Want to improve your dog’s behavior? Trainer shares the secret, and it wasn’t at all what we were expecting!

Man shaking the paw of a golden retriever outside
(Image credit: Getty Images)

While being a dog owner comes with so many benefits, there's no denying that some days it can also feel super tough. Maybe your pup has taken a step backward with their training or they're simply behaving in a way you'd prefer them not to be — either way, being a pet parent is guaranteed to bring both good times and hard ones.

When our dogs aren't doing what we want them to do (or think they should be doing) despite us using the best dog treats to try to reinforce the behavior we want to see, it can be easy to label them as 'bad'.

However, before you start researching how to deal with a badly behaved dog, it's worth doing something that expert trainer and behaviorist Renee Rhoades often does with her own dogs, and that's asking whether this is a 'me' problem or a 'real' problem. Read on to find out exactly what she means...

In a recent Instagram post, Rhoades unpacked this idea of good and bad behavior that we often find ourselves getting tangled up in as dog owners.

"We put pressure on our dogs to behave a certain way," she explains. "That way is whatever we see as "bad" is normally punished. And what is "good" is normally praised (or ignored)."

But as Rhoades goes on to state, dogs have zero concept of good and bad behavior and are simply doing what their doggy instincts tell them to do.

Instead of reprimanding your pup for doing normal dog things, Rhoades shares a great example of how she shifted her own mindset and how doing so can take the pressure off your dog and improve your relationship.

"I no longer try to stop my older dog from rolling in fox poop when it happens a few times a year. Instead, I now laugh and tell him that he's going to have a bath soon! I don't encourage the behavior, but I also don't reprimand my dog if this is a behavior he desires to do."

When your dog does something that annoys you, stop and ask yourself whether it's a 'me' problem or a 'real' problem. 

"For some reason, Lycan ripping apart dead trees annoyed me. When I reviewed my feelings it was the way he would go into "drive" (fancy that as he's a high drive dog!) He would become animated, wailing and looking like a dog "out of control".

I didn't want that for him. I didn't want that for me. What it came down to is I didn't want us to be judged by anyone. Once I understood why I felt this way I could deal with my own feelings and then I didn't have to restrict him from something that he enjoyed and wasn't causing any harm."

If you're looking for ways to improve your relationship with your dog, letting them just be a dog sometimes is a great place to start. Take the pressure off your pup and yourself and you'll likely find you both reap the rewards. 

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Zuke's Mini Naturals Chicken Recipe Training Dog Treats $18.99 at Chewy
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Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.