Dog psychology

The “WHY” behind your dog barking and lunging at people and other dogs

Reactivity is an issue that I see a lot of in dogs. I even have to constantly work with my own dog and hold him to a certain standard to deal with this issue. I used to wonder why my dog was so unpredictable with his lunging. The reality is he was NOT unpredictable. I just wasn’t paying attention to what he was telling me. He was letting me know that he was uncomfortable but I missed the signs.

These signs are known as cut off cues. A cut off cue or calming signals can be when

  • a dog looks away from the trigger,

  • starts sniffing the ground profusely

  • starts sniffing the air, etc.

  • lip licking

  • Freezing in place

  • yawning

    Cut off cues are important to a dog’s social repertoire. This is the dog’s way of saying I’m not in a social mood. When the dog is lunging or barking it is because somewhere in time they learned that got them what they wanted: SPACE. These are the 3 ways I see it.

  1. Dog is aggressive - wants the person or other dog to leave.

  2. Dog is fearful - wants to leave

  3. Dog is frustrated - combination of both

Without boring you guys with dog training terms, space is used as a functional reinforcer. To make things simple, look at it like this.

Dogs and humans learn to behave a certain way because it gets them what they want.

A dog barks at the mailman, then the mailman leaves and gives the dog what it wants: space. A boy acts out at school and his parents start to scold him or yell at him. He received what he wanted: attention. A woman nags and complains to her husband about getting her car fixed. He complies and she gets what she wants. These are all negative behaviors, but they achieved a goal.

Reasons why dogs stop using cut off cues

Dogs stop using cut off cues when they don’t work. When your dog is signaling a cut off cue like turning away and another dog attacks them, they learn that cut off cues dont work.

Another problem that a lot of people do is punish cut off cues.

Ex: You are walking your dog in the park and you see someone walking their dog. You stop and talk with them for a moment and want the two dogs to meet and sniff because you heard that its important to socialize your dog( your a right by the way). Your dog proceeds to start licking his lips and sniff the ground. Instead of rewarding that behavior and giving the dog space, you try to force your dog to interact with the other dog. This increases the social pressure and makes your dog not trust your judgment.

Another reason dogs won’t give cut off cues is because the dog is too stressed out. When I work with reactive dogs it is important to keep them under threshold. Threshold is the point before a dog explodes and charges at someone or something. In a stressful state a dog can’t think

. Are you afraid of heights? I dare you to climb Mount Everest and say the alphabet backwards. That is a difficult tasks because it is hard to think if you are too stressed out worrying about what will happen if you miss one step.

What we want to teach our dogs is that there are more appropriate ways to express themselves. We want to build their confidence in us to trust that we will handle the situation.

There are a bunch of drills I do that I wont get into here but that helps us earn that trust back. When our dogs are showing positive behavior that we want then we need to reward them. We need to let our dogs know that they did good.

Reactivity is a symptom of a greater problem in your dog. Don’t let it go unchecked or it will get worse. This is just the “why” your dog behaves like that. Be mindful that I have never seen your dog and your dog could be displaying predatory aggression, resource guarding, territorial aggression amongst others issues. We don’t have enough time to go down that rabbit hole but feel free to contact me if you have any issues.

If you guys have any specific questions you can comment or email me at

NYC dog walker/dog trainer

I am a NYC resident and I love walking dogs. I love it when a dog is enjoying the walk yet still is listening to me. I, nor anyone else, likes to be pulled down the street by a dog. This is why leading from the front is important. I also love even more to train dogs. This is my passion and I have spent countless hours reading about, training, and observing dogs. After a while I began to see a pattern. I hear some people say they watch youtube videos to solve their problem. The probably can fix it depending on the problem, but there are missing pieces that a good dog trainer can troubleshoot on the fly. You can learn the basics, but who has time to spend all day watching youtube videos?

 I know how important it is to understand our dogs as they are part of our family. I seek to help humans better understand how to motivate, engage and live a fun life with their dogs in the areas of Queens and Manhattan NY. I want to give credit to all the other dog trainers who are educating the world and making it a better place for dogs and humans. What can a person expect using my services? You can expect to see a dog that is calm around other dogs and a dog that wants to be with you. I am going to be attending the Michael Ellis school of dog training and a lot of my concepts I get from him or other popular dog trainers in the dog training world. Get ready as I teach you what I love to do.

The Cesar Millan show!!!

Recently I just went to a Cesar Milan show in Westbury Long Island. I had a great time. He definitely put on a show that was entertaining with jokes and demonstrations.  He talked about his story coming from Mexico and being surrounded by dogs with no leashes yet the dogs followed him.

It was this sort of primal energy that he was putting off that seemed to not be accessible to our modern technological world. I loved this talked as it fed my hunger for nature and returning back to a simplier time and way of living even if only in my mind.

I watched demonstrations of Cesar taking a dog that was pulling a volunteer around the room. Cesar took that dog and within seconds was able to walk with the dog only the leash with 2 fingers.

Many were surprised. I watched this guy for a while and its what I expected. Cesar also had words of wisdom too. He talked about dogs following you and the state of mind that they are in when they were demonstrating certain behaviors. Some dogs were too hyper and he gave them a chance to relax first.

This was something I liked about Cesar. He is big on being fair and setting the dog up for success. Even though he has a dominance theory of how dogs are like wolves in a pack he believes in fairness. You know dog psychology stuff.

I went with an open mind being that I had to because I didn't know we were going there until my girlfriend and I pulled up to the theatre with her car. And also because I always feel like I can learn something as a dog trainer.

I do think people don't realize that Cesar shows is mostly for entertainment not for you to go home and start practicing on your dog. I have clients that immediately start to shhhh their dog and tapping them the way Cesar does. Without knowing what state of mind their dog is in and just guessing, they attempt it. Every time their dog "acts up" they think he is being dominant. I believe that there are dominant dogs but most dogs are opportunist.

Also  realistically for some of the behaviors that dogs have that Cesar fixes on his show he needs more than an hour to do. There is a lot of editing and showing you quick results. I am not discrediting Cesar because he is a professional and knows what he is doing. I just don't want people to get the wrong idea about trying this at home.

These are the thoughts that went through my head as I drank some red wine after the intermission. Maybe it was the wine making think more intensely, but truthfully I think like this about dog training on a regular. I wish I got more footage of Cesar. Too bad I wasn't a VIP member. Maybe next time. Can't wait for the next stop- Michael Ellis dog trainer in Cali.