Women and Dogs…and Cleopatra

by Camilla Gray-Nelson

cleopatraAnyone who’s owned dogs for a while, knows that dogs often relate differently to women than they do to men. I hear comments every week from women in my dog training classes like, “He doesn’t jump on my husband, but he’s all over me when I walk in”, or “My boyfriend can walk him and he listens to him at home, but he drags me down the street and won’t mind me at all”.

It’s a common lament, but not a surprising one since, in the dog world, the Top Dog in a pack is always male.  And dogs are very good at sizing up their world.  They not only distinguish between male and female dogs – but between male and female humans, as well.  Women smell different than men.  We have softer voices, while men’s are deeper.  We are not as tall, and not as physically strong as our male counterparts.  All this screams FEMALE to a dog!  And because dogs by nature are not looking to a female for pack leadership, we women often start out with two strikes against us in the control department with our dogs.

Not to worry, ladies! When you start feeling hopeless and helpless, remember Ms. So-and-So, the kindergarten teacher who had the entire class under her spell.  Or your mom, who knew how to cleverly manage and “control” your dad.  Think about Cleopatra, one of the most powerful and influential people in history – male or female.  These women knew how to have power and influence without hand-to-hand combat, without physical strength and without masculine bravado.   All of these women used their uniquely feminine strengths to influence others and, in the end, get what they wanted. You can do the same in dog training!


Ask any husband about a woman’s ability to be Persistent.  LOL!  We can latch on to something like a dog with a bone and not give up until we get what we want.  Use this persistence and determination in your dog training!  It doesn’t matter how long it takes to get your dog’s compliance – as long as you get it.  Real power, after all, isn’t about physical strength.  It’s more about getting results.  A successful leader does not yell and fight; he or she just gets things done.  As Cleopatra once said simply, “I will not be triumphed over”.  You go, girl.

The Power of Praise

We all respond well to compliments, whether we are a child, a spouse or a dog! Dogs (like children and men) are results-driven, so make sure the result of any desired behavior is good, good, good.

When you finally get what you want from your dog, lavish him with Praise.  Tell him he’s handsome or tell her she’s beautiful.  You laugh.  I’m serious! Dogs eat up praise like cookies on a coffee table.  Even if it takes you an hour to get your dog to “Come” from the dog park, celebrate as if it were your son or daughter returning home safely from the battlefield. Make him think, “Wow. I love coming home!”


Another skill we can draw on in our dog training is Empathy – our womanly ability to sense another’s feelings.  Our dogs have feelings and moods, too.  Is our dog not responding because he’s being defiant, or is he simply confused?  As women, we can tell.  Our nurturing DNA is tuned into that sort of awareness.  Dog training progresses much faster when the dog’s feelings are recognized and the training modified accordingly.  If your dog seems stressed, don’t keep drilling on a difficult exercise because, damn it – you told him to; back off and give him something simple that he can do successfully.  If your dog is challenging you, don’t get macho and confrontational; stay sweet, calm and be persistent until you get what you want. Then make him think it was HIS idea!

Even though women may be at a natural disadvantage when it comes to dog training, I can attest from personal experience that we can draw from a wealth of natural talents that can result in untold power and influence. ….Just ask Cleopatra.


About Camilla Gray-Nelson

When I started training dogs professionally, it was women who sought out my help. Responsibility for the family dog typically falls to them, after all. Their homes were in chaos; they were yelling at their dogs – and their kids – and couldn’t control either one. The life skills of personal power that I learned as a child (and assumed everyone else had, too), turned out to be rare among my clients. Since that time, it has been my personal goal to share Nature’s message of quiet power with women (and men) everywhere to help them become more effective not only with their dogs, but in their greater lives as well.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Cheyanne July 21, 2011 at 5:58 pm

You are so awseome for helping me solve this mystery.

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