Modern Dog Parenting: Raising Your Dog or Puppy to Be a Loving Member of Your Family

Modern Dog Parenting: Raising Your Dog or Puppy to Be a Loving Member of Your Family

by Sarah Hodgson


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You and your dog are a lot alike. By several behavioral measures, your dog’s mental abilities are equivalent to those of a two to three and a half-year-old toddler. Dogs can learn up to 250 words, count from one to five and understand basic arithmetic. Your dog can imitate and understand your behavior and has a sense of fairness. Doesn’t it make sense to treat these sensitive, intelligent creatures a bit more like children? Kids—and dogs—raised with kindness and respect grow up happy. And happy is good. Modern Dog Parenting will show readers that yes, you can love your dog and live with him, too.

Dogs (and the people who love them) are tired of the school of dominant, top-dog training. They are looking for a new kind of pack leader: someone funny, enthusiastic, intuitive, approachable, and, above all, effective. And they’ve found her. Sarah Hodgson rejects dominance-based training and gets astonishing results with a blend of wit, compassion, energy, and proven skills. She communicates instructions clearly, directs behavior compassionately, and rewards success lavishly.

Topics include:

*Understanding the signs your dog is giving you

*Having fun while learning manners

*How to fit your dog into your lifestyle

*How to communicate lovingly and effectively with your dog

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250095541
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/06/2016
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 319,554
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

A thirty-year dog-training veteran, SARAH HODGSON is an associate certified dog behavior consultant with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Her positive training methods are endorsed by the American Veterinarian Medical Association, the American Humane Society, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, among others. She is a Huffington Post blogger and author of twelve dog-training books.

Read an Excerpt

Modern Dog Parenting

Raising Your Dog or Puppy to be a Loving Member of your Family

By Sarah Hodgson

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2016 Sarah Hodgson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-09555-8


Dogs, Reconsidered

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.


Sometimes, I wonder why we still have dogs. With five of my own, I'm hardly one to talk, but still. It's not like we need them as we did fifteen thousand years ago around the campfire. Back then, we benefited from their foraging and waste-management skills — instincts we now discourage, much to our dogs' dismay.

Moseying along through evolution, it would seem we need dogs less and less. Few shepherding dogs ever see a farm, retrievers rarely retrieve more than a ball or a wayward slipper, and when was the last time you hitched your husky up to a sled? Impulsively, we tell alert dogs to be quiet, terriers not to dig, and protection dogs to stay behind a gate or door. What is a dog to do?

Why dogs are still so popular when we don't actually depend on them is perplexing to a lot of people. What propels us dog lovers to willingly reschedule our lives — and often our vacations — to cater to our dogs' needs? Dogs — who may at least initially disrupt the flow of everyday life — clearly have some value, but what is it?

For those of us who cannot imagine life without them, dogs kindle faith in the certainty of everyday life — faith in the promise that just showing up for someone counts. As science continually reminds us, loving a dog is healthy, and people who share their lives with dogs feel more optimistic and happy than people without them. Since most of us often live apart from our friends and families, relying on handshakes instead of hugs, we let our busy schedules and insecurities hold us back from new adventures. Making a new friend isn't just scary, it's hard. But not so for dogs. Dogs don't register our self-doubt, and they don't hold back. Standing at our side, dogs delight in every shared experience. They beg us to care for them, to reassure them with an unconditional presence — like kids who need their parents — and yet, just by being there, we are perhaps the ones who feel most fulfilled.

Living with People

Of course, living with people isn't always easy. We ask a lot of dogs, often with little regard to how they're feeling. Have you ever felt frustrated when your dog didn't stop and race to you the second you called for him? Are you mad at your puppy for demolishing your vintage LP collection or aggravated by the paw prints on the kitchen counter and the mysterious disappearance of your breakfast bagel? I hear you. But dogs will be dogs, and until they sense a real connection with you, they're not going to prioritize your opinion.

Wait — you want a dog who prioritizes your opinion? That's a different story, what I call the Happy Dog Adventure Story. It's about a relationship built on fun and understanding. I can help you with that. But the first step doesn't start with a leash or collar or even a tasty dog biscuit. The first step begins with a change of heart.

To transform your relationship into something beautiful and long lasting, you'll need to set aside the myth that your dog is closely related to the wolf and thus needs to be controlled, manhandled, or dominated. Dogs have as much to do with wolves as we do with monkeys. I encourage you to see your dog as science now defines him: an individual capable of devotion, respect, and strong attachments.

The Understanding Movement

Before we go any further, I want to take you back in time to 1873 to see how this understanding movement got started. Back then, both dogs and kids — and wives, too — were considered property, and many were treated like objects. They were put to work, isolated, or simply ignored.

Less than a decade after the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was founded, Henry Bergh, its first president, received word about Mary Ellen. Mary Ellen was a malnourished little girl with deep scars across her back from being routinely beaten with rawhide.

Mr. Bergh took a stand. He argued that if Mary Ellen — who was just nine years old — were a dog, horse, or cat, his association would have every right to get involved. The following year a trial was held, and — in the spirit of the ASPCA — the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was created. Children were gifted the same rights as other citizens, protected until their eighteenth birthday under the eyes of the law.

Dogs, on the other hand, are still considered property, and few but the most monstrous acts against them are ever enough to prompt a trial for the perpetrator. But times are a-changing. Scientists from around the globe are now promoting dogs as emotional, thinking animals who need lawful protection. In some countries, they are getting it! Dogs think. Dogs feel. Dogs love.



The latest research shows other, now-extinct species along the dog's evolutionary path. The gray wolf has as much in common with dogs as apes do with people. Since psychology books don't reference great apes for rules about raising kids, let's put an end to the dog-as-wolf concept and get on with a new trend of loving our dogs like members of the family.

Losing the "D" Word

Some celebrity trainers and self-proclaimed professionals still preach dominance and all the philosophy that goes along with it. These "trainers" may have only recently bought into an internationally marketed franchise and may have little to no experience with dogs and the growing science of animal behavior.

I'm often called in to fix the emotional trauma of dogs who've been bullied in the name of "dog training." Nearly half the dogs I work with on the East Coast and 95 percent of my phone consultations begin with dog lovers who've been brainwashed into believing the only way to reach their dog is through negative reinforcement and punishment. Who came up with the idea that to raise a happy, well-mannered dog, you have to scare him first?

The truth? Dogs are adaptable. They'll try to fit in and learn in any way they can. Can you teach a dog with an electric shock collar, a quick slap, or a leash correction? Yes, definitely. Just like you can teach a toddler by jerking or pinching his arm. But the question is, what are you teaching them?

Children who are pinched or slapped won't suffer too greatly in the moment, but they'll remember the punishment and the punisher. Kids — like dogs — are smart. But will they blindly obey? No — that's highly doubtful. Have you ever yelled at your dog for putting his head in the trash or slapped him for jumping on the table? How has that worked for you? If your dog is like most others, he might look sheepish when you yell, but try leaving the room and he'll be right back at it, guaranteed.

Kids and dogs raised by punishment might learn to avoid any wrongdoing when the punisher is around, but all punishment really teaches is deceit. When the parent's away, the kids and dogs will play! Threatening dogs when they've already misbehaved not only doesn't make sense, but it doesn't work.


Maybe you're feeling like you've already blown it with your dog, even though you really didn't mean to. I hear you — this happens all the time — but don't get too distressed. Dogs are immensely forgiving. Read over the following checklist with a pencil in hand. See what resonates. Then forgive yourself, turn a new page, and try a different approach. Whether you've been coached by a trainer to engage in the following activities, been inspired by media personalities, or are just repeating what you witnessed in your childhood, a lot of people start out with assertive training methods only to find out that they backfire. It's easy to move on, and your dog will be happy when you do.


* You use the word "dominant" a lot.

"My dog is dominant." "She's just being dominant." Or the ever popular: "My dog is trying to dominate me/my spouse/my kids."

* You throw things at your dog to interrupt bad behavior.

While I get this, it's doubtful your dog will. Imagine being bonked from behind by some flying object while you're in the middle of an important talk. Discover more effective ways to redirect problem behavior in chapter 7.

* You use remote-control shock or vibrating collars to train your dog.

Electricity takes all the joy out of being a dog. I can spot an e-collar-trained dog a mile away. They're stiff, terrified, manic, or depressed.

* You stare your dog down, trying to intimidate him.

Staring at dogs scares them. Scared dogs worry. Worried dogs act out.

* You chase, hit, or kick your dog.

Imagine a big gorilla chasing you, waving his arms in the air and making noises that make no sense. Although he understands what he's doing, you don't. You're terrified, feeling threatened, and confused.

* You scream at your dog.

Shouting sounds like barking to dogs. When you shout at a barking dog, he thinks, "Woo-hoo, bark party!"

* You clamp your dog's jaw shut to discourage barking or nipping.

This makes no sense to a dog. If they don't bite the squeezer, they're learning to clamp down hard when mad. Abused dogs become self-defensive. They may not snap at the squeezer, but they are more assertive with other people and/or with children.

* You "pop" your dog's leash or hang him by his collar.

Gagging your dog is terrifying to him, and while it will stop any behavior in the moment, the only thing your dog learns is to avoid you.

* You shove your dog's face into his pee or poop to correct house-soiling accidents.

Flooding your dog with the smell of his own excrement isn't an effective housetraining exercise. Your dog may stop going at all when you're around or just go undercover and poop somewhere you're less likely to discover, at least right away.

Although the thought of instant control might seem inviting, scientific studies show beyond a shadow of a doubt that punishment isn't effective in the long run. If you want to live in the real world with a loving, happy dog, set aside the remote control and drop the dominate-or-be-dominated attitude. Is that really you, anyway? No one — dog or person — wants to be dominant all the time. Learning takes time, patience, unconditional love, and consistency. Batteries not included.


Lessons on life and dog loving can come from anywhere — even from a guinea pig. I first met Peter the Pig at a pre-puppy staging session at a house near my home in eastern New York.

As I was setting up the puppy's zones (for play, quiet, potty, feeding, and sleep), I stumbled on an anxious-looking guinea pig caged in a corner of the kids' playroom. "What's up with the pig?" I asked. Ruth, the mom, told me her family had long ago given up hope with Peter — they'd somehow failed him, and no one paid much attention to him anymore.

"Sad for the pig. I can help." Pausing our session, I lifted Peter in my arms. "He seems nice enough — why do you think that he doesn't like you?"

I watched as Ruth demonstrated how they carried Peter, fed him treats, and petted him. "All he does is squeal and squirm and try to get away from us."

Well, yes. I could see why. "Guinea pigs don't like being carried by their underarms — few animals do. Try carrying him like this," I said as I showed her the proper technique for resting a pig flat on her chest or arm. Next, I explained that while I'm sure Peter would love the dried mango treats she'd bought, what she was really doing was shoving them up his nose. I showed Ruth where his mouth was and encouraged her to feed Peter with a flat palm under his chin. Finally, I praised her for her loving pats — which would be perfect for her puppy — but poor Peter is an Abyssinian pig with cowlicks twirling his fur this way and that. I showed her how to stroke each twist of fur independently. In seconds, Ruth said she had felt Peter relax. Feeding him small treat squares from below his chin, I explained how this small effort would couple people-smells with positive, loving interaction — a technique that works with puppies, too.

When I visited the next week to meet their puppy, Ruth's daughter, Susie, greeted me at the door, the puppy playing with her shoelaces and Peter resting in her arms. Not only was the pig comfortable with the kids, but he was curious about the puppy, too! Peter went from being an isolated, sad pig to one who chirped when his people approached.

Who'd have thought that a six-month-old guinea pig could be so totally capable of trust and affection? Dogs are the same way — uniquely sociable, sentient beings who will give you their hearts gladly if only you learn how to ask.

Cool Science

Brain chemistry is a hot topic these days. For example, research on strong emotional reactions in mammals shows remarkable similarities in how neurotransmitters mediate hormone levels in dogs and people. Dopamine, the happy hormone, spikes when mammals play; oxytocin, the love and attachment elixir, flows with nurturing touches; and adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormones, take charge when a dog or person is startled, threatened, or panicked. Fascinated? Flip to the bibliography (here) to find a list of books and articles on the topic.


I consider shocking/vibrating collars and underground electric fences to be in two separate categories. Shock training can transform even the kindhearted dog lover into a power-hungry, remote-wielding bully who randomly shocks their dog to "correct" behavior. When the remote is in your hands, your dog is powerless and won't learn from unpredictable and unavoidable shocks. In the end, the only connection your dog makes is between you and the remote. The shocker becomes the shock; trust is hard, if not impossible, to restore.

Electric fence collars, on the other hand, are self-activated devices that cue a dog to stay within a specified boundary. An underground fence shock is not random and can be avoided so long as the dog stays within the flagged fence perimeter. While hard fencing is my preference, it may not always be an option. Although not 100 percent effective, electric fences have proven to be a necessary evil, saving dogs from the dangers of wandering — from confrontations with other wildlife to car accidents and unintentional poisoning. A dog who is mindfully trained to respect the fence will rarely need more than a shock or two to learn the zone.

Recent research has also changed our understanding of how dogs learn. It all began with Stanley Coren, Ph.D., who was the first modern thinker to explore the similarities between dogs and young children. In his book The Intelligence of Dogs, he writes: "When it comes to the way that they think, dogs are just young kids in fur coats." This revelation began a revolution, setting scientists on a journey to discover how dogs learn and communicate. Their research confirms what we dog lovers have always known — dogs really do understand us, can handle simple problem solving, and can signal us for help.

Matching Emotions

Dogs, it turns out, experience a lot of the same emotions people do. Unexpected reactions cause similar shifts in body chemistry, too. Imagine the surge of adrenaline when a sudden loud noise wakes us in the night — dogs feel that, too. Both dogs and people startle if suddenly approached by a stranger. We both relax when we're happy, cringe when we're frightened, and tense up when we're mad or threatened. Sure, we lack a wagging tail and rotating ears, but short of the external clues, we're practically twins when it comes to expressing ourselves.

The most relatable emotions that motivate dogs and people include:

* Curiosity

* Excitement and Play

* Fear

* Frustration and Rage

* Panic

I was inspired to learn about a dog's emotional life when I read Animals Make Us Human by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson. Early on in the book, Grandin refers to a study by neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp. Dr. Panksepp cites seven Blue Ribbon emotional systems at the root of all mammalian behavior: seeking, play, fear, frustration, panic, lust, and caring. While they're important and interesting, lust and caring have to do with reproduction and — I hope this goes without saying — don't really come into play when teaching dogs.

Following Ms. Grandin's lead, I'm going to elaborate on how these concepts influence our understanding of dogs and how I use them to help clients on both ends of the leash.


Excerpted from Modern Dog Parenting by Sarah Hodgson. Copyright © 2016 Sarah Hodgson. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword Dr. Stanley Coren ix

Introduction 1

Part 1 Like Dog, Like Child 7

1 Dogs, Reconsidered 9

2 Welcome to Doglandia 31

3 Love the One You're With 64

4 You Be You 89

Part 2 Don't Dominate, Communicate! 115

5 Three Secrets for a Happy Life 117

6 Lesson Time 145

7 Good Manners Start at Home 198

8 Embracing Your Dog's Emotional Tornadoes 236

Bonus Chapter: A Dog Parent's Guide to Health and Happiness 260

Acknowledgments 287

Bibliography 289

Index 299

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