FAQ: “HI Angie, We’ve had our rescue dog for about a month now. She was pretty timid and scared at first and had been a stray and underweight for a while. “3 Dog Days” was a tremendous help in getting her used to her new environment!

Lately, now that she is comfortable, she has been showing signs of aggression: growling when we give an command that she doesn’t like and then progressing to baring her teeth when we insist, and barking at us when we are eating and she wants to eat what we are eating. What we have done so far when she snarls is make her sit and lay down. When she is barking at us while we are eating, we remove her from where we are, to another room and put her leash on her and anchor her to a piece of furniture-like we did during her first 3 days at our house. Are we doing the right thing or do you have any other suggestions?“

Thank you, Lauren B, Omaha NE


Hi Lauren ~Thanks for using 3 Dog Days and thanks for rescuing! Good questions about the recent aggression. You are doing the right thing by disagreeing with the growling, baring teeth or barking at you. However, remember providing structure and respectful discipline to dogs is all about timing, how the human feels, and having a plan. I’ll do my best to give you help you in writing below. If that’s not enough, full video explanations of how to totally alleviate your dog’s fear is found in my Fixing Fear Masterclass

An Important Technique to Stop Barking

Removing dogs or “displacing” them from the area is needed, but it’s HOW and WHEN you do it that changes the dogs mind about whether you are her respectful parent or not. Timing is important because early guidance means a lot to a dog’s mind. So, right when she starts to move into the table area, that’s when you direct your attention and guidance toward her actions and her current state of mind. Even better, I would leash her away from the table space before I even started preparing dinner. I leash dogs where they can still see me and still be with family – not locked away in another room. The further distance from the table will clearly communicate to your dog that you control all members of the family’s behavior, including her’s, at dinner time and around food.

When she is barking at you when you’re eating or holding food and demanding you give it to her, you must displace her or move her back (the food doesn’t get pulled away or the human doesn’t get pulled away – the dog gets moved back) but not by pulling her back with the leash. You must stand and walk into the space around the table and stand there, silently blocking her. Keep standing there and spread your arms wide and then point for her to move back – no words, use your body like a dog would. A leader dog blocks other dogs and claims the space she controls. In the other dog’s minds, they completely understand the leader dog is telling them to stop whatever behavior they are having in this space right now and move back from this space and settle down. That’s what the leader dog is clearly telling the other pack members and this is what you, the parent should be telling your dog.

Watch Out For These Common Mistakes

Never run towards them with anger or yell in a threatening manner. The dog needs to know and believe that you are confident about your decision and you are in this for the long haul. Present positive, firm energy and confidence, but don’t cross the line into creating fear. Dogs can and should lower their head a little and pay close attention to you while they are moving away from you, but if they tuck tail and run and act really scared, you’ve gone too far. Just bring your energy down a little and adjust until there is no fear present. There is a big difference in a dog respecting you as a parent and a dog fearing you. We never want to break the spirit of a dog or a human child. Our job as parents is to provide guidance and structure, not fear, and if you try to instill fear you’ve lost the teaching moment and created distrust.

I outline exactly how to achieve this balance in the Puppy and Dog Parenting Program

No being can learn anything when in a state of fear. The fight or flight reaction prohibits taking in any information other than what we need at that very moment to protect ourselves, and that is usually to run! Adjust your guidance accordingly for each kid and each dog’s sensitivity level. You don’t parent every child exactly the same, you give each child what they need. It’s the same with parenting a dog.

Why It Works

OK, back to your doggie bossing you at the dinner table. Say “no” and move into the space and stand there. Have you ever experienced someone standing too close to you, or getting into your personal space? That’s what I’m talking about. That’s what dogs do to other dogs; they displace them. So, wait patiently with firm confidence for them to relinquish the space. If she barks at you when you are eating, she gets displace away from the kitchen table. If she barks when you’re sitting on the couch eating, she gets displaced away from the couch. Dogs are only allowed free roam in areas of the house where they show they can have good manners. Parents have to address bad manners directly in order for dogs to clearly understand what is allowed and what is not.

Other Tips and Tricks

Remember to set up the scenarios and re-enact them at a time when you’re not tired or stress and you are, for example….wearing full shoes or boots in case you happen to have a dog that might try to bite or nip your feet when you are standing by them to displace them the first couple of times. To watch this displacement technique in action, take a look at the “3 Dog Days” video again. Re-watch the part about using your body instead of words under the “SILENT SUPPORT” section. You’ll see an example of me moving into a pit/choc lab mix named Captain at a shelter environment. I’m moving forward and pointing for him to go back. I’m showing him to back up and don’t jump on me. I displace him and, in a few repetitions, it helps him settle down and he immediately starts looking to me for guidance. You are going to do the same thing, the same technique to give your dog the guidance she needs in order to learn family manners around food.

Now we’ve addressed the structure, let’s talk rewards and fulfillment about clearly communicating what IS allowed. After you move the dog back respectfully with your body, matching or slightly exceeding her energy toward the whole exchange. Again, leash her in an area that is still near you (but not too close to your food/couch/table) and you can see her. Remember, from my “3 Dog Days” system, never leave a leashed dog alone! Plan to provide a bully bone or toy stuffed with peanut butter to doggie during the time you’re eating your popcorn on the couch. You are showing her NO this but YES this and I’m the parent and I provide respectful guidance, rewards and love to all family members, but you are not going to get rewarded for bad behavior.

Thanks again for your note and your efforts toward your dog. I’m so pleased “3 Dog Days” was a tremendous help!