Why Do People Keep Screwing Up My Dog?

My dog Honey is a Mary Poppins pup—practically perfect in every way.

It’s the result of getting the absolute best start in life, years of training, and just dumb luck.

But you know why she’s just “practically perfect?” Because people keep screwing up my dog.

Honey the golden retriever with a mitten in the snow.

As a puppy I learned to never pick up things that didn’t belong to me. So no, I won’t bring you your mitten no matter how much you beg.

Dog Lovers Are The Worst

Honey is adorable. And Honey is also common.

Her breed, I mean. There are tons of golden retrievers around. Most dog lovers have had one or known one.

When we’re out walking, people want to pet her. The lady behind the counter at the shop where we buy our weekend newspaper comes out to give her a treat. And some folks just squeal in delight.

All of these things get Honey excited. She loves making new friends.

Honey the golden retriever makes friends with a playground dinosaur.

Mr. Dinosaur, meet my human. Human, meet Mr. Dinosaur.

I have taught Honey to contain her joy somewhat.

She doesn’t jump up with her front paws on someone’s chest (usually). Instead she does the golden dance, hopping in the air, spinning around, and leaning into the person’s legs until I’m worried for the strength of their knee tendons.

For the true crazy dog lovers, her behavior isn’t a problem. If they could, they’d lie down on the cold sidewalk and let Honey climb all over them.

But for dog lovers who think they’re just going to pet a calm, sweet golden, it’s overwhelming.

And it’s all their fault. Because their moves toward Honey and high squeals get her excited before I have time to settle her in a calm place.

Their insistence on getting lovies on their own schedule means they will not stand up or move away when Honey gets nuts to help her calm down again. Or to teach her that calm behavior gets her what she wants most—love.

But dog-loving strangers aren’t the only threat to Honey’s training.

Honey the golden retriever with Mike at Ithaca Falls.

Uh oh, I think I know who she’s going to write about next. I hope he knows I didn’t put her up to it.

The Enemy Within

I swear my husband is trying to ruin our dog.

Which is nuts. Because in many ways, he’s a far superior trainer to me.

It was my husband Mike who knew why I couldn’t lure my last dog, Shadow, into a sit. He showed me how my body posture was different from the trainer in our manners class and got her to do it on the first try.

And it’s my husband who sacrifices his rest to comfort new foster puppies who don’t understand why they’re suddenly sleeping alone.

But he’s doing his best to sabotage some of my best work with Honey.

Honey the golden retriever and Mike setting up a picture on the playground.

You think that if you place a cookie on the bug’s head I’ll keep looking at it. Ha!
Well, maybe you’re right.

Bad Recall

On a walk, Honey’s recall is very strong.

We practice regularly. And even in a dog park, I know that Honey will come to me if I call her.

In the yard or house? Not so much.

You see, my husband will tell Honey, “come” if she barks in the house, without thinking about what she’s asking for. If she needs to go outside, she will disobey his cue until someone figures out why she’s barking.

Or he’ll call her when there are strange shadows in the foyer and stairs that confuse her instead of responding to her hesitation by turning on a light or escorting her up.

Even worse, he’ll resort to bribery. Which means that Honey, sweet Honey, has learned to disobey the “come” cue in the house to hold out for treats.

She’s sweet. She’s not stupid.

As a result, I have a poisoned cue. I need to find a new one. And to train Honey to come to me in the house when she hears it.

But the first word that comes to my mind when I need her by my side is “come.”

Honey the golden retriever plays with her ball in the snow.

Only a crazy person would expect me to come inside while I’m playing with my ball.

Drooling Dog

You’d think Honey was a Saint Bernard by the puddle of drool on the floor when we’re eating.

After a Thanksgiving fiasco when my mother-in-law tried to sneak tidbits to my first dogs, Agatha and Christie, and found two snarling wolves competing in her lap, I’ve been careful about encouraging begging.

In the kitchen, I taught Honey to lie on her pillow while I’m cooking by tossing her an occasional morsel. As a result, she stays out of my way while I’m making meals.

Honey the Golden Retriever lies on her pillow.

You’ll always find me lying on my pillow in the kitchen. I’d hate to miss one of those flying treats that comes my way.

When we eat at the dining room table, Honey knows to stay under the table. It works great.

But my husband is a serious snacker. Who likes having company. So he gives Honey bits of food without waiting until she’s lying down calmly.

And now we have a greedy, drooling dog.

Training Dogs Is Easy; Training Humans Is Hard

If I could get strangers to wait to greet Honey until she’s sitting calmly, I’d be thankful. Amazed, but thankful.

Even better, if I could get them to turn their backs on Honey when she gets overexcited and only pet her when she’s calm, that would be even better.

And if I could help my husband remember that all meals taste better when you don’t have a floofie tail in your face (usually my face; the other end is looking expectantly at my husband for a morsel), I’d dance for joy.

But training humans is hard. So I guess I’ll just have to be patient when people screw up my dog. And be satisfied with my practically perfect pup.

Honey the Golden Retriever puppy naps under the desk.

Where did the last five years go?

Day #1 of Honey’s Birthday Week Celebration

For the first time ever, I’m celebrating my dog’s birthday, big time.

Okay, Honey is the first dog I’ve had whose birthday I knew.

Tomorrow’s celebration will involve me giving Honey a new toy to play when before I go to work.

Start looking for your pictures of your dogs enjoying new toys and get ready to post them on the Something Wagging Facebook page tomorrow.

Or share links to the picture on your other social media sites in the comments.

See ya tomorrow for the first day of Honey’s birthday spectacular.

Your Turn: Do you have any examples of strangers, friends, or family screwing up your dog’s training? Any tips on how to deal with it? Oh and how likely is it that Mike will file for divorce after reading this post?







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  1. BOL – my Mom is doing the same with Harlow. I practice off-leash in her yard – over an acre, fully fenced – dream practice field, right? I’ve caught my Mom actually sneaking behind bushes (yes, sneaking) frantically whispering Harlow’s name with some tasty treat in her hand, despite the numerous times I’ve asked her not too. My Mom would kidnap my dog if she had a chance – I’m sure of it.

    Monty and Harlow, who thankfully has not succumbed to Grandma’s sneaky scheme’s yet.

  2. My husband, too, is a natural with animals. He grew up on a farm, and his father was a veterinarian. But he, too, sabatoges my training. Getting 5 Wieners to stop barking at a perceived threat isn’t easy. But yelling at them to stop is just adding to the excitement, in their minds. Humans yelling is equal to dogs barking. I tell my husband not to yell at them, just let them have 30 seconds of barking at the strangers at the door, or walking past our fence…that’s their job, after all, to alert us that someone is around…and then call them back with a”good dogs!” and maybe a treat or pet for returning to him. It works 99% of the time, because praise often means a cookie is forthcoming and Wieners live for cookies. So yeah, they bark, but they also STOP! Not so much with other dogs running free on the other side of the Wiener Gulag. But hey, nothing in life is supposed to be perfection.

    • Yeah, why is it so hard for men to understand that?

      Honey is not as good a guard as a dachshund. But she will bark when she wants me to see something. I find that getting up and going to the window to thank her for her bark helps her settle down quickly.

      Maybe that’s something you can suggest to you husband?

  3. oh I can definitely relate here!!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  4. Well first, I would say Mike is unlikely to file for divorce. Al and I are on the same page when it comes to the dogs, and we don’t have a ton of outside influences. There has been times when both dogs will run to my friend because she has the treats, and ignore me.

  5. Our dog Maggie was such a jumper when meeting people, and so many people encouraged it. “Oh, I don’t mind”, and trying to explain how you do mind just falls on deaf ears.
    Sheba was the same, but somehow by then I had gotten through to some of those people that we did not want Sheba jumping on anyone, and she does very well now.
    It is definitely way harder to train the people than the dogs, but it can be done at least with the people you know!

    • It’s also harder to get through to people when you’re trying to train a small or medium dog. Unless someone is off balance or frail, a small dog is unlikely to harm an adult.

      But a big friendly dog can be a menace. And it’s harder to teach them to discern between a fit healthy person and a fragile person than it is to teach them not to jump on anyone. At least as long as we don’t have people sabotaging our training.

      Maggie would have been a lightweight compared to Sheba.

  6. Oh yes, this is a HUGE problem.
    We’ve been working really hard on training our friends and family. “Yes you love our dogs, thank you. But we don’t want them to jump.” Is usually followed by “I don’t mind!”
    I’ve resorted to being rather pushy and trying to keep the situation from getting out of my hands by being the first contact with people and just telling them to “Please wait until they are sitting nicely.” Or flat out telling people – please ignore them for me, until they calm down. It’s sooo hard but with how big Dante is especially, I worry he’ll knock someone down because he wiggles so out of control sometimes.
    I’ll admit though, sometimes I just give up let the silly human drive the dogs to new levels of hyperactivity and wait. When the human realizes they’ve gotten more dog than they intended I send the pups to their beds to chill out.
    Strangers? Oi Vei…I try to at least have them make our dogs work for a treat (he/she can shake, or have him/her sit, etc..) instead of just feeding them.
    On a good note, we’ve just about got family trained!

    • Yeah, some people just don’t know what they’re in for when they get a wiggle butt all stirred up. Has anyone invented a dog vest that says, “Warning: Friendly Dog?” :)

  7. I’m ashamed to say that, whilst I know dogs, I work with them daily, I have years of experience, I have studied canine behaviour and I understand the frustrations owners feel when someone squealy approaches their dogs – I am that squealy someone! I just can’t help it! Any dog…if it knocks me over and I end up in a dog headlock with their two front paws pinning my hair to the ground – even better! It’s awful, I am a terrible person – owners must see me coming and wince. But the little 5 year old in me gets overwhelmed with all the love! I shall work on this – I will not be THAT person any more 😉

    • Mike Webster says:

      From the Husband:
      Please do continue to be that person. I need all the cover I can get.

    • In truth, Cora, if you’re that crazy about dogs, I say you get what you deserve. :)

      It’s the people who think they love dogs and then are surprised by the wiggling mass of fur leaning into them and shedding all over their black wool pants that make me craziest. :)

  8. If we all had perfectly trained dogs, what would we have to look forward to working on? Okay, maybe I would like a perfectly trained dog when the doorbell rings. My son was the one in the house that liked to test the trainer’s patience. Even though it was frustrating at the time, I kind of like the resulting quirks it’s created in Haley.

    As far as Mike goes, you’re selling the house so it doesn’t matter if Honey won’t come to you in the house. Problem solved, it’s all good! :)

    • OMD! Of course you’re right, Elaine. I guess it’s time to chill out and let it go. Because on a 35 or so foot boat, we’ll never be far enough away from each other to bother with “come” on board. :)

  9. We are fairly lax about training, so it isn’t a big deal. In the house if Mom wants me to come, she says, “Emma, photo shoot” and I come running. If she says come, I might show up, or I might not. We do recall outside if we aren’t too busy. All in all we have the basics down and it is all Mom really cares about. She is more interested in us having fun.

    • I don’t know why it should surprise me that a canine super model comes to the phrase, “Emma, photo shoot.” :)

      I’m also just interested in having fun. But I find that the better Honey’s manners the more places she’s welcome.

  10. Haha, I love this post! When Nola was around 8-12 months old she went through a serious jump on everyone in frenzied greeting phase. Even though she’s about 9″ tall, that dog can easily jump rib hight on me (I’m 5’7″). People thought it was cute and funny that a short thing could jump that high, so they encouraged her to jump when they greeted her. I had to resort to putting jumping up on cue so she’d quit!

    Another thing is I don’t allowed Pike or the puppies on furniture without permission (Nola’s damn near perfect so she has more lax house rules). Pike especially is very cuddly, so people will call him onto the couch. Poor guy tries so hard to please people it nearly gives him a nervous breakdown – pleasing me by staying on the ground like I ask, or obeying their command of “come here, Pike”.

    I’ll admit to letting the dogs around me while I’m snacking. It doesn’t bother me too much, and since Nola and Pike will go away on cue and Liv and Linc are learning, it’s not a huge deal for me.

    • I think people who live with small dogs have it even tougher because people will encourage all kinds of undesirable behaviors they find cute. Sure, a 15 pound dog won’t hurt anyone jumping up. But they can tear the heck our of your stockings before you leave for a job interview.

      BTW, any chance you have some leaping Nola video? I fostered a chocolate lab who did the same thing. Once I caught the UPS guy staring and laughing through the door at the sight of a dog leaping three feet off the ground.

  11. Your so right – it is harder to train humans. I’ve quit (that’s right) trying to stop Harley from jumping like he’s crazy when people come into the house. I still ask before I open the door if they’re afraid – so far if they say yes, Harley understands and acts like he’s got some sense. I should just make everyone say they’re afraid, and he might act right all the time! Hoary birthday to Honey, can’t wait to read about his week celebration!

    • Honey doesn’t have Harley’s doodle-dar to know how rough or gentle to be with a visitor. She assumes everyone will want to love her. Perhaps Harley will offer a tutorial someday? :)

  12. Enjoy Honey’s birthday week.

  13. Clearly your only option is to give up the husband and let me come live with you instead! I would behave

  14. Right now we are trying to help “train” my parents. They got a rescue dog just about a year ago and so far the score is dog – lots, parents – not so much. My mom has called me a few times “how do I get him to stop pulling? how do I get him to stop barking on walks?” ummm – a little training and some consistent people behavior. at least the dog is well behaved most of the time – despite their efforts :)

    • Yeah, I’ve been where you parents are now when I adopted my first dogs. It was rough going.

      Luckily, if you love them, it’s pretty hard to ruin a dog. :)

      But now that I know better, I’d never bring a dog home without at least signing up for one or two basic classes with a trainer.

  15. It’s my husband too. I’m thinking I need to use the clicker on him instead of the dog.

    • The only problem with the clicker is that our hubbies would catch on that we were trying to train them. We need a more subtle marker.

      If you think of one, let me know.

  16. Oh God, do I have stories! Florian’s purpose in life is to screw up my training efforts and turn all our foster dogs into manically licking, inappropriately mouthing, rowdily tugging little demons. I do what I can to fix the damage but the boyfriend himself is beyond fixing.

  17. My boyfriend gives into Laika when she whines and I just want to smack him. She’s a very vocal dog – she doesn’t need encouragement. Now if we sit on the couch she lays down next to him and as soon as he isn’t petting her she whines. Whines. Whines. I’ve told him so many times that it’s not funny, it just annoys me that he’s constantly encouraging her bad ( but cute at first ) behaviors.

  18. Reading Jen Gabbard’s comment makes me smile cuz I know exactly what she’s going through — Sam does basically the same thing with Ducky. But, after 21 years of being married to this man, I know that the minute I ask him to please stop doing something he will just do it even more. Grrrrrr