What Type of Owner are You?

Owners play a significant role in dog training. Which attitudes do you think will have the greatest chances of success?


Donna Denial – Donna Denial refuses to see the seriousness of a situation. “Just because my dog bit eight people in one week does not mean there is a problem.”  Every trainer gets a Donna at some point.  What makes Donnas dangerous is that they deny the reality.  Denial may come in many forms from flat out they do not see the concerning behaviors as a problem to they deny any responsibility because they felt the right to be in a situation.  Donna ignores significant clues her dog is stressed and “poo-poo’s” other’s concerns.

Harry Honest – Harry is the client who will let you know everything going on. “I know you need this information so you can help me help my dog.”  Harry gives you everything you need.  He lets you know about every incident, what he feels triggered it, his role in it, what he feels he could have done differently or he asked for guidance so he can change things to better life for him and his dog.  Good Harry comes with a reasonable expectation.  Other Harry may be honest with what he wants but have unreasonable expectations for the dog.  But if he can be honest with himself and reality, OH can really come around and be honest with reality.

Larry Lazy – Larry will insist everything is being done but eventually the truth comes out. “But I am doing it all, well most of it, some of the time, FINE only when you are here!”  Now, we may be able to tweak things for Larry to help with his inability to do the work.  If Larry can compromise even a little “Fine, I will work on things during commercials while I watch the game”, “Yeah I guess I can do that, there is not a lot of effort in that routine” we can hopefully accomplish something – especially if Larry is also an Honest Harry!

Sally Serious – Sally knows what is wrong and understands the work needed; she just needs to be guided along a path. “Show me what to do and it will be done.”  She dedicated to the work that needs to be done.  A good Sally Serious is also fun to work with if she is also laid back, fun, and willing to be reasonable.

Danny Defensive* – Danny always feels bullied no matter how kind and gently the trainer addresses the situation. “I do not know why you keep picking on me! I cannot work under these conditions!”  No amount of wording or careful addressing eases Danny.

Debbie Dedicated – Debbie is very open to doing what needs to be done and will do it well. “If you say I need to change the behavior of my children, change the environment to prevent issues, whatever, I will begin working immediately!”  A good Debbie Dedicated will work with you, keep in contact and listen.  Some Debbies may go overboard and become so extreme they may cause more stress and worsen things while honestly trying to do good.

Bart Blame – It is always someone else’s fault. “If the deliveryman did not come to my house, my dog would not have gotten out and bitten him.”  Bart has to take accountability for his actions as an owner.  He needs to learn to advocate “Please do not pat my dog right now” and understand his job is to protect the community from his dog.  Delivery men have a right to be at our homes just as utility workers, mail carriers and others.  If Bart allows a situation to happen, he is responsible.

Alice Awesome – You identify a problem, Alice asks what must she do to fix it. “Tell me what needs to be done and it will happen!”  Alice is reasonable, she is dedicated, she listens and communicates.  She does the work and advocates for her dog.

Hortense Hopper – Hortense refuses to hear the truth and seeks to find someone who will tell her what she wants to hear and not what she needs to hear. “Every trainer has told me what needs to be changed but I know change is not needed and I will find someone who will stop being mean and will agree with me!”  Hortense may tell you she was told by a veterinarian or a land lord or animal control she had to address the situation with a trainer or she will risk losing her beloved dog.

Sue Stable – Sue has taken the time to research trainers and has found the one she feels is a quality trainer, compassionate and non-threatening for her dog. “I know Lotus needs this work and I know I have to be the driving force of stability and follow your lead.”

Ronnie Realistic – Ronnie is open to anything humane to help his dog, is honest about abilities and rational with the liabilities. “I was unaware of the severity of the problems when the dog came to me.  Let’s see what can be done sanely and if not, then I’ll determine the safest choice.”

Isaac Ignorant* – Isaac knows it all but knows nothing. If he saw it on TV, the Internet, etc., it must be true and you cannot show him different.  “I have no idea why I called you, I know what to do!”  Now some Issacs change and realize why he needs a professional to teach him so he knows more.

Loretta Long-term – Loretta knows that a session or two or four or twenty does not a trained dog make.   She knows some things may just require life long management. “I know that learning is for the lifetime of my dog and I will always be teaching something.”

Now sit and back ask yourself, “What kind of owner am I?” What will I be able to contribute to have success with my dog?  Your choice of trainer is important but your attitude as an owner is crucial if there is to be any level of success!

*suggested by others – thank you!

Karen Peak is the owner of West Wind Dog Training in Virginia and the developer of The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project – started in 2000.

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