Dog Behavior Problems – Why Training Feels Hard


Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA

The process is simple. The project sometimes feels hard.

This is how we humans get tripped up. We focus too much on the dog training project, what we have to accomplish, the end goal. We lose sight of – or never get a clear picture of – the process of how to train our dog.

Anything our dogs can physically do, we can teach them to do it on cue. Lie down, relax the hips, rest the head on the front paws. Those are all trainable. We can even teach them to breathe slower. Go to another room. Wait quietly behind a baby gate. Those are teachable too, with positive reinforcement training.

The process, the actual science of dog training, is very accessible to humans with average intelligence and education. (Most of you reading this are well above average). Still, when we face a dog who is biting, barking, or just going bonkers, it can all feel like too much. I get it. No, really, I do.

Besides Charlie, who we’ve had just a few months, we also have a year-and-a-half old foster dog, Norman. I want them to behave nicely in the house. I want them to pee and poop outside. I want them to get along well with each other. When I look at those big, admittedly vague, project goals, I feel anxious.

When I look at the process, I breathe easier. When I actually start the process, none of it feels hard at all. Teach coming when called. Teach a relaxed down. Potty train. Monitor body language during play. Cue breaks in play. My training sessions with each dog are short, seven to ten minutes. I train one to two times daily, per dog. That’s it.

Our results have been fast and measurable, so far. My worry about big-picture outcomes (yes, I’m a worrier) reduces notably with each session.

Certainly, I don’t expect my clients to know training processes right off the bat. Teaching those is my job. New trainers also don’t automatically have great timing and mechanical stills (When do I click? When do I give the treat?). Teaching that is also my job. And it’s normal to feel some frustration along the way. You guessed it. Coaching my human clients through that is my job, too.

Bottom line: Set goals. It’s good to know what we are reaching for. Then, set those goals to the side and focus on the process. The destination is not the thing. Getting there is the thing.


Michael Baugh teaches dog training in Houston, TX. He specializes in aggressive dog training.

Charlie, The Broken Dog


Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA

Every dog has a story. Charlie’s begins somewhere in Montgomery County, TX.

Someone loved him. He is brave, trusting of humans, and affectionate. That’s the nature of dogs. It’s also evidence of nurturing and of bonds made resolute. He knew people, lived with people, and loved them. Somewhere, someone misses him. Charlie went astray, got in trouble, and ended up hurt. He survived, but his family never saw him again.

Tim and I foster for Dachshund Rescue of Houston (DROH). I first saw Charlie in a group email to foster families this past October. He was broken, a front leg missing, scars on his back leg, and road rash just past his rib cage. Call me crazy, but I knew the second I saw him. That’s my dog, I thought, clicking on the photo. I’d never met him. And I knew.

Montgomery County Animal Shelter gets a bum rap like a lot of animal shelters do. It’s undeserved. They did right by Charlie. His front leg was shredded. Lots of soft tissue damage, too much to repair. They committed time and money to Charlie. The surgery went well. Caring humans at Montgomery County got him off the street and pointed down the road to recovery. An animal shelter can be a good first stop for a dog like Charlie. It’s not a place, though, for a long stay.

Good people who know good people got him out of the shelter and into the care of Dachshund rescue. Charlie learned to walk again. He moved slowly at first, but was unrelenting. Tired from the effort, he’d lay his head on my chest and fall asleep. We shared Charlie with another foster family, a lovely couple who have fostered scores of dogs. They loved Charlie as much as we did. We all agreed he was exceptional.

Something had hit Charlie, a car most likely. It rolled him. It might have rolled over his leg, the one he lost. He’d taken it hard and came out the other side stronger than most. Charlie amazed us with how fast he healed. His resilience, in fact, distracted us from yet another injury. He was favoring a back leg. A vet visit and x-rays revealed a break. Charlie had another surgery to repair it and spent seven weeks in a cast. (Dachshund Rescue of Houston absorbed the cost, over three-thousand dollars).

I’ve seen a lot of broken dogs in my time, hearts and spirits mostly. Each emerged from their own personal hell, survivors of trauma or neglect, physical and emotional. I’ve also seen dogs with exceptional fortitude and dogs who are unwavering exemplars of forgiveness. Never have I known a dog like Charlie.

Stella was gone more than a year when we met Charlie. Stewie left us seven months before. They taught me about behavioral flexibility late in their lives, through the long COVID months. Charlie, it seems, has even more to teach – broken and healing and yet, still so willing to get up and take on the full expanse of life.

I knew from the first moment I saw him. Mid January we made it official. Charlie the broken dog – King Charles – Chuckles the dog – Little Chaz is ours. And we are his.

Where will his story take us next?


Charlie is between 1 1/2 and 3 years old.  DNA analysis reveals he’s a wide variety of breeds, among them a trace amount of Dachshund. Special thanks to DROH for claiming his as one of their own nonetheless. You can follow Charlie on Instagram @travels_with_Charlie__


Dog Training for Life


Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA

I train dogs for real life. We aren’t running an agility trial. We aren’t competing in the show ring. Everything I teach, everything we practice, applies to our daily life with dogs.

We don’t need our dog to behave well just in training sessions. We want our dog to be comfortable, calm, and well mannered in our daily lives. When Aunt Milly comes over, we want our dog to accept a brief pet and then go lie down, for example. Or when the nieces and nephews come charging in the door, we might want our dog to go into his room for a while and rest quietly. We want to see our work pay off. This is true for all of us, most especially for those of us who have dogs who have behaved aggressively.

Make training look like real life. Make real life look like training. The bridge between our dog training sessions and everyday life without dogs can be hard to navigate. Dogs with emotionally driven behavior issues (think: aggression or other fearful behaviors) rely on patterns. We can train specific protocols for meeting new people. Dogs learn those quickly and depend on them when we have guests. In fact, dogs can learn all kinds of patterns. We can teach them to go to a room when they yard men come. They can learn how to disengage from other dogs on walks. Even our formerly aggressive behaving dog can learn rituals for interacting with new people. We teach these in contrived training set-ups. Our dog builds confidence and trust. When we are at our best, the training looks and feels exactly like it will in our regular lives. We aren’t just teaching tricks. We’re teaching life hacks.

Practice what you teach. Once we’ve taught our behavior patterns, we need to stick to those patterns day in and day out. Now we cross that bridge between training sessions and real life. For example, our dog used to bark and run away from friends who came into our apartment. We trained for weeks, teaching the dog how to wait quietly for the guest to be seated before we let her out of her room. Then we taught her how to sniff the guest politely, accept a pet, and go lie down. Great. Our dog knows the routine. She also depends on it. Every time a new person comes over, we run the same pattern, just like we trained it. It’s up to us to stick to the plan with every guest, every time. If we go off-plan and tell a friend they can go into our apartment on their own because they left their phone, we are setting our dog up to fail. We didn’t practice what we taught. It’s likely the dog will panic, bark, retreat, or worse.

Here are some other examples:

  • We taught our dogs to go to a room when the yard men come, but then left them outside. We broke protocol.
  • We taught our dog to disengage from dogs on walks, but then let a friend’s dog charge into our home. We didn’t train for that.
  • We taught our dog a specific pattern for getting petted by a stranger, but let a stranger tease and hug our dog. That’s off-plan.

Many dogs have great behavioral flexility. They learn lots of patterns and protocols for life with humans. Some they learn on their own. Others we teach them. Because I work with dogs who are fearful and behave aggressively, I see a lot of dogs who are not very flexible. These are the ones who need the most attention and our greatest care. They can learn. They can adapt. But they need our help.

Train well. Stick to the training in daily life, for your dog’s life, for a happy life together.


Michael Baugh teaches aggressive dog training in Houston TX.