Protect Your Dog Training Investment


Michael Baugh CDBC CPTD-KSA

I like metaphors and analogies when I’m teaching folks about dog behavior change. Comparisons to money are my favorite since humans find it so reinforcing.

Here’s an example. Let’s says we have a dog who barks and charges at new people coming into his home. Every time we follow a predictable training protocol for introducing him to new people it’s like putting money in the bank. Behavior analyst Susan Friedman calls it her “trust account.” We are making an investment in building trust. On the flip side, every time we allow a person to set our dog off it’s like taking out a huge withdrawal from the account. The dog barks and charges and we lose part of our investment. The idea, of course, is to get rich earning lots of trust. Too many mishaps and we go broke, no more trust.

Just like with a financial investment, sometimes the best thing we can do with our dog training investment is to let it mature long-term on its own. Let’s look at that same dog who barks and charges at new people. We’ve put in a minimal effort with training. We have a good greeting protocol in place and the dog is actually getting comfortable with some of our friends. The returns on our training investment can build exponentially just by letting things be.  Here are some specific strategies for building compound interest on your training efforts:

  • Allow for zero uncontrolled greetings (e.g. person just walks in). That alone will build trust and confidence. Think of it as passive income on your investment.
  • Put more training in the account. Run controlled meetings that are easy. You don’t have to invest huge amounts of effort, just a little bit here and there adds up.
  • Don’t mess with your investment. We don’t want to withdrawal what we’ve put in for something that promises quick gains. We can lose everything that way and none of us wants to go broke or have to start over where we began.

Think for a moment how rich we’d all be if we started young. Puppies are prime training investment opportunities. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start with the dog you have now – you should. But, keep the puppy thing in mind. There’s nothing like a dog whose learned behavioral flexibility from day one. That kind of investment will pay dividends for a lifetime.


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

Three Reasons to Not Get a Puppy


Michael Baugh CDBC, CPDT-KSA

These actually do not just apply to puppies. They are things to consider before getting a new dog, regardless of age. Also, these are just my top three. There are certainly other considerations to keep in mind when you’re thinking about adding a dog to your life.

3. A new puppy takes more effort than you might expect. Even if you have raised dogs before, chances are you’ve forgotten how much work a puppy (or new dog) can be. There is training, of course. At a minimum you need to teach the dog where to poop and pee. That’s sometimes a challenge. There are also canine behavior issues that might crop up. New dogs require social interaction. You’ll need to have a petsitter, dog walker, and boarding care for when you are away. Don’t forget bedding, baby gates, food bowls, toys and all the other supplies that come with having a dog. It’s a lot. Your life might be different now than when you had new dogs before. Do you have the time and energy now that you did then? Can you make this work?

2. Puppies are expensive. Just the initial costs to get started could be one to two thousand dollars. I think that’s conservative and it doesn’t include breeder or adoption fees. Then we have to consider the annual costs of training, vet care, and food. Puppies have a bunch of initial vaccinations. They also eat stuff they shouldn’t and otherwise get sick pretty frequently in that first year. Senior pet care can be significantly expensive. Can you fit a new puppy or dog in to your budget?

1. Your existing dog may not want a new puppy. This might seem like a no-brainer, but I see it a lot. If you have a dog who you know does not like other dogs then do not get a puppy (or adopt an adult dog). You already know this is not going to work out. Don’t expect your existing dog to suddenly change and accept a new housemate. He won’t. Similarly, if you have a senior dog (nine years plus in most breeds), then do not get a new puppy. Puppies are rambunctious and annoying to older dogs. It’s just not fair to ask your long-time companion dog to take on that extra burden in their golden years. I see lots of cases I which the addition of a puppy or new dog is simply a disaster because it’s just not right for the existing dog. Have you thought all this through thoroughly?

You might be thinking Michael this isn’t very nice. You’re normally so kind and patient. I get it. And, maybe you do have all the time, energy, and resources available to you. Maybe you don’t have another dog. Perhaps you have a young dog already who is socially savvy and has lots of experience with other dogs. Awesome! Then, go for it. There are plenty of dogs who need homes and it sounds like yours might be a good match.


Michael Baugh teaches dog behavior in Houston, TX.

Dog Training is About Our Behavior


Michael Baugh CDBC CPDT-KSA

In agility competition if the human makes one small false step it can through the dog completely off course. It’s why I was miserable at agility. I kept tripping and falling. It’s a great reminder, though, that our behavior means everything when teaching our dogs.

The first part of this is pretty simple. If we are doing something that is obviously triggering an unwanted behavior,  we need to stop it. Don’t mess with your dog’s food if it makes him bite you. Don’t squeal and flail your hands if it makes him jump on you (unless you like that). Don’t yell at him for barking if it makes him bark more. Okay, we all pretty much understand that part. I hope.

Most of the time what trips us up is more subtle. We flinch flinch toward the treat bag, distracting our dog from the task at hand. Worse yet, we are constantly digging in the treat bag or preemptively loading treats into our hand. This is why I teach my clients to keep their hands still. Stay out of the bag.

Other times we get distracted. Our attention wanders and we miss an opportunity to reinforce good behavior. (Or we step into them on a agility run and everything goes amok).

Occasionally we reinforce the wrong behavior altogether. I was having a chat with someone once and my dog barked at me. Absentmindedly I gave her a piece of food to quiet her down. She ate it. Then she barked again. Without thinking my hand went into the treat bag and I gave her a bit of food. This went on for 4 or 5 more rounds before I caught myself. I didn’t mean to teach her to bark at me. Still, that’s exactly what I was doing. Barking yielded food. It wasn’t her fault. For all I know she thought I was teaching her a trick. That’s how training works, after all. Oh, and I forgot to mention this all happened on live television. Ugh.

It happens to the best dog trainers:

  • We stop and talk to them when they whine.
  • We let them in when they paw at the door.
  • We follow faster when they pull on leash.
  • We pet when they jump on us.

Dog training is actually pretty easy if we put our minds to it. We control a lot of the process: 1) how we set things up and 2) how we reinforce the behavior we are teaching. Our dog is in charge of his actual behavior choice, but that behavior is strongly influence by the set up and the reinforcement. I hope that is empowering information for us humans. We are in control of 2/3 of the equation, if not more.

Yes, there’s lots of room for us to make mistakes. But, we have the ability (and responsibility) to correct those mistakes. Good dog training is like a conversation. Our actions prompt and influence our dog’s actions. Our dog’s actions also prompt and influence us. It’s a give and take. Our job is to set the tone and keep the conversation going.

Michael Baugh teaches training and dog behavior in Houston TX