April 2010 Newsletter


Is Your Dog a Grouchy Dog?
Does your dog growl, bark or lunge at other dogs or people when you’re on walks?  How about when people come to the door or pass by the house?  Do they compulsively chase or “bully” other dogs in play or during on-leash greetings?  Do they “spill over” into aggression or reactivity after what seems like a fine initial greeting?  Do they guard their food bowl, bones or favorite spot from other people or dogs? If so, this article is for you.

Why Does it Happen?
Whether your dog reacts negatively towards people or other dogs when they’re on or off leash, the reason is usually the same: they feel afraid, threatened or they don’t understand where their limits lie while interacting with other dogs.  This is usually due to a lack of socialization or bad experiences.  Often times, the behavior starts out small and gets worse because we inadvertently reinforce or reward it.  When they display the behavior, they’re being given the opportunity to rehearse it – and practice makes perfect!

What Do We Do?
When we have a dog who feels threatened or fearful, we want to replace that feeling  of “Oh, no, oh no, oh no” with a different feeling: that of “Oh goodie!  Here comes a (insert noun here)!”  Technically speaking, this “Oh goodie!” replacement feeling is called a “Conditioned Emotional Response” or “CRE”.  By dealing with the root of the problem – and not just the symptoms of their fear such as barking, growling and lunging – we are actually modifying their EMOTION, not only their resulting behavior.  This will prevent the behavior from getting worse over time instead of better, and your dog will not be a ticking time bomb just waiting to go off.

What’s “Normal” Behavior?
Of course, if a dog feels fearful or threatened – or is reasonably irritated by another dog or person’s behavior – they’ll react.  This is completely normal behavior.  The behavior becomes abnormal when either a) it is unprovoked or surfaces as a response to the very presence of another dog or person, or b) results in dangerous and damaging behavior such as biting or serious physical damage.  An example of normal behavior is resource guarding: if dogs didn’t covet their resources in the wild, they wouldn’t survive.  It is therefore instinctual for dogs to protect their food, treats, toys and even favorite spots or favorite people against threats.  This guarding becomes a problem, however, if it occurs frequently between dogs (especially if it results in damaging fights!) or if the dog guards its resources against people.  This is when it’s important to replace your dog’s feeling of being threatened with an “Oh, goodie!” CRE rather than just correcting the behavior when it happens.

What’s So Great About Positive Reinforcement?

Positive reinforcement teaches your dog “correct” or “appropriate” behavior to offer instead of their current behavior – which has been working for them so far, or they wouldn’t be doing it!  Positive reinforcement also increases confidence and produces reliable and quick results, when applied correctly.  By using Positive Reinforcement to change your dog’s behavior – and the emotion that causes the behavior – you’ll have long-lasting behavior changes.  Using aversive techniques, or methods of correction or punishment merely suppress the behavior and don’t deal with the root of the problem.  Punishment or aversive techniques often exacerbate the situation – and make it highly unpredictable.

What Now?  Help Is Here!
Happy Dog Institute uses positive reinforcement to effectively improve these behaviors and increase confidence in you and your dog.  We offer private lessons, customized behavior modification and training programs as well as public classes for help finding solutions with grouchy dogs.

To determine what service would be best for you, drop us an email (info@happydoginstitute.com) or give us a call at 360.915.7130.

“Properly trained, a dog can be a man’s best friend.” -Corey Ford

Classes – Happy Dog Institute teaches public classes at Fido’s Farm.  We offer Puppy Manners & Socialization classes, basic obedience and manners classes through our “Fun Foundation” track, and specialized classes for certain behaviors such as Recall and Loose Leash Walking.  We also offer Foundation Agility classes and a “Grouchy Dog” class for dogs with aggression or reactivity.
Private Training – with Private Training, you’ll get a customized training plan designed just for you and your dog that fits your lifestyle and needs.
Day Training – we’ll train your dog for you!  Whether you need help with behavior issues or basic obedience, we’re here to help.  This service is perfect if you have a busy schedule and simply don’t have the time to establish behaviors you are looking for in your dog or solve those tricky problems.
Behavior Consulting – does your dog destroy the house when you’re away from home?  Does he bark at the neighbors or passers by?  Is she aggressive or reactive towards other dogs or people?  If so, behavior consulting is just what you need.  With an initial consult with you, we’ll assess the issue and develop a training plan to help ease unwanted behaviors and leave you feeling much more relaxed.
Day Visits – physical exercise largely decreases boredom-related behavior issues, including barking and chewing.  Overall, it creates a happier dog If you’re having trouble fitting in regular walks for your dog, or need some help training loose leash walking and/or heeling, we’re here to help!


We love this harness!  It combines the best of two worlds.  First, it’s a harness, which means it fastens around your dog’s whole body so you have complete control of them and they can’t slip out of it as easily – and they don’t choke.  Second, it helps to encourage your dog not to pull on a leash by gently squeezing their chest and directing them back to your side when they pull.  It’s not a solution for loose leash walking, but a very helpful aid.  We love it – but we said that already, didn’t we?  We’ll order one for you, too!  Just drop us an email (info@happydoginstitute.com) .

Begin with a dog who’s motivated to work – are they hungry for their treats or toy?


Go to happydoginstitute.com for more details
-Products!  We’re now selling select products including treats, KONG, Easy Walk Harnesses and Busy Buddies by Premiere, etc.  Contact us for a product list!
-Loose Leash Walking class – this three-week class is designed to help your dog stop walking YOU!
-Managing a Grouchy Dog class – is your dog aggressive or reactive towards other dogs or people on or off leash?  Then this is the class for you.