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Henry: A Wookiee in Disguise

doggy love

If you’ve been following my exploits on Instagram or Facebook, you’ve probably seen photos of Henry (my mom’s crazy dog). Henry is an Australian Shepard, with piercing blue eyes, and he has an incredible amount of energy. For years I was terrified Henry and he sensed my fear. I believe my fear is why he tried to herd me, nip at my heals, and why he barked at me when I visited my parents house.

In 2009, my relationship with Henry took a bad turn. I was at my parent’s place for the weekend and I left the living room to get ready for bed. Earlier in the day, Henry and I went for a long walk and I felt confident that we were pals. I didn’t think he would try to nip or bark at me again. I was wrong.

As I began walking down the hallway, toward the kitchen, Henry started barking and growling at me. I tried to ignore the behavior, but my heart started racing. When I walked into the kitchen, he tried to bite my leg. My lizard brain went into overdrive and I jumped onto the island in the kitchen. Henry proceeded to run around the island, while barking and growling at me. I yelled at my mom for help, but Henry wouldn’t listen to her. He kept circling the island like a madman, barking and growling. Meanwhile, I was crouched on the counter freaking out! Finally, my mom got Henry to back-off.

After that incident, I wouldn’t stay at my parents house if Henry was there. So my mom sent Henry away; either to a friends house or he went to my step-sister’s place when I visited. Then in 2012, my step-dad had a massive stroke and I had to confront my fear of Henry. I couldn’t ask my mom to send him away when I visited because she had more important things to worry about.

I’ve always been a cat person and didn’t have experience training dogs. So, I looked for helpful information. I read dog training books and talked to friends with dogs. In addition, I chatted with a local pet-sitter about dog behavior. Based on her advice, I ordered Henry a special collar and leash so that I could manage him on walks. In addition, I began rewarding him for good behavior. And when he behaved badly, I put him in “doggy time-out” for five minutes. My mom has a small laundry room — that can be closed off — and it’s the perfect space for time-outs. Spending more time with Henry helped. And slowly but surely we became friends.

Also, while my dad was ill there were nurses, care-givers, and family members that were constantly in the house. All the activity was good for Henry and he started to mellow out with more people around. However, he still has bad habits to break.

Curbing Bad Doggy Behavior

Since Logan and I moved to Red Bluff, we’ve been working with Henry to curb his bad behavior. Here’s a recent list of offenses:

  • Peeing on Logan’s leg during our morning walk. {And no, this wasn’t an accident.}
  • Taking a large plastic bottle containing hundreds of zip ties, biting it open, and spreading the zip-ties around the yard.
  • Stealing a taco off my mom’s plate and eating it.
  • Excessive barking.
  • Counter surfing for food.
  • Taking shoes, gardening gloves, plants and then eating them.
  • Lunging at cars and people while on long walks.

The morning walk

Now that Logan and I are walking him regularly, we’ve set a few ground rules. While walking we encourage him to sit when cars go by, walk beside us (instead of pulling on the leash) and he isn’t allowed to bark at people or lunge at other dogs. If Henry doesn’t get a daily walk, he turns into a maniac and his bad doggy behavior goes up exponentially.

Why I Love Henry

I don’t want you to think Henry is all bad. I love Henry because he is always happy, enjoys every moment of the day, and he loves us. Plus, he makes cute Chewbacca noises when he sees me in the morning. For instance, when I was helping take care of my dad last year, I would send Logan short voice memos in the morning. One of my favorite messages is of me and Henry saying good morning to Logan. If you want to listen to a small clip of Henry’s Chewbacca impression, click here. I believe Henry is a Wookiee in disguise!

Henry the handsome dog

Currently, I’m reading “Train Your Dog Positively” by Victoria Stilwell. Her tips are fantastic and I’m incorporating her suggestions into my everyday interactions with Henry, like:

  • Walking Henry everyday.
  • Playing fetch, chase, and other fun games.
  • Starting to teach him cues, like coming to his name.
  • Rewarding him with treats when he’s good and going into doggy time-out when he is bad.
  • Also, we try and redirect his energy to another activity if he is being a bad dog.

Henry is a highly intelligent dog and hopefully with long walks and a fun training schedule we can curb some of his bad doggy behavior and become even better friends. I feel like we’ve made some progress! On our walks, he isn’t pulling on the leash or lunging at cars as much. I’m looking forward to finishing Victoria Stilwell’s book and using her dog training tips to help Henry, and us.

How do you manage difficult dogs? Share your tips in the comments section.

Be well,

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Sandra Pawula May 27, 2013, 1:30 pm

    This is such a helpful article, Tammy! I’m a cat person and have a mild aversion to dogs. We live in a rural area and some dogs have free-range. I avoid certain dogs. Your positive experience overcoming your fear of Henry gives me confidence and inspiration. Thanks!

  • Cynthia May 27, 2013, 2:03 pm

    As I’ve mentioned, Dr. Sophia Yin is a great dog behaviourist, and I’ve found her techniques very helpful with training our dog Sheldon. There are quite a few videos showing her work on Youtube that you might find fun and helpful: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CG4W7v1_34

    Since Henry is a herding breed, highly intelligent and high energy, he might benefit from herding type activities. I’ve heard of farms where you can bring your dog to herd sheep for fun/training. Not sure if there would be somewhere close by where your Mom lives to bring Henry, but it might be worth looking into.

    Looking forward to hearing more updates on Mr. Henry’s improvements 🙂

  • Lusule May 27, 2013, 2:22 pm

    I believe truly difficult dogs are extremely rare. Mostly the problem is inexperienced or lazy owners or, sadly, actively abusive owners (which includes using dogs as a form of abuse towards others b training them to be aggressive).

    This is why it’s important to understand the characteristics of yor breed of dog, or if getting a new dog, choosing the breed to suit your temperament. And always, research, research, RESEARCH! Training a dog to be well behaved takes time and dedication and love, and I think sadly the amount gets underestimated by new dog owners.

    Collies are among the hardest breeds to own simply because they are so very intelligent and energetic – a double whammy! Therefore they require a lot more commitment than most breeds. But if you are willing to put in that dedication, they can be one of the most rewarding breeds to own, and respond very well to active training.

    My husband wanted a collie but I knew that we are essentially quite a lazy couple, so we compromised with a lab. They still require a lot of exercise, and respond well to training, but it’s not quite so disastrous if they miss out now and again.

    You seem to have figured all of this out already (the beauty of research and the Internet!) but I point it out for people who think that all breeds of dog are created equal and just blindly sleepwalk into ownership without considering the consequences – too often it’s the poor dog that gets the blame for the resulting chaos!

  • Jill May 27, 2013, 2:31 pm

    Hi! I’ve read your blog for quite some time, and of course a post on dogs will bring me out from hiding! I worked with dogs for awhile at a dog day care and have read so much about them. I am SO GLAD you found Victoria Stilwell! She really knows what she’s talking about, and is an extremely good resource. Training a dog should be positive! It is not some battle to make yourself an alpha like other popular methods. Most importantly, it takes TIME, so much time. Especially when you have a high energy, intelligent dog! You guys are on the right path! Keep it up!

  • Trish May 27, 2013, 3:00 pm

    You’re doing all the right things, by the sound of it – exercise is a big key to behavior, I’ve always heard. And giving them boundaries. I love dogs, and since we moved out to the country our dogs are ‘free range’, so bad behavior isn’t evident much of the time. We still get the odd counter surfing incident, and Rex will never get over his love of raiding the laundry basket and scattering it everywhere.

  • Anne-Marie May 27, 2013, 3:45 pm

    Have never had a dog but have interacted with dogs in different settings – e.g. I helped out at an Animal Sanctuary in Hawaii for about a year when we lived there.
    There is always a reason why animals behave in ways that we find difficult. It might be a reason no one even knows about or thinks about. Communicating telepathically with animals is extremely important. You might find Sonya Fitzpatrick’s book “What the Animals Tell me” helpful. She is a very gifted animal pet psychic as she calls herself. Very inspiring and interesting book.
    Love Henry’s blue eyes and I can sense his very loving personality behind his “bad habits.” 🙂

  • Eva May 27, 2013, 4:44 pm

    I have an Aussie named Daisy and can totally see a similarity in her behaviors and Henry’s. Daisy’s pretty well-behaved for a high energy dog living in a tiny condo, but I haven’t been able to control her barking. I will definitely check out Victoria Stilwell’s book. I’ve seen her show and really like her approach. Like you point out, it takes time and a lot of consistent training.

    Regarding stealing the taco off your mom’s plate, I laughed out loud at that. Have you seen the cupcake video with the Australian Shepherd? It’s from her show. I get that look all the time when she wants something off my plate but knows she can’t grab it without getting in trouble. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTuOr2vlC-c

    I’m glad I found your great blog. It was recommended at the Tumbleweed workshop I attended in Nashville last weekend. 🙂

  • Wanda May 27, 2013, 9:06 pm

    From what I understand of Henry’s breed they are highly intelligent, active and typically need some type of job to do or they get bored and bored leads to trouble. You might consider an agility training course for him or something like that that allows him to use his mind and wear out his energy.

    We have jack Russell mixes and they were trained use a combo method of Victoria’s method and Cesar Milan. The biggest trouble we had was teaching them to leave the cats alone but persistence paid off because now they ignore them.

    Good Luck with Henry and keep up the amazing work you are doing with him.

  • Melita May 27, 2013, 10:34 pm

    Hi Tammy

    I have to agree with everyone else here – it seems you have started to figure out what Henry needs which is great!

    I used to work on a farm in New Zealand, so am used to dogs that are bred for working. Working dogs do a HUGE amount of exercise on a really regular (at least daily, sometimes twice daily) basis – often walking and running more than 20 kilometres at a time. They are also, as everyone has pointed out, very intelligent, and are bred to take firm orders. They do take a lot of training, especially if they are on their own. In a farm situation there is usually a group of dogs which actually aids the training process. They almost always go a bit nuts if they do not have enough physical or mental stimulation – this even happens to working dogs during slow seasons on a farm. Most working dogs only work ( or at least only work properly!) for one person – so it is probably important that your Mom be involved as much as possible in the training and exercising too. She will need to be able to continue to control Henry properly when you leave.

    Dogs bred for working can make wonderful pets and companions and are incredibly loyal to their owners, however they often need much more exercise and mental stimulation than most people realise, and much more than dogs that are specifically bred to be companions 🙂

  • Louise May 28, 2013, 1:49 am

    Tammy, you have been extremely brave to deal with your fear in this way, your experience in your mum’s kitchen sounds truly terrifying. When I was a young girl I did a paper round in my village when I was home from school on holiday and I had to deliver to houses with huge German Shepherds who used to snarl, snap and pull on their chains and it scared the hell out of me. I never thought I would own a dog and there are still dogs I meet who make me nervous.

    You are doing an amazing job. Rewarding positive behaviour is really the way to go – its a very slow process but it does work – just hang in there. There are times when dogs also need to be removed from situations when their behaviour is not acceptable just do it with a sense of control and show the dog you are the boss without being angry or upset (easier said than done at times). Even when you think you’ve got it cracked he will slip occasionally but just think of it as that and it won’t matter. This is probably the best thing you are doing for your Mum – when you have left she won’t have the stress of worrying about Henry so much. Good luck!

  • Patty May 28, 2013, 8:24 am


    I had an Aussie for 12-1/2 years… and for 10 of them she was a puppy. You haven’t mentioned how old Henry is, but he’s acting like a puppy. The thing about nipping at your heels is that she is herding you – you are her sheep. Additionally, because she peed on Logan – it’s because YOU ARE HER SHEEP, and Logan is an interloper. My guess is that in the early days, you were submissive to her (or your mom and stepdad – however subtly), and you taught her that she is the boss of you. You need to establish yourself as the boss. If you can, make it so that you are the only one in the house who feeds her. Feed her once a day. Make her obey before you put her food down. You are the one who lets her in and out. You decide her fate. Soon enough, you are the master, not the sheep. Good luck! Keep us posted on Mr. Henry!

    (BTW, my sweet Chloe died 4 years ago, and I still miss her and dream about her. She would have taken a bullet for me — sweetest dog on the planet. Everyone said so… even people who didn’ like dogs who met her. But she would take a small dog down in seconds — delicious little snacks, they).

    • Tammy Strobel May 28, 2013, 9:18 am

      Hi Patty – I’m so sorry to hear about Chloe. She sounds like a sweet dog! 🙂 Also, Henry is five years old! He is well beyond the puppy stage. Thanks for reading!

  • Angela May 28, 2013, 8:41 am

    I REALLY needed this blog post this morning. Our Malti-poo barks ALL the time. We’ve even gotten hand written notes from our neighbors anonymously mailed to us – embarrassing!! It feels good to know I’m not alone … I’ll be checking that book out at the library – ASAP!

    Any tips on how you get Henry to quit barking would be very welcomed (:

    Best of luck – LOVE your pictures of Henry, his eyes are insane!


  • Christy May 28, 2013, 8:56 am

    I concur with the commenters who write that Henry’s breed is one that needs a job. Aussies make lousy pets when they are bored and boredom leads to bad behavior. I also suggest that you contact other owners of Aussies and seek advice from them.

  • Diane Weaver May 28, 2013, 9:03 am


    I follow your webpage and your aussie article caught my attention. What you described in this dog is simply a strong herder who has no job to do and no boundries. He is falling back on what he was originally bred to do. HERD! I have had herding dogs for over 20 years (shetland sheepdogs) and currently have one with strong instincts to herd. I’ve done obedience training, 4 years of agility training and pet therapy training. My herder has a blue ribbon from obedience and we successfully became a registered therapy dog team together. It can be done. However, pick your training advice wisely! There are many different approaches and not all work with every dog. Consistent handling is key. A confident handler is a must…something I work on for me every day!

    Best of luck with Henry.

  • Denise May 28, 2013, 10:10 am

    I’m so glad you’ve learned to love the pooches, too. Australian Shepherds are so smart, hence they need a lot of direction to keep them on track. We have a German Shepherd, Roxanne, who loves to herd me around the house. Daily walks (at least an hour) and lots of training are helping her be a good girl. The shepherds take a little extra effort, but they are well worth it in my opinion. Such awesome dogs.

  • Diane May 28, 2013, 11:07 am

    Bingo on all points. With a highly active working breed dog, the more exercise the better and the more “work” he has to do the better. A friend of mine had great success training her border collie to do agility. They both enjoyed it, the dog learned she was in charge, and the dog got so much exercise and focused tasks to do, that he was tired and much better behaved. Good luck and kudos for taking a positive approach to training.

  • Theresa May 28, 2013, 11:12 am

    It sounds as if your mom’s dog created quiet a challenge for you. My two sisters each have 2 dogs, and only one of the 4 of them is well-behaved. I am like you and I am NOT a dog person. I love cats. My sisters’ dogs jump on me (even when they are muddy), bark at my son (who has autism) and scare the daylights out of him, want to sit in my lap (none of the dogs is small), bark at just about everything, and are generally out of control. One of them is a biter, which I find totally unacceptable, especially around my son. I’ve actually come out and said to both of them that their dogs need training, which offended them. I see this kind of weirdness in other people who have dogs, too. They treat their dogs like spoiled young children. I have seen dogs who behave, so I know it is possible. Still, I am a good sport most of the time because I love my sisters and realize the dogs are part of their families. But I still don’t like the way they behave!

  • Elizabeth May 28, 2013, 3:16 pm

    Henry reminds me of … adolescent boys with ADD! LOL! Every suggestion you made applies to young men! Now, if only our school systems would walk these boys regularly, all our problems would be solved. 😉

    Seriously. What a great post!

  • swalia May 28, 2013, 10:26 pm

    I have pet dogs since I was 10 years old. Currently, I have two dogs- a white pomerian named bonzo and a crazy, mischievous pug doodle. From experience, I can say that all the dogs need is our love and affection. If they are kept isolated, then they can’t stand people. Don’t keep the dogs chained or isolated for too long.Even if you have to put a leash at times, at least they should be at a place where they can see people ( at the gate or in the porche). Also the dogs obey the one who feeds them. My dogs never disobey my father because he is the one who feeds them and take them out for walks.

  • Angela May 29, 2013, 4:30 am

    I have re-read this post about 5 times … I even showed it to my husband last night and said ‘see we aren’t the only ones!’

    Somehow when Winston has me overwhelmed, reading this makes me feel better (:

  • Sherry May 29, 2013, 4:56 am

    wow he sounds just like a wookiee ! My dog Jolie makes a long bark that sounds like a bugle blowing. I am passionately in love with dogs.

  • Megan May 29, 2013, 7:55 am

    I might have to pick up that book! My dog is 18 months and small, but I have trouble controlling him at times. He also is “not allowed” to bark at people or lunge at other dogs on other walks, but that doesn’t stop him from doing it! Any tips on how you curbed that behavior?

    • Tammy Strobel May 29, 2013, 9:00 am

      Megan – I’m still learning myself, so I’d recommend buying Victoria’s book. So far consistent walking and making Henry sit while cars (or people) pass by us has done wonders. Henry also gets treats for being good and he is highly food motivated. 🙂

  • Erin May 29, 2013, 11:25 am

    We have an Aussie, too. She also makes Wookiee noises. Cracks us up. If she doesn’t get enough exercise or have “a job” to do, she gets naughty. You are on the right path to success with Henry. Good Luck!

  • Beth May 29, 2013, 12:18 pm

    The two things I find indispensable in dealing with dogs, difficult or otherwise is patience and consistency.

  • Kacie May 30, 2013, 1:44 pm

    Oh, Tammy, I SO resonate with this! And I feel your frustration that can come with it. My man, Burger (four legged man, of course) had such issues for the first couple years of his life, and even now when he doesn’t get the attention he deserves (regular walks, play time..he is a lab after all) he turns into a crazed face, mad man. He use to pee on my leg ,intentionally (that makes for fun dog park chatter) all of the time, and loves to lunge at cars or aggressively pounce dogs which use to give me mini-strokes regularly. High five to you for working with him so consistently. I adore all the photos you post, my dog might have a k9 crush 😉

  • Erin May 31, 2013, 8:09 am

    I love herding dogs and have rescued two. They are so smart and loyal, however, they can drive ya crazy sometimes. One thing that I have found really helpful is biking with my dogs. I bike pretty slow so they are trotting not running. Walking is great but sometimes I think it is just not enough exercise for these kinds of dogs. However, my border collie/aussie cross will still jump and eat sparks from a campfire, chase and attack flashlights/fireworks/shinny things, and nip people if they are acting crazy(jumping/screaming/etc).

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