to be hurt.

Cindy Rhodes

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