Family Dog Mediation®

Are they problems behaviors or unmet needs

As the modern world continues to change, many of us find ourselves confused by the latest technology and even longing for days gone by.  We don’t realize that these changes to our world have had drastic effects on our dogs’ lives as well.  

  • Border collies no longer have sheep to herd … but herding kids, bikes or cars is frowned upon.  
  • Jack Russell terriers are no longer employed in keeping vermin out of our barns … but killing our pet hamster is not acceptable.  
  • Dalmatians once trotted alongside carriages all day … now they may spend 8 to 12 hours in a crate every day. 
  • Huskies were developed to pull sleds across the arctic tundra … now some find themselves living in Florida condos. 

Our pet dogs are captive animals with unmet instinctual needs and very little autonomy over their own lives. We control every aspect of their lives . . .when and where they eat, drink and sleep … when and where they go potty . . . who they interact with . . . how they play . . . The aspects of our dogs’ lives that the dog controls can be counted on one hand. Our pet dogs are frustrated and confused by their own reality. Dogs are doing what we humans selectively, and very purposely, bred them to do for over thousands of years. We see many of these as unwanted, problem behaviors.

… or perhaps just misplaced expectations?

Our dogs have been stripped of the right of refusal. Imagine, if you will, trying to dress up a wolf or a tiger – or even your cat. Get out the bandages, right?! But what happens when we decide to dress up our dogs? Now that’s a different story, our dogs had darn well better cooperate. In addition, think of this same wolf/tiger/cat/dog scenario in other circumstances – giving baths, grooming, walking on leash, recalls . . . even petting. In short, a dog is the only living being expected to perform perfectly regardless of what scenario throw at them. If they refuse, we see a problem to be “fixed”.

Are these truly issues that need to be fixed . . . or do we just need to adjust our own expectations?

We need to take an honest look at our relationships with our dogs and ask ourselves . . .

  • What was the original purpose of my dog?
  • Am I offering my dog opportunities to meet his needs?
  • Am I being realistic with my expectations?
  • How can I help my dog navigate this modern world into which he has been trapped?

“If you think about it, it’s kind of a dirty trick to take a species that naturally chases moving objects, eats whatever it comes across, bites to argue, etc., and then announce all these as behavior problems.” ~ Jean Donaldson

When we are angry, embarrassed, or frustrated with our dog’s behavior, these feelings affect our relationship. They affect our ability to constructively help our dog modify those behaviors.  Shifting our mindset from “My dog is giving me a hard time” to “My dog is having a hard time . . . having big feelings . . . feeling frustrated, confused or afraid” takes our relationship to a whole new level. It creates a stronger bond and provides a foundation for creating new behaviors.

Marissa Martino of Paws and Rewards Behavior Consulting has created a wonderful FREE mini-course called Powerful Perspectives. In this course, dog owners reflect on their feelings. Then they reframe their mindset from one of anger and frustration to one of empathy and understanding.

This is also where Family Dog Mediation® can help. We will talk about why your dog does what he does and how his needs may be affecting his behavior. Then we will create a plan that will set both you and your dog up for success.

“Dogs are doing the best they can with the education we’ve given them in the environment we’ve put them in.” ~ Susan Garrett

What is Family Dog Mediation®?

A Family Dog Mediator (FDM)® is an individual with special training and education above and beyond training or behavior consulting.  FDM’s are certified pet professionals who are trained to assess each animal based on their L.E.G.S.® – each individual’s LearningEnvironmentGenetics, and Self – because each one of a dog’s four L.E.G.S.® plays a critical role in supporting that animal’s behavior.  

What is L.E.G.S.®?

The L.E.G.S. framework is a holistic, ethological lens through which we view canine behavior. It is a lens through which we can understand WHY our dogs do what they do.


Learning is composed of all of the combined information the individual dog has learned during his life so far –and is continuing to learn every single day.  E.g., ‘other dogs aren’t safe to approach’, ‘cars are scary’, ‘cats are fun to chase’, or ‘when mom has that look I better hide’.  Learning is more than just training a hand signal to sit or some other pattern of behavior. It is the key to adapting to new situations, making predictions and anticipating based on previous experiences.  It’s happening all day, every day, and it’s often not what humans may intend!


Environment isn’t just the inside or outside of your house.  It’s everything your pet encounters and interacts with every day.  Environment creates both questions and answers for your pet. E.g., ‘Am I safe?’,  ‘What is happening?’,  ‘What do I do?’, or ‘I know what this means!’.  Our job as humans is to control the environment, keep it safe, and make sure it provides the things that will meet our dog’s needs.  


Genetics is all of the information about life that our pets arrived on earth with already encoded in their DNA.  It is what tells a dog how to be a dog. It contains all of the specializations that humans have selected for, and against, since we began breeding dogs more than 10,000 years ago.  Genetics provides the basic instructions for herding, protection, companionship and retrieving.  


Self considers the dog sitting directly in front of us – this unique individual. It includes personality, age, sex and reproductive status. Self includes health, nutrition, disabilities or injuries.  Think of Self in this way – the needs of a stray, skinny momma dog with 6 puppies are drastically different than the needs of a pampered, neutered Cocker spaniel who eats the most expensive dog food and has his own leather couch or a young male Siberian husky who lives in Alaska and is training to run the Iditarod.  We always start with the dog as the individual, not with dogs in general.

Family Dog Mediation®

Family Dog Mediators® evaluate these four L.E.G.S.® and help identify the places where there are conflicts between a dog and his person.  Family Dog Mediation® goes BEYOND dog training. Rather than setting out to simply “fix bad behaviors” through obedience training, we will work together to create meaningful solutions. 

As your FDM, I will meet you and your dog where you are right now. We will work with ALL of the L.E.G.S..® that both you and your dog bring to the table. My goal is to help you and your dog build a relationship based in trust and understanding.  Your training plan will require compromise in order to address your goals and meet your dog’s needs. This plan will include management protocols, enrichment activities and teaching new skills. 

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.”
~ Maya Angelou
Family Dog Mediation

I am here to help.