Top Dog Tips – What Every Dog Parent Should Know

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Wouldn’t it be great if dogs came with an instruction manual? These are some top dog tips that every pet owner should know to help them understand their dogs better.

1. It Is Irrational To Get Mad At Your Dog

It is understandable to be fuming mad when you come home to see your favorite pair of shoes chewed off but dogs only do what comes naturally and through what they learn. Remember that these are animals so getting mad is illogical. 

Physically punishing your dog is counter-productive and may backfire. Use your hands as little as possible when disciplining your dog.  Let your hands be associated with good and pleasurable things like belly rubs and dog treats. 

2. Dogs Don’t Understand English

Not even Spanish or Chinese. “Sit” and “stay” and some other commands are in English, of course. Oftentimes we like to think that our pets understand us when we speak to them. 

While they may pick up a few words here and there, the truth is dogs rely mostly on non-verbal body language. And even body language is easily misread. Learn how dogs communicate to give commands with proper body language and tone of voice. 

3. Dogs Don’t Like To Be Petted On The Head

Most humans don’t like to be petted on the head either. Dogs like it better when you pet them on the chest, base of the neck or shoulders. And when you do, try to come from the side instead of over the head. 

4. Correct Your Dog On The Spot

Dogs learn from association. To effectively form an association, a correction must be done at the exact moment when you see your dog in the act and not a few seconds later. 

The same principle applies when you want to reinforce good behavior. Deliver praises and treats at the precise moment your dog makes a good decision. 

5. Be Gentle With Your Dog’s Collar

Be mindful when pulling your dog’s leash.

Pulling it violently can send your dog to the vet by damaging the windpipe, nerves, and bones in the neck and may even damage the thyroid.  

Dog owners know that the more you pull on a leash, the more the dog tries to pull away even to the point that it blocks their windpipe and you hear the dog struggling to breathe. This comes naturally for them. Think of sled dogs. 

It is counter-intuitive for us humans because the natural thing to do is to slow down to ease the suffocation. For dogs, they are simply trying to escape the asphyxiating experience.

6. Dogs Don’t Like Hugs

Hugging someone we like or love is second nature to humans. This naturally extends to our pets. Dogs don’t like them, though. They see it as assertive and domineering. 

They may put up with it but don’t necessarily like it. If a dog tolerates hugs then it must be on their terms, not ours. This is extremely important especially for children because they tend to hug too tightly and for too long.

This is the #1 cause of facial bites. Read their body language

A dog that enjoys a hug will ask you for more if you stop by leaning on you, wagging its tail and closing its eyes with a relaxed body.

 But more often than not, dogs won’t enjoy it and his body language will tell you by wagging his tail stiffly, sneeze, vigorously shaking his body, yawn and trying to get out of a hug. 

girl hugging dog

Note the stiff body, wide eyes and ears pulled back. Photo Credit: Ky Flickr via Wunderstock (license)

7. You Can Teach Old Dogs New Tricks

Contrary to popular belief, old dogs can learn new tricks. In fact, older dogs are easier to train because they have a longer attention span. Dogs have good memories. Keep this in mind when adopting an older dog. 

8. Dogs Experience The World Differently

Dogs have an uncanny ability to hear selectively. They can sleep soundly with the radio blaring but wake up to the sound of someone opening a bag of chips. 

Dogs can hear sounds 4 times farther than humans and can detect odors at concentrations millions of times lower than we can. 

Go easy with air fresheners, scented candles, perfumes, and essential oils as these can overwhelm your dog’s sense of smell. 

9. Bad Behavior is Natural

But they don’t have to be permanent. Chewing, digging, jumping may be natural behavior for dogs but as pet owners, we must assume the role of a leader and teach our pets what is acceptable and what is not. 

10. Dogs Don’t Like Eye Contact

Making eye contact with fellow humans is part of normal interaction and comes across as respectful and trustworthy. Not for dogs though. They see it as a challenge and a threat while looking away is a sign of respect.  Learn how to teach your dog to interpret eye contact as non-threatening. 

Have you seen your dog wink? It’s an indication of a happy dog.

11. Have Your Dog Spayed Or Neutered

Dogs that are spayed and neutered tend to live longer and healthier lives. They also tend to be more affectionate. Have it done around 5-6 months old. It also prevents come common illnesses

12. Keep An Eye On Your Dog

  • Even if you have a friendly dog, do not let your dog approach every person you meet. Not everyone likes dogs and some are afraid of them. 
  • Do not allow your dog to jump on the counter. Bacteria from their paws may contaminate your food and your dog may eat food that is toxic for them.
  • If someone wants to pet your dog, tell the stranger to let the dog approach him instead of him approaching the dog. If the dog is reluctant or looks uncomfortable, do not force it. 
  •  Always keep an eye on children around dogs. The odds of a kid getting bit by a dog are 3 times higher than an adult regardless of any breed. 
  •  In social gatherings, do not bring your dog unless invited to do so. Even in outdoor parties. 

13. Stop Nuisance Barking Early

Dogs can bark at a variety of reasons for no obvious reason at all. A puppy that is not stopped from barking is a potential nuisance barker. A puppy that barks at it’s owner while being verbally corrected has challenged it’s owner and needs training sooner, not later.

 This is a sign of a dog that will be hard to train as he grows. 

14. Watch The Tail

A dog with a wagging tail is not always a happy nor friendly dog. 

Many people especially children have been bitten because of this popular misconception. Aggressive and agitated dogs also wag their tails in a similar way.

 Dogs wag their tails to express their emotions and as a rule of thumb, the faster the wag, the more emotionally worked up the dog is. 

To get an idea as to what your dog is feeling, look at the speed, direction, and position of the tail. 

  • What you want to see is a long, slow side to side wag with a relaxed body. This indicates a calm dog. 
  • Studies have shown that a dog will tend to wag its tail to the right when feeling something positive and wag it to the left when feeling something negative. 
  • When it spins in circles, it indicates an excited and happy dog. A dog’s favorite person is often met with this. 
  • When the tail is pointed up, it indicates that the dog is aroused and something caught its attention. Like a squirrel. This may also indicate aggression. 
  •  When the tail is pointed down and between the legs, it shows fear and anxiety. 

Thanks for reading! The purpose of writing this article is to make dog parentship a safer and more meaningful experience. Please teach these tips to your children. If you found this post to be helpful, please share it with someone who may need it.


All information in the article is for educational purposes only and is not meant to replace your veterinarian’s advice.


All information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not meant to replace your veterinarian's advice.

63 thoughts on “Top Dog Tips – What Every Dog Parent Should Know”

  1. Excellent information. I never knew dogs couldn’t understand English – I knew they probably couldn’t pick up on complex words, but didn’t realize they barely picked up on only a few. I long knew that it’s irrational for a stranger to approach a dog, as my parents’ dogs would always use tense body language when this would happen. I naturally shy away from dogs that I don’t know, so I’ve always allowed them to approach me rather than me approach them.  

    • That’s an excellent idea, Todd. Allowing dogs to approach you is a lot safer than you approaching them.


  2. Hello there! This article is super awesome! Thank you very much for sharing it, I’ve Indeed learnt a lot from this article especially informations which will strengthen my relationship with my dog.

    Ive been wrong all along making go through some punishment thinking he will learn from it. 

    Thanks for sharing, it’s helpful!

  3. Hello Sunny, you have given some really detailed and nice I message here on how to deal with our dogs and I feel sad I do not know some of these basic things like petting your dog on the head is wrong. I have really been a busy person and so I do not spend much time with buddy, but the little time I will be spending I want it to be memorable and that’s why I made the search for this article. Cheers.

  4. This are some relatively new stuff for me here because I didn’t know most of this things. You seem to know so much about digs though and it’s really beautiful really. I like the fact that you can give this type of info. I like my dogs and how they relate with me but now I think I have learnt some new things. I usually pay my dog on the head though and I think that will need to stop now. Also, I didn’t know about old dogs learning new tricks. Thank you so much!

  5. Wow, a lot of practical information on caring for a dog.  I am happy to learn all the tips from you. One thing I have learned is to ensure your puppy goes to the vet to have the necessary injections to prevent diseases. Failing which can cost their lives. I also never knew that dogs don’t like hugs or being petted on the head until reading this article. Thanks 

    • I honestly cannot recall saying going to the vet to have the necessary injections but.. thanks anyway


  6. Hi Chua,

    This is an excellent article!

    Though I currently do not have a dog for a pet, I certainly can understand some of these facts because growing up we kept dogs for pets- 3 big ones. 

    I agree with you that dogs don’t like mistreatment, or irrational behaviour, they learn more by action rather than human languages, and when disciplined on the spot are quick to learn from their mistakes. 

    As a father I’ve found out that this is exactly how to create a better relationship even with a toddler who has not yet learnt to speak out. My opinion therefore is that if we treat a dog like that, a better relationship is formed. 


  7. Hi Sonny,

    Although we have a dog in our home I am not aware of this information and I got helpful insights from your article.

    I was thinking that our dog only understands English and when I read the “How To Read Dog Body Language” article it was an eye-opener for me. It’s really challenging and I often struggle to find out why our dog barks continuously even while I am typing this comment our dog is continuously barking. I learned a lot of helpful information on Watch The Tail topic.

    I am going to share your post with my friends who are dog lovers and I am sure they will find helpful information from this post.

  8. Thanks for giving us the tips about dogs.
    The first time I found out that a dog could not understand English, I was really surprised. There is always something new I can learn from your articles about Dogs. I do not have a dog but your article may help me when I adopt a dog in the have made a very good description of dog behavior. Your article really helps those people who have a dog. They will get a lot of help from your article. Thank you so much for giving us a very helpful article.

  9. Most annoying is when I come home and meet the whole of my clothes that was layed to dry in the sun right on the floor, when she first did it I did not know what to do, she continued with the same thing; later I started beating my dog for such. I will take my dog to the spot of the offence and spank her bum bum.
    I hug my dog, thank you very much, I will stop doing that;  have noticed that vigorous shake of his body.

  10. Wow, a lot of practical information on caring for a dog. I used to have a dog and later a puppy and looking after them without the knowledge can be disastrous. I am happy to learn all the tips from you.

    One thing I have learned is to ensure your puppy goes to the vet to have the necessary injections to prevent diseases. Failing which can cost their lives. 

    It is always great to have a pet dog, a lot of responsibilities comes with it. However they will really make your day and be a very loyal friend.

    Thank you. Marc.

  11. Wow! This is highly education. For me, this article is already serving as a dog manual to owners because it will create a lasting relationship between the dog and owner if everything in this article is observed. I’ve book marked it for reference. Thanks for sharing this article, it’s helpful!

  12. Thank you for your post. It is a timely article for me. I just adopted a dog from my brother, since he move to another country. He told me a lot things about the dog, but there are so many things that in your article are new to me.

    I always pet on my dog’s head. I see it is fine with my dog, but it isn’t in his best response. I am going to change this and try to pet my dog on his chest.

    My dog loves hug and every time I reach home, he jump on my shoulder and I hug him. It seems he is happy and enjoys the hug.

    It is so nice that you share so many tips with us and I bookmarked your webpage and will practice them one by one.

    • Hello Anthony, Thanks for commenting. I’m glad you got a few tips from this article. And thanks for bookmarking this page 


  13. Hello, thank you for sharing these amazing top dog tips. I found your article very useful and informative .I have learnt a lot from your post.Taking care of your dogs is very important being humble with your dogs and keep an eye on your dog’s activities understanding their feelings. These tips will make our life easier and we can develop an ever lasting bonds with our dogs, creating a good relationship full of love and respect.This was an eye opener article and I also thought that dogs wagged their tails only when happy to see you. I never knew dogs hated being petted on the head and hugs. My whole family likes to pet our dog in the head all the time she never showed that she did not like to be petted on the head, my poor dog shame. At least now we all know that it was wrong of us to do that and we will treat him with care and respect her feelings. Thanks for sharing such valuable information.

    Wishing you all the best !

    • Hello Fiona, thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m also glad you were able to take a few things from the article.


  14. There’s a always a thing or two to learn whenever I come across your article. This guide (and the others on your site) is definitely one that every dog owner should read and understand. I had no idea getting your dog sprayed could have a very positive impact on the dog’s health. Keep up the good work.

  15. What a great article i want to let you know with these articles about dogs i leant so much  since having my dog liam have not good parent to him i always shout at him but i know very much to correct him at the spot thank for these great article dogs are pet to treated very nice and take care of them thank for these articles once again 

  16. My new puppy and I are so thankful for these tips! She is about 4 months old and mostly doing great! The times when she makes mistakes (like accidents) are usually only when I missed the cues that she needed to go out. But sometimes we’ll go for a nice long walk, and she’ll come inside and have an accident within only a few minutes. So frustrating! (But I know not to be mad at her.) If you have any secret puppy whisperer tricks to expedite potty-training, let me know! 🙂 Thanks! 

  17. Thoroughly enjoyed your article. I love dogs and own dogs too. You wrote dogs can only pick up a few words. i believe that to be true, but also i believe dogs can pick up our tone of voice. I didn’t know not to pat a dog on the head though. I found the article informative.

  18. Hello, thank you for sharing these amazing top dog tips. These tips will make our life easier, our dog happier and a relationship bond with love and respect; the relationship every dog parents want with their dogs and I bet our dogs want this relationship too. This was a real eye-opener, and I also thought that dogs wagged their tails only when happy. I never knew dogs hate being petted on the head and hugs. Now I also understand our dog a little better. Thanks for that.

  19. This is all good stuff. I never would have thought about this stuff, but then I became a dog owner many years ago. And I definitely agree that teaching old dog new tricks can be easy. I had a dog that was over 8 years old, and they were still able to be taught new tricks. They actually picked up on it virtually right away.

  20. wow, i have been doing such a wrong thing ever since. i usually pet my dog on the head and i would not have known this fact if not for your article. i noticed that dogs don’t like hugs too. my daughter tried to give my dog a hug and it found its way out of her body. this is an interesting article.

  21. Wow, I had no idea that dogs don’t like to be petted on the head. I always give mine a pat on the head, so now I must get out of that habit and pet them on the shoulders instead. I also had no idea that they don’t enjoy hugs.

    This was a real eye-opener, and I also thought that dogs wagged their tails only when happy. I am going to print this article and put it on the fridge so that the family can have a read and also understand our dog a little better. Thanks for that.

  22. Of course Sonny, it would be absolutely great if dogs come with manuals. Unfortunately, they don’t come with manuals; fortunately, I just found a manual! 🙂

    Thank you for sharing these amazing top dog tips. These tips will make our life easier, our dog happier and a relationship bond with love and respect; the relationship every dog parents want with their dogs and I bet our dogs want this relationship too.

    You have opened my eyes to some things and you have enlightened me too. I never knew dogs hate being petted on the head and hugs. I never knew about the tail wagging and meanings. I love this…

  23. This is such an insightful post to read. I’ve basically had pet dogs for quite a bit of my life and i had no idea about some of these things. Dogs don’t like to be petted on the head. You absolutely threw me for a loop there my friend. Because i could have sworn my dogs loved that.

    I guess they must just have put up with it because i was so good to them overall. But, yes i can also remember times when i was really fuming mad as you put it. Because a pup had gotten too chummy with my slippers or favorite pair of shoes.

    I loved this article and these really are Top Dog Tips, and the stuff that every dog parent should know. I’m going to be following your blog looking for more content like this.

    • Thank you, Donald. I appreciate your kind comment and I’m happy you found this article to be useful. 


  24. Hi there, loved your article lots of tips and advice and information I knew very little about!
    I am not a dog owner, but my daughter is and will benefit from reading your article.
    It was interesting to read about the tail wagging and if dogs really understand English, but how body language also plays a key part in communication.
    Now I am a bit more glued in with dogs!
    Thanks for a very useful article.

  25. Thank you so much for these top dog tips Sonny! A few of them I had already known like not looking directly into their eyes, where to pet them and how not to do it. I personally do not have dogs, I prefer cats. One of my best friends has three dogs and she on occasion takes in puppies from a local shelter to help train them.

    Every time I go over to her house I always want to make sure I do the right thing and these tips have helped me to better understand what to do and not to do. I have questions. Because I have a cat, will my friend’s dogs smell my cat’s scent on me and could this be a problem? How can I mask the scent if my cat touched me just before leaving my home?

    • Hiya Robert! Dogs have a keen sense of smell and I doubt if you’re able to mask your cat’s scent. Think of dogs that can find drugs in cleverly concealed packages.  I don’t think it’s an issue though. 

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!


  26. Hey, I enjoy your article while reading on top dog tips and find all tips are very useful for dog lovers like me. Your step by step tips are awesome. Now I am teaching my children these useful tips regarding dogs. Children are not aware from the behavior of dogs. Now they are enjoy while reading and also give me a commitment. They will follow the guide.

  27. I found your article very useful and informative .I Have learnt a lot from your post.Taking care of your vet is very important ,Being humble with your pet, keep an eye on your dogs activity , understand their feelings etc

    Thanks for sharing this great article on dog tips what every dog parent should know.

    Keep up the good work !

  28. Your first sentence made me laugh, if dogs came with an instruction manual 😉

    I do realize that dogs do not speak our languages (that would be something! 😉 ), but I believe that they do pick up certain commands and/or sentences. They certainly understand body language, I completely agree with that. 

    Regarding your point about the dog’s collar, do you think it is better to use a dog harness? And are there any good ones that you recommend?

    My dogs actually like hugs, and one of them really loves it, but I think that they do this because they were raised with it. The one who loves it, Greta, comes up to me and she actually hugs me like a human being (I didn’t teach her that). She stands on her hind legs, and she puts her front legs around my back, seriously, I’ve never seen any dog doing that, so I think that Greta is an exception to the rule. 😉 But hugging dogs in general should be discouraged, I do agree, especially with children. I do not allow children ever to be alone with my dogs, but honestly, I don’t have much contact with children where I live, so I don’t have to worry about that 😉

    This is a very good post. Spaying and neutering is so important! I am always sharing that message whenever I can.

    • Hello Christine, we use a Halti now. Our dog got easier to walk ever since. 

      You’re blessed to have a dog who likes hugs! Mine doesn’t. He shows all the symptoms that I described when being hugged. Thanks for taking the time to comment!


  29. I found the section regarding tail-wagging very interesting. We have owned several dogs over many years and, except for the more obvious tail signals like the straight up tail, and the tail between the legs, I cannot say that we have ever noticed some of the other behaviours that you mentioned.

    Perhaps we have simply not been that observant, but I will certainly be looking out for this in future.

  30. Thanks a lot for such an amazing review about Top Dog Tips – What Every Dog Parent Should Know and the explanation is given.

    Not long ago I received a husky dog as a gift, so I’m looking on the internet on how to be a good parent for your dog. I’ve read many articles about it, but this one was the best. The best tips I have found.

    Thanks again and I wish you all the best.

  31. Hi Sonny,

    Superb article on top dog tips, I am a dog parent of super cute Golden retriever, and finding your post was just on time.

    I always let my son hug “Harley,” and I noticed that the dog was very stiff, not showing any sign of affection to my son, and always wondered why does my dog react like that.  Now that I understand the reason, no more hugging, I will not risk a sudden face bite!



  32. Couple of good pointers, and some completely new to me. For example, I had no idea about them not liking eye contact. If they look at me, my natural reaction is to look back at them. What is the better way to approach a dog without looking into his eyes?

    • Try not to look directly. When approaching a dog, try to squat a little and try not to face the dog directly as to not appear threatening. 

  33. I wasn’t aware that dogs aren’t really big fans of getting petted on their heads. My dog doesn’t like to get her chest petted, she prefers her back. She has also picked up some lines that we constantly use with her but she also can sense the motive in the line as well.

    How can you train an older dog? I’m currently living with my dad and he has a 16 year old dog who I actually named about 13 years ago and when she first saw me after so long, she recognized me, which I think was incredible and it made me cry. The fact that dogs are so smart to recognize people after years and years is truly mind-blowing 

    • Hello stephanie, you train old dogs the same way you train puppies. Yes they have amazing memories. They are much smarter than we think


  34. Hi! There are a couple of things I have been doing wrong all these years. The first one in related to petting dogs on the head. Yeah, I have noted some get visibly irritated by this but I associated this behavior with other things. Thanks for mentioning it here. And the other thing is that dogs don’t like hugs. Wao, they just “tolerate” them. We learn something new every day.

  35. This is a great article full of a wealth of information that I hadn’t heard before. While I myself do not own a dog, I have many family members and friends who do. I have seen some of the different body postures you talked about, but never knew what they meant. We have always cautioned our kids about how to treat the dogs they come into contact with. Now, I feel even better equipped to help them in these interactions and to respect the animal’s own boundaries! Thanks!

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