top of page

Kim Brophey and L.E.G.S.

I can’t remember when I first learned about canine behavior consultant Kim Brophey’s work—it could have been in a conference presentation or as a recommendation from a fellow trainer. But whenever it was, her book, Meet Your Dog, has had a permanent place on my desk ever since.

Brophey, who is also an applied ethologist, created her L.E.G.S. training framework to help people understand how the four categories of learning, environment, genetics, and self affect their dog's behavior.

Our dogs learn constantly, so if you know how your dog learns--by consequence and by association--you can better understand your dog's behavior. For example, my dog Ralphie learned quickly that if he puts his face up on a counter in a pet store, he will get a treat because he got one the first time he tried it. And because no one can resist that face, it works over and over again. Once you recognize how your dog learns, you can determine where you might be inadvertently reinforcing behaviors you'd like to reduce--like slipping your dog food from your plate as he stands under the table.

Keeping dogs primarily as pets rather than as working animals is a relatively new development. But many of the dogs originally bred to work in a specific environment like outdoors on a farm find themselves living inside with their families. For these dogs spending day after day cooped up in an apartment can lead to behavior issues. Other aspects of our dog's environment can also contribute to behaviors we'd like to avoid: a roast chicken left on a counter is fair game to a counter-surfing pup while an open gate is an invitation to adventure for an escape-artist.

Brophey examines in depth how dogs' genetics shape their behaviors and create problems for dogs living in a human-centric world. While your Shih Tzu probably loves snuggling inside on a cold day, your Great Pyrenees may want to be outside all the time. And your Australian shepherd may herd your kids. In her section on genetics, Brophey divides dogs into breed groups, detailing their origins, giving an overview of how they might best learn and interact with their environment (including the humans in it), and explaining what behavior quirks they might present.

Finally, Brophey considers the more abstract notion of your dog's self. Specific details like age, health, disability, and nutrition contribute to who he is and what he does. Pain or illness, for example, may exacerbate a behavior issue like resource guarding. And of course, your dog is an individual, sentient being with a personality, likes, and dislikes.

All four sections of L.E.G.S. are intertwined—if your dog’s environment creates stress or sets them up for failure, they won’t learn. If we don’t take our dog’s genetic origins into account, we may overlook an important reason for a behavior and miss a possible solution. And finally, we have to see the dog in front of us as an individual not just a representative of a greater category called “pet dog.”

23 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page