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Treat Your Dog Like a Dog

It’s not uncommon for us to abandon our well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions by Feb. 1. The thing is, you don’t need a specific day or time to renew your commitment to your dog. Your year can still turn out great.

First off, no more feeling guilty when your dog is not walked every day. You might be surprised that many dog trainers don’t “walk” their
dogs. Me? I walk mine maybe once a week. It is usually a hike, on a long leash, or off leash when appropriate. During that time, my dog can be a dog, we both get exercise, and we both have time to just mentally relax. However, my dogs are trained three to four times a week. These are short, fun sessions that make both of us feel good, which leads to a better bond between the two of us.

Second, no more worrying if your dog is left in a crate for a few hours while you are home or while you are away. Dogs need downtime to reboot. Dogs need 12 to 16 hours of sleep a day and need time alone. Over-stimulation can actually lead to behavioral problems.

How about doggy play groups? Not really needed once your dog has learned how to speak dog. In the past 10 years, the emphasis on dog-to-dog interaction has been exaggerated and has led to more dogs with leash frustration when other dogs approach. Instead of a dog park outing, go on a loose leash walk and occasionally teach your dog tricks out in public. Help your dog feel like a rock star because of the fun behaviors he or she can perform. The claps and cheers he or she receives promotes success.

Have a basket full of toys but your dog eats your socks? Maybe your dog needs better toys? Nope. Try putting all
the toys away, and bring one toy out at a time. Just like children, too many toys can make all of the toys less important and boring. The other day, I moved my grandson’s toy train to a new room in the house, and it was like he had never seen it before. It was a novelty because there were no other toys that cluttered his thoughts.

Can’t get your dog to eat his food unless you sprinkle it with the best caviar? Remember dogs are scavengers, and way back there in your dog’s DNA is a dog that will learn to eat what is offered. We inadvertently teach a dog to scavenge for the best new food, and if it’s not offered, to hold out until the next fancy food is offered. Yes, there are dogs that are naturally picky eaters, but if you teach your dog that the food offered is the only choice on the menu, your dog will learn to eat it — and maybe even really like it. The trainers at Dog Dynamics have helped countless dogs learn that their food is valuable. This information helps dogs understand that their human is necessary and valuable, too.

The bottom line is don’t feel bad about treating your dog like a dog. We guarantee your dog will love you for it.

Bonnie Brown Cali, CEO of Dog Dynamics Inc., has been training dogs since 1989, and was voted best dog trainer several years in a row. Her company offers private instruction and group classes in Walnut Creek, Orinda, Briones, and Danville. Find out more at

Each month, this column is written by a different trainer or dog professional. If you’d like to contribute, contact

Main article photo by: Photo by Andrew Bone-Creative Commons