Establishing Boundaries: A Step-By-Step Guide To Training Other Dog Parents

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

May 6, 2016

You know the feeling. You’re having a lovely time at the park with your best friend, when suddenly, another dog parent is screaming or physically confronting your dog in a way you’re not OK with. It can be upsetting to watch your pup endure such humiliation!

So what do you do? Below are a few simple techniques that can help train other human dog parents to respect your boundaries, and leave the parenting of your dog to you!

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement training uses praise and/or treats to reward the human dog parent for doing something you want her or him to do. Because the reward makes the human more likely to repeat the behavior, positive reinforcement can be an incredibly powerful tool for changing or influencing dog parent behavior. For example, when the dog parent behaves appropriately around your dog, or gives your dog the kind of affection and respect that you approve of, reward that dog parent for doing so. If they’re interacting with your dog at home, you can offer them a treat, like a piece of candy or a cookie.


If can also be helpful to have treats on hand when you’re on the go. Humans love bacon, almost as much as dogs do! Carry bacon bits with you to the dog park. When another dog parent interacts with your dog correctly, reward that human with a piece of bacon from your pocket.

When the human starts to demonstrate unfavorable behavior, interrupt their bad choices before they form a habit. Don’t scare them or yell at them. Instead, simply clap your hands at them, quickly getting their attention. Then distract them with a toy. Humans like many different kinds of toys. Get to know your dog parent’s preferences! For example, many humans love to play with cell phones, or designer handbags. But not all humans like designer handbags, so that toy may not distract the human sufficiently when you need to interrupt their bad behavior. You’ll start to get the hang of it once you get to know your dog parent better!



Some dog parents want to be friendly, but don’t know how to effectively engage in a social environment. They may be especially dominant, which means they require special treatment in order to be properly trained. If they don’t respond to positive reinforcement, you may need to resort to stronger techniques. When the human approaches you or your dog in an assertive manner, firmly stomp your foot on the ground several times. Use a low, stern tone of voice when addressing them. This is helpful in an open social environment, like the dog park.


Dominant dog parents are naturally more aloof and solitary. At times, it can be difficult to get a dominant human to come to you. Do whatever you can to undermine the dog parent’s control over the pack. Encourage other humans to gossip, put down, or point and laugh at the problematic dog parent. This will diminish the dog’s parent’s self esteem, and make he or she more willing to bend to your will. They’ll come to you for approval and affection, once you establish yourself as the new Alpha.

At home, use meal time to your advantage! Invite the dog parent over for a friendly meal at your house. When they arrive, don’t show too much enthusiasm about their presence. Indifference establishes your dominance. Then, when you sit down to eat, make sure the dog parent eats last. Keep all of the food out of their reach, and then make them watch while you enjoy a delicious meal without them. If they’re well-behaved during your meal, you can then offer them a plate of food. But be sure before you do to make them sit, stay, and wait patiently to have the plate placed before them. Then say “OK!” in a cheerful tone and let them eat.

Establishing Your Turf

Eating Small

If positive reinforcement and dominance techniques don’t seem to be working, you may have an especially difficult dog parent on your hands. Please note: If the human appears to be highly unpredictable or violent, consult a professional. You should not handle a troubled dog parent on your own, if you’re not properly equipped. If the dog parent seems friendly, but needs some extra guidance, it can be helpful to establish clear boundaries. If another dog parent won’t play by your rules, establish your territory!

The fastest way to do this is is by marking. Drop your pants, squat, and urinate in the area that you’d like to claim as your own. This can be at the dog park, in your own home, or even – in extreme, necessary cases – in the home of the dog parent in question. Nothing says “I’M IN CHARGE HERE” like pee on the floor. If possible, establish strong eye contact with the dog parent in question while you urinate in their general direction. That should do the trick.

These techniques should be helpful when handling even the most difficult dog parents. And don’t forget to enjoy yourself – training humans should be fun!

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

May 6, 2016

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A themed collection of BARK-designed toys, treats, and chews.


A themed collection of BARK-designed toys, treats, and chews.