How to Train a Human

The True Value of Obedience

How many times have you said to your dog, Yo, Adrian! No, wait. That’s Rocky Balboa. How many times have you said, Yo, Stella! Come here already! Then you wait, holler out few more times, and then wait some more. And, when you’re tired of waiting, you go into the other room, pick up Stella, and carry her into the living room – while muttering, Stupid Dog, under your breath.

You repeat this routine daily and never realize that your dog isn’t stupid, at all. Actually, she’s very well trained – trained to wait for you to come pick her up and carry her into the other room.

Like when we were kids playing outside.

Friend: Hey, your mom’s on the porch calling for you to go home. 

Me: Yeah, I heard her. I don’t have to leave until she starts yelling.

We forget sometimes that dogs have been observing human behavior for at least 15,000 years. That means they’re pretty good at figuring us out.

Ancient Chinese Cave Pug


It’s even encoded in their DNA. What started out as wolf-dogs protecting the cave and cave wife while hubby was out doing his caveman job has continued right up until today and literally changed dog’s genetic code.



Dogs Take Their Cues from Us

Here is a prime example of what I’m talking about. I sit outside with my dogs every night. Not because I don’t have anything better to do; but, because I’m training my French Bulldog, Stella, not to bark.

Ellen’s idea of training Stella not to bark has been to holler, Don’t Bark or Stella, Be Quiet out the second story window while she’s barking – which encourages Stella to bark more. Ellen confirms for Stella that there’s a reason to bark.

Stella, Keep Barking!

So, I started spending time outside with the dogs. Which brings us to what I consider to be the first and second rules of dog training:

1. You must physically be with the dog to train the dog.

Yelling from another room or out the window doesn’t count as training your dog.

2. Give the dog your undivided attention while training.

I not distracted, I’m multi-tasking!

No Facebook (Instagram for me) or earbuds or smoking or watching TV or eating or reading – get the point? Just you and Stella with no distractions.

What do you think was the very first thing I noticed about Stella’s barking when I started spending time outside with her? Take a wild guess.

That’s right. When Stella saw or heard something that she wasn’t sure how to react to, my little Frenchy Girl looked at me FIRST. Was I afraid or alarmed or concerned? Or was I relaxed and reassuring?

Was I looking around for a place to run or did I hold her gaze and say in a soothing voice, It’s okay, Stella. Everything’s fine. Good girl. Really important here to understand that what my Frenchie hears is, Blah blah, Stella. Blah, blah. Good girl.

The words are not important. I could just as well have been saying, Note that the desired results, Stella, will not be obtained with flash. Good girl. (Shout out to page 94 of my Nikon owners’ manual.)

Stella determines my reaction to what she heard or saw by observing my body language, facial expression, the tone and volume of my voice – and uses the combined cues to determine whether she needs to be alarmed and, therefore, start barking.

Stella the Enforcer_043016

From my point of view, it’s not so much that she hasn’t barked. Rather, it’s that everyday sights and sounds are becoming normalized and Stella is learning when not to be alarmed, which triggers the barking. You’d think that a dog Bowhaus Pets nicknamed Stella the Enforcer wouldn’t be so skittish; but, sometimes….

The important thing is that Stella is learning (being trained) – not so much by traditional reward or punishment; but, by observation and participation. I’m afraid. Daddy’s not afraid. Now, I’m not afraid.

And, after several weeks she rarely barks, whether I’m outside with her or not. And, I never had to use a shock collar which does nothing about the fear, just robs dogs of their defensive response. The next challenge is to get her to stop barking at pedestrians when we’re out for a drive.

Driving Miss Stella

What is the number one reason why dog training fails? You invest time and money in training; but, it just doesn’t seem to take hold. Why?

This week, try to catch your dog observing you. What are the circumstances? What are you doing at the time?

Who knows, you may learn something new about how your dog thinks and relates to you.

Anyway, that’s a little bit about the True Value of Obedience

~ George

Mr Taveletti assigned a research paper titled Are Dogs Psychic? How Do Dogs Know What We Think. Here are some resources you might want to use:

Coren, S. (23 June 2011). Can your dog read your mind? Retrieved from:

Coren, S. (23 October 2012). Your dog watches you and interprets your behavior. Retrieved from:

University of Lincoln. (12 January 2016). A man’s best friend: Study shows dogs can recognize human emotions. Retrieved from:

When Tears Are in Your Eyes

The True Value of Companionship

Millie Comforts Dementia Patients
Millie and Joan_102117

Ellen spends Saturday at Hillcrest, a retirement community in La Verne, California, as part of her Master of Gerontology studies. Every week, she meets with the same resident, let’s call her Joan; and, every week, Ellen re-introduces herself to her buddy.

Joan lives in the memory care unit and has dementia; so, she never remembers Ellen from one week to the next. Joan doesn’t remember her husband either; but, she likes watching sports and this nice man comes to watch the games with her.

This week, Ellen took Millie to meet Joan and the other memory care residents. You can see the joy in Joan’s photo – something Joan has too little of in her life these days, which makes her a little cantankerous at times. Who are you?! Why are you here?! I don’t know you!

Yesterday, Millie brought the True Value of Comfort and smiles of joy with her to Hillcrest as, one by one, the residents held and petted or, if they couldn’t remember how, patted her.

Millie is a Toxirn (half Cairn Terrier – half Chihuahua). She has the calm, even-keeled disposition of a Cairn without the jitteriness and fear-aggression of a Chihuahua.

One resident who couldn’t remember how to pet a dog (perhaps he never had one), just held Mille and patted her – a little hard for a love pat – but, she seemed to know that this stranger didn’t mean her any harm. No growling or snapping or barking. Millie sat in his arms and let him love her as best he could.

Ellen took Millie’s Halloween dress off, so the residents could run their fingers through her fur and pet (or pat) her without a fabric barrier. That’s when some began to talk about the dogs they’d grown up with or had when their children were young.

They’ve long since forgotten the names of those children, even the ones who visit regularly; but, they still remember the names of their childhood four-legged companions. They remember things they did together as children with their furry friends. They remembered what it was to be young and carefree and loved by their dogs – as only dogs can love.

And, while they held Millie on their laps, they related those stories and re-lived those happy times of younger days.

As Ellen shared her and Millie’s experience with the residents of Hillcrest, it struck me just how much comfort dogs can be to the old, the ill, the infirm, those struggling to find normalcy in a world that, for whatever reason, has been turned on its head.

What is the True Value of Dogs? One value, without a doubt, is Comfort.

When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all
I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

That’s the True Value of Companionship

~ George

Huntington Memorial Hospital Therapy Dog
Huntington Memorial Hospital Therapy Puggle_012517

I didn’t look anywhere near as sick as I was the week of 23 January 2017.  Two of my doctors said no one survives what happened to me and I should be dead.

Being separated from my dogs while I was hospitalized was hell; so, you can imagine the pure joy I felt when this therapy Puggle walked into my room.

I don’t know how much, if any, impact this pup had on my recovery; but, I can tell you that he lifted my spirits up to the clouds!  Now that I think about it, I met Millie for the first time months later, the same week I was released to return to work.

Some angels choose fur instead of wings.