Dog Behaviourist

Do dogs go to jail? – Dog Behaviourist Steve Courtney

My son Tyler is 11 years old and he can be a bit of a thinker. He will often “ponder” things and then ask questions about them, very often complicated questions, more complicated than you may expect from an 11 year old. He must have been thinking about Jail and he knows I am a dog behaviourist / trainer so he will ask me lots of questions about dogs, dog toys and inventions he has.

Today he was “pondering” and he turned to me and said…

Tyler: Dad why do people go to jail?

Me: Well if they do something pretty bad they get put in jail, break the rules you know?

Tyler: So they take their freedom away?

Me: Yes, because they have to protect those who do the right thing from those that don’t.

A moment passes.

Tyler: Do dogs go to jail?

M: No mate.

Tyler: Isn’t the dog pound a dog jail? They loose their freedom?

Me: Well, yeah I guess so.

Tyler: What are the bad things dogs do to go to dog jail?

Me: Well mate, sometimes nothing.

Tyler: That’s not fair ?

Me: Yep… sometimes all the dog has to do is grow bigger. Other times people get a dog and they think the dog can raise itself without any education.

Many people do nothing and expect something. Some of the time people just can’t be bothered and as soon as it becomes a little difficult , they give up.

Tyler: And just let them go to jail ?

Me: Yes.

Tyler: That is really sad.

Me: yes mate it is.

Tyler:  Dad don’t they love their dogs? Aren’t they part of the family like our dogs?

Me: Mate not everyone is the same, not everyone values dogs like our family does.

Tyler: then why do they get dogs in the first place?

Me: That’s a great question buddy.


dog behaviourist
Tyler asks the tough questions

I made efforts to change the subject, he was likely to ask next “how long do they have to stay there…” and that would not end well and to be honest if he asked why do dogs have to go to jail, I really can’t think of a good reason to tell him as to why so many dogs are given up on.

I mean if people have children, and I clearly know that dogs are not children, but if people have children and those children are difficult, unruly, uneducated etc, people keep them!

Why is it so different with dogs?

When I see a young dog, perhaps 4 – 6 months or an old dog, maybe 7 or older in a pound, it really makes me wonder. I am sure that it is no better or worse than dumping a 2 year old dog in the pound but then I see old dogs and I think that a dogs life is so short to begin with, how can someone let their dog go to the pound to finish its (very short) days?

A puppy is a blank canvas, a sponge for information, you can do so much with a puppy, why give them up? Puppies are happiness in a small package, giving them up is crazy. When I breed puppies I supply an 8 week (minimum) training program with Online access, and unlimited support forever from my trainers and I. I think a lot of the reasons puppies can be so much trouble is insufficient planning.

A few minutes have past and I have been watching Tyler stare into space, I know there is more coming…

Tyler (now very determined): Dad, I am very annoyed at these people who put their dogs in jail just because they grew bigger!

Me: well I am too, but it seems like it happens so often, we have kind of gotten used to the idea.

Tyler: Once dogs go to jail, do they ever come out?

Me: Yep, sometimes they do. Sometimes people go to pounds and adopt the dog and there are also rescue organisations that rescue the dog. This is a dog that has been rescued form the pound and can then live with a new family.

Tyler: Doesn’t the dog miss his old family?

Me: yes mate, I am absolutely certain that they do.

Tyler: This is crazy!

Once again he is right, it is crazy. Doing what I do every day, I do see people at their wits end, their dog is really causing them problems. Yes they might be at fault for not raising them the rightdog behaviourist way, but I always remember, they are here, they are getting help. This puts them miles in front of the person that dumps their dog.

This conversation started by my son promoted me to write this blog and I am going to try and use the idea to help people who may consider dropping their dog off at the pound by giving them some options they may have and ones they don’t have.

There are many reasons why a dog doesn’t work in a home, and this blog is certainly not aimed at those situations. The problem is that there are a large amount of people that get a dog on impulse and when it gets too difficult they give the dog up, put it down or try re home it.

First the options that seem feasable, but may not be…

dog behaviouristThe Farm

You know that idea you have that your dog that likes to chase cats and fight with dogs would be much happier on a farm? Your wrong… Farmers make a living farming, not rehabilitating dogs. If your dog is on their farm and tries to run these behaviours, it may be cured with a bullet.

Stop telling yourself that more land and a farmer will fix your dog, they won’t. It is your dog, your responsibility.

Free to good home

The person that is most bonded to your dog in this world is you. You have a relationship, albeit strained with this dog and you have this dog because you chose it.

Dogs that end up in pounds very often go through a few “good homes”. Each time they do it becomes less likely that they will bond with the new home as they expect it to be temporary.

Adoption Centres

There are some places out there that ask you for money to re home your dog. These funds are to look after your dog until the perfect homes comes up. Be very sure that the place you are dealing with is legitimate. I have met people that have worked in places who report that before you out the driveway your dog is being euthanised and your money pocketed.

I am sure is not ALL Adoption Centres, but be sure that you investigate thoroughly. You may be looking for a better solution for your dog and not get what you pay for.

Age cures everything

People feel that when their dog gets past the adolescent stages, the behaviour problems will magically disappear. I usually agree and say “sure, when your dog is 10 or 12 he will surely not be attacking other dogs…” The dog is 2 now…

One method of behaviour reinforcement is repetition. If dog does something enough, for no other reason than rehearsal this will be a solid habit.

Stop these problems from being rehearsed now.

The breed is the problem

Behaviour problems are not synonymous with breeds, they are synonymous with bad or no training though. Start early or at least start now.

Waiting until your dog has a behaviour problem and then trying to fix it is a bad idea.

You may have a breed that is pre disposed to certain behaviour traits, such as high prey drive. If so then it is essential to start exposing your dog to prey stimulus you can control (read tug or ball games) early, before your dog figures out his or her own way of satisfying their prey (chase?) drive.

He would be better off being put to sleep

I have never met a dog (absent those in pain) who would prefer to be dead than… well anything! Have we really learned to value life so little that killing our dogs because they behave badly is OK?

Regardless of the problem every dog deserves a chance, at least an assessment by an experienced behaviourist.

Someone will adopt him from the pound, they will never put him to sleep…

Yes that is positive thinking, it is not always fact though. If your giving your dog up due to bad behaviour, you think someone will be eager to adopt a problem dog?

Reality check… Many dogs are still killed in pounds.

If you drop your dog at the pound and tell yourself he will be fine, this is may make you feel better, but there is of course no promise that it will happen. If you really believe this, perhaps when you drop your dog off, ask them to call you before euthanasing the dog as you will take him back.

Give your dog a job

There is a feeling among some that if you have a dog with a behaviour problem, that if you take up a dog sport or give him a job, then this problem will go away. There is a degree of truth to this theory but I have yet to see this provide anything other than short term solutions for many.

The reason is that generally, people who are not involved in dog sport or herding for example don’t want to be. So when they do take their dog along to these classes, they will often see a reduction in the behaviour problem/s within a short time, but as the dogs fitness increases to deal with the work load, the dog begins once again to display the behaviour problem/s.

This requires more time input by the dog owner (who never really wanted to partake in these events). Eventually the owner quits the class and the behaviour problems come back bigger and badder than before.

The problem was that you increased the dogs expectations rather then decreased them, the dog then expected to be herding three times a week and when you quit you have a bigger problem than before.

On the other hand if you really want to be involved in sports etc. then this strategy may be OK for you, but I doubt this will completly solve your problems.

I have already consulted with a Dog Behaviourist

Like everything, there are those in this field that are excellent and those that less than excellent. Look for people who have had the same problems as you and who they worked with to get the results you want. It is not hard to find skilled people if you look, we turn out dozens of amazing results, a quick look at our Facebook page to see dozens of before and after videos, these are hard to fake.

Your available options

If your dog is behaving badly, perhaps he is reactive to other dogs or people, something everyone can do is keep your dog away from them until you can find a solution. Stop allowing your dog to rehearse the behaviours. Start there…

Ideally find a good dog behaviourist and have your dog assessed, in many cases, most if not all behaviours can be modified, cured or at very least effectively managed without too much difficulty if the behaviourist considers your amount of available time.

If you cannot find a behaviourist or can’t afford one, depending on the problem with your dog, a dog trainer may be able to give you some exercises that can help you gain and maintain control or even your local dog club for the less serious or dangerous behaviours.

Last but far from least is, try to re establish your relationship with your dog, here are a couple of tips to get this going: –


Split your dogs food into 2 meal sessions, one morning, one afternoon / evening. Look at my program, The Triangle of Temptation and feed your dog this way twice a day. This will help develop your bond again with your dog through communication (it involves Marker Training), reward (your dog gets a meal), obedience (the program can be used to rehearse obedience) and focus.


Playing with your dog is one of the true bonding activities you can do. Play may include some of the more traditional activities like chasing a ball, hide and seek or find it games for food. Encourage and celebrate with your dog daily and you will see a new dog staring back at you quite soon.

Some great ideas would be to back tie your dog and race down your back yard with a piece of BBQ chicken, hide it behind a pot plant and run back and release your dog, its ok if he saw you hide it, the game can move to expert level after your dog has established an understanding of the game. You can do the same with a ball or tug toy if your dog likes those as a reward.

If you have a helper you can even hide yourself!


Invest time in your dog, this may need you to teach some things such as crate training so you can share some of your down time with your dog. An example may be that you are watching TV after a hard days work and this may normally mean your dog is outside in his or her own. I understand that an untrained and unruly dog galavanting through your home is not ideal, but if you crate train your dog, you will be able to share that time with your dog and still catch your favourite programs.

Something I find very valuable is to pre invest time, by this I mean, sign yourself up (mentally) to spend an hour each day with your dog for 2 weeks, it doesnt have to be all at once, it could be 10 x 6 minute sessions per day or keep it random, but invest 1 hour per day for 14 days. Take on board my simple advice, play with your dog, hide things and yourself from your dog, feed your dog in my Triangle of Temptation program twice a day.

Avoid situations that will give air time to bad behaviours, so if your dog is recative to other dogs, don’t take him for a daily walk, instead play and train in your back yard.

Regardless of how good or bad it goes at first, your are in for 14 days.

Every dog will show you a solid improvement.

Will all your problems be solved? No of course not, but you will have re established your relationship with your dog, you will have laughed and had fun, rewarded his or her good behaviours and your dog will be closer to you, I guarantee that.

From this place in your replationship, you wiull surely stand a better chance and extinguishing the real problems you both face.

Without knowing the specific problem there is little more advice I can give here on your options, but know there is probably a way to improve your situation with less work than you think.

If the dog just doesn’t fit at all with your lifestyle, then there are many very good rescue organisations that may consider taking your dog and re homing him or her in a home that fits. This may be a better solution than pounds that may have deadlines that give your “less then perfect” dog very little chance at life. A donation to the rescue would likely go some way to helping your dog have a better chance or another dog they accept having a better chance.

I know sometimes it seems like there is no hope, but look at this story to see the extreme. I have people come to see me from interstate, they commit and their problems begin to disappear, not overnight, not without any effort either, but with some commitment I can often help you make miracles.

Look at my friend Jake in the video below, deemed unfixable..

There are some situations that are unworkable, maybe your child is in danger of being hurt or attacked by your dog and whilst this is likely manageable in some way, the risk outweighs the perceived benefit. Maybe the role you chose your dog for is something beyond the dogs temperament and the dog is a very good dog, just not good at what you want?

There ARE some reasons that re homing a dog is a truly better outcome than keeping the dog in an environment that it is not appreciated etc. This blog isnt trying to single out people who have taken this option and berate them!

It also is not to single out people who have dropped their dog at a pound, it is just to remind us all of a few things: –

  • Many behaviours are curable, manageable and preventable.
  • Sadly not all dogs surrendered to pounds and shelters will find their awesome forever home.
  • The breed isn’t the cause…
  • Failing to fix it once doesn’t mean you will fail again.
  • It won’t take hours a day, maybe just minutes
  • There are places that may take your dog and do as they promise, just not all will and or do.

Sometimes it is all too hard, for me too! But the more I think like my dogs and kids the easier things seem…

Need help? Here are some ways we CAN help.

Behaviour Consultation: – Let me take a fresh look at the problem and give you the right advice, first time. You will get 8 weeks of support to help you keep moving forward. (Read more…)

Phone Consultation: – Yes these are limited but if your not nearby or cannot afford a Behaviour Consult, you will be surprised how much help this can be. (Read more…)

Training Lessons: – These are to help you keep moving forward, us teaching you how to better help your dog. (Read more…)

Board and Rehabilitation: – Like my friend Jake in the video, and DJ, we take in a small number of dogs that we work with intensively to get the core programs taught and training begun. (Read more…)

As always, we would love your feedback, comment away below! All opinions welcome.

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  1. I have started referring to you as the dog whisperer to people and I haven’t even met you. From reading your website and all you do with the time and understanding of the dogs you work with says it all.
    Love and devotion alone doesn’t fulfil all of a dogs needs.
    I think we all need a Steve!

  2. He sure asks the tough questions!

  3. Great article Steve. I really like Tyler’s questions – kids often see things is a different way.

    I can certainly vouch for everything you have said. Rosie is now the kind of dog that is really a great dog and our bond is incredibly strong. I only got to this point with your help.

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