Ask Kathy About Hurting Your Dog's Feelings

By Kathy Santo | Updated: April 12 2019

Student’s Question:

“Last night I came home from work and my saw that my dog had destroyed three photo albums with irreplaceable pictures of my family. I lost my mind and started screaming at her, and she ran under the bed. Now I feel so guilty, and even though she acts like nothing happened, I think she secretly hates me. I keep hugging her and apologizing, but I still feel terrible. Have I destroyed our relationship?

Kathy’s Answer:

OK, take a deep breath and repeat after me “dogs don’t secretly feel anything”. If your tantrum had emotionally scarred her, you’d know it. She’d be skulking around the house, head down, avoiding you like the plague. And even with a dog who was that emotionally sensitive, with time and patience, you’d be able to repair the damage done to the relationship.

In your case, it appears that your dog, however, has weathered the storm and moved on. Most dogs (those who have been emotionally or physically abused and those who have emotional issues are a different story) are able to shake it off and move on. They don’t post “FML” on Facebook, and send texts to their friends, ruing the day they came into your home. The hard part is for you to let go of the incident. Smothering her with hugs and apologies may actually cause her anxiety, or, in the case of a dog who doesn’t enjoy a lot of physical contact, just plain annoy her.

Because of that, she actually might avoid you, and then you’d say “See, she hates me for yelling at her.” Sometimes, we humans create our own reality…..

Next time, try and handle things differently:

First, don’t scream at your dog for anything. Dogs fear anger, ignore it, or it amps them up, and makes everything worse. If you’re about to pop your cork walk, then away and cool off (may I suggest counting to 10 or higher?).  

Second, and most important, keep heirlooms out of reach of your dog. A good rule of thumb is “if you wouldn’t leave it out with a toddler, don’t leave it out with your dog”.

Finally, resume acting normally around your dog. You said it yourself “she acts like nothing happened”, which, translated, means she’s over it. You need to be, too.

Kathy Santo has spent her entire career as a dog trainer and handler, training dogs and winning over 500 obedience, agility and Canine Good Citizenship titles. Working with her own dogs, she has achieved every competitive obedience title the American Kennel Club (AKC) has offered and earned the prestigious AKC “Obedience Trial Champion” title (OTCh) multiple times.

In Waldwick, Kathy teaches classes, private lessons, and oversees the training of her student’s dogs using her extensive knowledge, experience and intuition to handle problems from the benign to the serious. Her engaging personality has won her the respect and friendship of her many students, who now consider themselves part of her extended family.


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