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Is your dog actually being bullied?

What stage is he or she in? It's a lot like when humans are bullied.


1. Peaceful stage

Dog: Relaxed State - The dog is calm, comfortable, and content.

Human: Harmony - The individual is content, at ease, and enjoying positive social interactions.

2. Awareness stage

Dog: Alert State - The dog notices a potential threat but isn't reacting aggressively.

Human: Recognition - The individual recognizes potential bullying behavior.

3. Non threatening stage

Dog: Submissive Posture - To convey non-threat, the dog may use body language like lowering the body, avoiding eye contact, or showing the belly.

Human: Non-Confrontational Stance - The individual tries to deescalate the situation, potentially through body language or by changing the subject.

4. Friendliness stage

Dog: Play Attempt - To lighten the situation, the dog may invite the other to play, offering a more positive interaction.

Human: Humor or Positive Shift - The person may use humor or try to steer the conversation toward a more positive or neutral topic.

5. Avoidance stage

Dog: Avoiding Behavior - The dog tries to increase distance, or may hide or retreat to a safe place.

Human: Disengagement - The person may choose to ignore the bully, avoid certain places, or spend less time in the bully's vicinity.

6. Distraction stage

Dog: Distraction - The dog may engage in other activities or with other individuals to avoid the bully.

Human: Re-framing - The person might try to change the topic, engage others in positive interactions, or focus on other tasks.

7. Assertiveness stage

Dog: Defensive Signals - Without becoming aggressive, the dog may show they're not happy with the interaction, e.g. through a warning growl or raised fur.

Human: Assertive Communication - The individual may express their discomfort verbally, ask the bully to stop, or seek help from others.

8. Seeking support

Dog: Seeking Human Help - If the bullying continues, a dog may approach a trusted human for safety or intervention.

Human: Seeking Assistance - If the situation doesn't improve, the person may involve trusted friends, family, or authority figures, or seek help from professionals or support groups.

9. Self-defense

Dog: Defensive Behavior - If the bullying escalates, the dog may feel forced to defend itself through more assertive body language or barks.

Human: Self-Defense - The individual may need to stand up for themselves more strongly, potentially involving police officers if the bullying continues.


10. Threatening stage

Dog: Aggressive body language - Dog may display entire body in fighting stance with eyes focused on opponent, ready to fight.

Human: Retaliation - A person may hire an attorney and have the bully served to let them know if pushed, they will in fact fight.

11. Fighting stage

Dog: Active fight - A dog will fight if all other attempts to detour aggression fail.

Human: Active attention - A person may hire an attorney to begin a court battle.

12. Submission

Dog: Submissive behaviors -  The bully dog may respond with a physical attack. This could lead to one of the dog submitting to the other.

Human: Court settlement- The court may decide on action for one of the sides in this disagreement, leaving one as the winner and one as the submissive loser.

10. Resilience

Dog: Recovery - After the situation is resolved, the dog will work to return to a normal, relaxed state.

Human: Healing and Growth - The person works through the aftermath of bullying, which may involve seeking support and healing, and developing strategies to cope and prevent future bullying.


In both dogs and humans, if bullying is ongoing or severe, it's essential to involve professionals—dog trainers or behaviorists for dogs, and therapists, counselors, or other authorities for humans.

You'll be more successful if you start training when you think...

"Was my dog just being aggressive or getting bullied?"

You'll be less successful if you start training

as a last resort.

If you feel you have a dog that is not appropriate for your family, separate the animals or/and humans that may be in danger. Now.

There are lots of options. I'll listen without judgement and be compassionate, kind and realistic.

Safety first. I'll be straight with you in sharing my opinion and helping find a safe solution, which may include:

  • Weekly training sessions to change behavior.

  • Suggesting a second opinion.

  • Helping you find a Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist.

  • or/and discussing other options.

A Veterinary Behaviorist has achieved the title of Veterinarian plus has continued education to specialize in the field of behavior.


I am not a Veterinarian. I'm a dog trainer very interested and experienced in serious behavior issues, especially reactive dogs. I continue my education, pay attention to new scientific studies and at least once a year consult with a Veterinarian to verify my methods are appropriate.​ Sherry Clark

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Safety for Humans
  1. Reactive triggers

    • Reactive toward children?

    • Collar reactive?

    • Reactive part of body?

    • Reactive around food?

    • Reactive around toys?

    • Reactive around certain people?

    • Reactive in certain places?

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Safety for Animals
  1. Animals in home?

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Fin, the dog in background between his two humans, was lunging and barking at dogs on walks, as well as through fences.  We did about 12 private sessions in 14 weeks. The three photos above were taken during one session.  Slow, steady, desensitization and counter-conditioning (among other reward-based protocols) worked well for Fin. 


My goal is not to GET Fin close to other dogs. I want Fin to WANT to get closer to other dogs.  If it's his choice, he'll be happy.  If he's happy, there is no reason to bark and lung.  The photo below (taken a couple weeks later) shows why I call this program:

Growls to Grins

Fin continued to improve, with his human’s effort and support, working him on a regular basis to prove to him that dogs are fun, not scary.

Brandi, the Golden, is now retired from working dogs.  She loved her job.

We may offer to accompany you on a visit to a Veterinarian Some medical issues can have similar symptoms to behavior issues.  We test (medical vs. behavior) by using accepted Veterinary practices, however I am not a Veterinarian.  I do ask that you follow through with your Veterinarian if I suggest it's appropriate and it's always a good idea to get your Veterinarian's opinion on any dog training plan by any trainer including myself. 


My current belief is that most Veterinarians support thoughtful, investigation of environmental factors and modification of environment, communication styles, nutrition and implementing gentle leadership practices and reward based training to guide our dogs to more acceptable behaviors. 

Making sure a medical issue is not the cause of a behavior concern is an important part of the process.

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