MDYL 008: Dog Group Interactions with Sue Sternberg

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I started my dog training career in a doggie daycare where I observed and interacted with groups of dogs all day, and that really helped me understand the group dog dynamic. Now one of my specialties is dog-dog interactions.

With more and more dog parks opening up nationwide, we have more opportunities to get dogs together than ever before. The problem is that even though we love the idea of dogs playing together, most people have no idea what’s really going on and it often turns bad.

To dive deep into the topic of dog group interactions I brought in the best in the field: dog training legend and shelter superstar Sue Sternberg. Sue is the founder and director of Rondout Valley Animals for Adoption, she’s an innovator in creating shelter programs and protocols, she’s an author, speaker, educator, and has has over 3 decades of dog behavior experience.

Recently Sue has spent a lot of time studying and working in dog parks and shelters, and shares some some really amazing insight on dog behavior when in groups. Listen in and be prepared to learn a lot. I promise you’ll never see a dog park the same way again.

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • The dangers of getting dogs together in groups
  • What “red alert behaviors” to look out for
  • How we can help dogs play together safely
  • The best way to start a dog-dog play program in a shelter
  • How Sue’s new iPhone app can help you and your dog stay out of trouble


Rondout Valley Animals for Adoption

Dog Park Assistant iPhone app

Sue on Facebook

Great Dog Productions

Out and About with Your Dog (kindle)

Dog-Dog Group Dynamics seminar – 5/11 – 5/12 2013 in Madison, WI

Sociability vs. Aggression in Pet Dogs seminar – 6/8 – 6/9 2013 in Accord, NY

To get a copy of Sue’s Red Alert Cards email her at

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Leave A Reply (18 comments so far)

  1. Sherri
    5 years ago

    Great stuff, I wish I would have thought to pull the back legs before I wound up in the hospital with a bad infection from a bit (yes from the dog that was not the aggressor) between two of my big dogs. Getting the e-book right away.

    • admin
      5 years ago

      So sorry to hear that Sherri but glad you’ll know for next time. The collar is the natural place to grab but probably the worst.

  2. Heidi
    5 years ago

    This was a great interview! I have witnessed every single example Sue cited as red alert behaviors at the local dog park and am happy to say that I’ve anticipated each one of them. Unfortunately, it is all too common for dog owners to be completely unaware of where their dog is much less how he or she is behaving. On top of that, most owners lack the skills to understand what is happening, thinking it’s just normal play or overreacting to simple dog interactions. This is why it’s so important for owners to understand the body language of dogs and how they communicate with each other before ever entering into an off leash environment. Fortunately, I’ve also met many regulars at the dog park who are very observant of their dogs and are willing to interrupt situations or simply leave if the environment gets overcharged. This is why your advice about taking the time to assess the energy of a group of dogs off leash before bringing your dog into it is so important and also knowing whether your dog will benefit from being in that environment is, too. As was pointed out in this interview, not every dog enjoys it.

    • admin
      5 years ago

      I really think that the only time to hit the dog park is off hours when you the daily crew there. Everyone knows one another and the dogs are familiar with each other.

  3. Meg
    5 years ago

    What a great interview! My first podcast! Love the umbrella idea and I just got the dog park app – wish I had done that when I was frequently going to the dog park? Thank you, Fern, for introducing me to Sue!! I am so grateful for folks like you and Sue and so many others sharing their experiences … And wisdom.

    • admin
      5 years ago

      So glad you like it Meg.

  4. frances dauster
    5 years ago

    freudian slip? LOL
    >>>really amazing incite on dog behavior <<<
    would that be insight?
    good article! thanks. i wish sue would bring out the app for android (hint hint!)

    • admin
      5 years ago

      Thanks Frances – yes indeed, it should be insight (that’s what I get for writing at midnight). And I think Sue is thinking about doing it for Android as well.

  5. Carole
    5 years ago

    So glad I found you and your podcasts! I’m actually a Wisconsinite and hoping to make it to Sue’s seminar this weekend.

    Fern, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us! I’ve been raving about you to my dog loving friends and family. Please keep it comin!!

    • admin
      5 years ago

      Thanks so much Carole. I promise to “keep it coming!”

  6. Bruce
    5 years ago

    As a denizen of the dog park (7 days a week rain or shine) I found this podcast to be incredibly informative and insightful.
    Fern, you’re doing a great job in putting together such a wonderful series.
    All of us who have a passion for dogs are delighted by your tireless dedication in promoting an agenda that greatly benefits both the dogs and their owners.
    Please keep up the good work.

  7. Armando Morales
    5 years ago

    It’s fantastic to hear Sue giving interviews. I don’t think she does it often enough and a big kudos to you for landing her. I studied with Sue during an instructors training course she gives in her Rondout Shelter and she’s a treasure full of meaningful and insightful information. Not enough people get to hear this stuff. Great job on the podcast also.

    • admin
      5 years ago

      So glad you like it Armando. Yeah, Sue has some great knowledge and I’m so glad she is very generous about sharing it.

  8. Heather Hardn
    4 years ago

    I learned a LOT from the interiew, and now look forward to going out to parks to just observe, before i take one of mine. I do have a question, hopefully there is no stupid one!! What is a few good examples of a Positive interruption, instead of a punishing one? And I am referring to prior to the Red Alert Behaviors. If you witness a behavior that “could” escalate, and want to interrupt PRIOR to a stressful situation, what are some recommendations?
    and,, THANK YOU for such wonderful Podcasts!

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