We all make mistakes. Many of us get frustrated, upset, or even angry when we make mistakes. Sometimes we even get frustrated, upset, or angry when other people or animals make mistakes! We’ve talked a lot about how those feelings can influence our behavior toward other people, but do you know they can also influence how we behave toward animals?

  • How would you feel if your dog jumped up on your clean white shirt and got it all muddy? Or if your dog chewed some of the worksheet with your math homework? What would you do?
  • How would you feel if your dog knocked over its food bowl when you just finished helping clean up the kitchen?
  • When we get mad or upset it changes not only how we feel, but how we react and interact with other people and animals. We may be sending a signal that has a little (or a lot…) more stress in it, and we may raise our voices or stamp our feet. We may even yell.
  • How do you think that “sounds” to a dog? Not good. Dogs listen better when someone around them is calm and in control of their emotions and speaks softly. Dogs like their pack leaders to be calm, assertive and confident; they don’t understand yelling. (Besides, dogs’ ears are very sensitive so they can hear you whether you whisper or yell!) In fact, dogs may not listen as well to an emotional owner and may become confused by the yelling. So the best thing we can do with and for our dogs is to remain calm and speak softly.

You will find that dogs listen better when you speak softly. Sometimes, a dog may be focusing on something else and not listening to you. No need to yell even then, but you can distract the dog and get his attention by making a little noise (snapping your fingers is an example), or giving the dog something to play with or chew. When we are calm but firm, dogs will obey – they will regard us as being calm and confident leaders!


Children will consider how their own feelings of frustration, anger, anxiety and excitement affect how they interact with dogs and the impact on dogs’ behavior. When interacting with dogs it is essential for children to remain calm, while also conveying a sense of confidence and being “in-charge.” This is what is referred to as being “calm-assertive.”

Vocabulary Words to Highlight:

Influence, Calm, Signals, Assertive, Confident