The Smiths are a fictitious family but everything about them is true. Their story is based on real clients and situations from my experiences as a professional dog trainer. Some details may have been altered slightly for privacy protection but, other than that, this is a true story. 

Fluffy’s Arrival

Joe and Jane Smith, a successful young Silicon Valley couple, enter their spacious home with their new bundle of joy in their arms, a puppy named Fluffy. With glossy eyed abandon, they say, “Here you go, Fluffy, welcome to your new home!” As the Smiths set Fluffy down on the floor of their beautiful home, they have wondrous visions in their mind. They imagine Fluffy frolicking in slow motion like a Hollywood dream sequence, calmly pausing on occasion to come over for a little cuddle on their lap. “Oh, she’s going to be the luckiest puppy on the planet!” they think proudly. 

Oh, the joy their little daydream gave them. Their hearts fluttered warmly as they gazed lovingly at each other and then back to Fluffy. “Oh, isn’t she just the cutest thing you’ve ever seen?” Jane said. Joe chuckled and said, “Look at her go! She’s so happy to be free. I bet she never got to run like this in that cramped little place we rescued her from.”  


Extra Details: When the Smiths picked Fluffy up, all nine puppies and their mama were in a 10×10 room in the back of the house with a doggie door to an outside area that wasn’t much bigger. According to Jane, “It was dingy and cramped.” Those were her words, not mine. I wasn’t there but, judging by how immaculate the Smith’s home was, I’m guessing the dog room was perfectly fine. Maybe it wasn’t the Four Seasons but it was probably just fine for a dog den and whelping area. Regardless, it was a turn off for the Smiths and they couldn’t wait to “save” Fluffy from it. Then, as if the small room wasn’t enough, the family offered to give them a crate to take Fluffy home in. “It was tiny!”, Joe explained, “So of course we turned down the offer.” The Smiths believed that it was cruel to put a puppy in a cage. They wanted Fluffy to be the free, natural spirit that Mother Nature intended her to be. Hence, it felt great for them to turn her loose in their 4,000 square foot home the moment they got home. (In the House Training chapter, we will see how this room-to-yard setup, and the fact that Fluffy was already crate trained, was actually a very good thing that the Smiths simply had no ability to appreciate at the time. They do now.)   


The Smiths’ joy lasted seven whole glorious minutes, then reality came along and bit them in the butt. Well, in the butt is just an expression; it was actually their arms, hands, feet, pant legs..Joe even got a little bite on his nose! “Oh my God, Joe, you’re bleeding!” Jane exclaimed. They soon discovered that their little angel was a little demon that would bite anything she could get her tiny, razor-sharp teeth on! Joe took the brunt of the assault as Jane launched herself onto the couch as if she’d seen a snake. Their new puppy was not being malicious, Fluffy was simply having a case of what they later learned is called “The Zoomies.” Jane later reported, “Apparently this is normal but we had not been warned about it. I’m telling you; it was crazy! I was actually afraid of her!” 

The Smiths’ fantasy of frolicking in slow motion turned out to be high speed terrorizing! Oh, and that pausing to cuddle they imagined, well, it turned out to be pausing to pee and poop on their brand new Persian rug. “She also took a break from her rabid zooming behavior to chew on the corner of their coffee table.” Joe said, “It’s kind of funny now, looking back on it. We were so naive. At the time, though, we were seriously thinking about returning her. Seriously, I’m not even joking!” 

Later that night Fluffy got one of Jane’s shoes. They tried to take it from her but Fluffy proved to be incredibly fast for such a tiny little thing. They finally cornered her and got the shoe but not without a fight. Jane put it like this, “It wasn’t pretty. Fluffy snarled and growled and tried to bite Joe when he took it from her mouth. I don’t know what I would have done if I was by myself!” 

It was only day one and the Smiths were already frantically searching:

  • How to stop puppy peeing and pooping in house
  • How to stop puppy biting
  • How to stop puppy chewing
  • How to stop puppy from running away
  • How to stop puppy aggression

Hoping For A Miracle

They were overwhelmed and almost ready to give up…but they didn’t. They were committed to “saving” Fluffy and weren’t going to give up that easily. Over the next several months they tried two different trainers (one from each extreme of the dog trainer spectrum), they watched a million videos on the internet, they bought a stack of puppy books and by the time they came to me they claimed to have “tried everything” and “ been through hell” and were “hoping for a miracle.” 

“Wow! A miracle, is that all?” I joked, “Luckily, I work well under pressure. Haha!”

For The Record: I do not perform miracles but, with Balanced Training, I was able to help the Smiths get on track with Fluffy and they all lived happily ever after. However, it was a lot more work than it needed to be due to all the stress, confusion and bad habits that had been created by ping ponging between two extremist ideologies and, just for a little more confusion, jumping around all over the internet for advice. 

My intention with this book is to save you all the hassle and confusion that the Smith’s went through by providing a sensible guide to help you get it right from the start. My recommendation would be to give this book a try without trying a bunch of other stuff at the same time. Too many cooks in the kitchen will spoil the soup.


Extra Details: As we will cover in this book, there absolutely must be clarity in our communication system and we simply cannot have clarity without including a balance of both positives AND negatives. In other words, you cannot have a system based purely on yes or purely on no. You can indeed focus more heavily on one or the other but you need both yes AND no. Anyone who claims otherwise is either fooling themselves or is trying to fool you, full stop. 

The Smiths had, of course, first tried going to a “positive” dog trainer. They loved the idea of being “positive” and “force-free” and they loved the trainer because, as they put it, “She was super nice and seemed very knowledgeable and Fluffy just loved her.” However, after 12 private lessons with her, they found themselves unsatisfied for two reasons. 1) Because she insisted on using a crate, which went against their desire to let Fluffy be free. 2) The training sessions were mostly a lot of talking and they felt like all they were doing was constantly giving the puppy treats, which didn’t seem to be helping with getting Fluffy to stop doing all the “bad” behaviors. Their sentiment was that, “She was nice but we weren’t seeing results.” adding that, “To be honest, we’re still not exactly sure when to click the clicker, it’s kind of confusing.” Enter trainer number two: Out of desperation, they hired a trainer from the complete opposite side of the spectrum who had a reputation for getting results with dangerous and aggressive dogs. This guy told them to never use food in their training because it would make the dog “see you as submissive” and was very forceful with Fluffy. He put her on a choke chain and lifted her off the ground with it. Allegedly, he did this before Fluffy had even done anything wrong and told them that this was “Just to let her know he was in charge.” I hope they misinterpreted or exaggerated the story but that’s what they claim he did. Surprisingly, they did two more lessons with him but then stopped because they said, “It just seemed wrong and Fluffy was terrified of him every time he came back.” Yes, of course she was terrified and, yes, it is totally wrong. 

Fluffy was just a normal puppy doing normal puppy behaviors that people happen to find annoying. She didn’t need to be “choked out” and she didn’t need to be distracted with treats constantly. What the Smiths needed was a reasonable, balanced, common-sense approach to puppy training, which is what I offered them and what this book hopes to offer you. 


Where did the Smiths go wrong? 

The Smiths had pie in the sky ideals that, while well intended, were not based on experience, knowledge or reality. Jane had never had a dog in her life. Joe had fond childhood memories of playing with the family dogs but had never raised a dog as an adult. “As far as I can recall, our dogs were never on leash. They never ran away, never bit us or pooped in the house; they were just naturally great dogs.” Joe said. 

This sounds so amazing! How could those dogs have been so “naturally” well behaved? Were they related to Lassie or Rin Tin Tin? Why is this new puppy not acting right? Did the Smiths adopt a broken puppy?

Nope, there was nothing wrong with Fluffy, she was a perfectly normal, healthy puppy. Perhaps a little on the high energy side but otherwise she was totally normal. What was “broken” was Jane and Joe’s beliefs about how dogs think and act. No offense, it’s not their fault, at least not entirely, I personally think Hollywood is at least partly to blame. 

More to come…stay tuned. 

Chad Culp – Certified Dog Trainer, Canine Behavior Consultant, Owner of Thriving Canine. 

© Thriving Canine 2022

We offer in-person training in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as virtual consults anywhere in the world.




Thriving Canine University private Facebook group. (please read the rules before joining)

Related Topics: