Where we celebrate the noble nanny dog character of mythology, history and entertainment.

What Color Is Your Dog?

In his new book ‘What Color Is Your Dog?’ Joel Silverman, Hollywood trainer and host of Animal Planet’s Good Dog U, introduces a simple concept to accurately determine any dog’s innate emotional personality. Just 160 pages in length, this little gem of a book includes lots of color photographs and is cleverly formatted with important information spotlighted so you can reference it easily.

Joel’s innovative concept categorizes dogs as Red, Orange, Yellow, Green or Blue, or some degree in between such as Red-Orange. It’s a simple and elegant system that is easy for everyone, even children, to understand.

On one end of the spectrum, the hot side, are Red dogs. These high-strung dogs are often described as ‘out of control’. They are easily distracted and often challenging to train. At the other end of the spectrum, on the cold side, are Blue dogs. Timid, fearful and untrusting, Blue dogs can become fear aggressive biters. Both Red and Blue dogs frequently end up in animal shelters and rescues simply because their owners don’t know how to deal with them.

Right smack in the center of the spectrum are the Yellow dogs. These ‘mellow Yellow’ dogs are the ideal. On each side of the Yellow dogs are warm Orange and cool Green dogs. The goal is to bring any dog closer to ‘mellow Yellow’ by the way in which the owner approaches, trains and handles the dog.

Joel and Sunshine on the set of "A Good Year"

Joel and Sunshine on the set of “A Good Year”

The title might sound like a fanciful Dr. Seuss book, but once you start reading it you will be amazed at how profoundly perceptive the color categories are. You’ll probably have your own dog’s color identified within the first few pages of the book. This book delivers on it’s goal to teach people how to develop a respectful relationship with their dog by providing insight into any dog’s personality.

But beyond simply identifying dogs by color, the second half of Joel’s book explains how to effectively train each color type. For instance, Blue, Green, Yellow and some Orange dogs respond very well to clicker training, while the clicker sound and food reward can be too stimulating for the already excitable Red dogs who do best with calming tactile rewards such as petting and stroking.

Joel’s motive for writing this book was to help new dog owners learn the best way to communicate with their dog, in order to reduce the number of adopted dogs being returned to rescues and animal shelters. The book is also a great resource for people who work in rescue. By being able to identify the dog’s emotional personality in advance, the rescue staff can teach the new dog owner how best to handle that particular personality for a happy and successful adoption.


What Color Is Your Dog? Train your dog based on his personality color
by Joel Silverman

Interview with Joel Silverman:

Joel, to give the readers a little background about you … you were one of those early pioneers clicker training dolphins and orcas at Sea World, and the last 30 years you’ve been training dogs for TV, movies and stage. Among your most famous credits are training Dreyfuss for Empty Nest, and training Sunshine for the Russell Crowe movie A Good Year. You’re also the host of Animal Planet’s Good Dog U.

When training for different vehicles, TV, movies and stage, is the training different for each type of acting?

No, the training is the same, but it is different from the type of training you would do with your family pet, or an agility dog. Normally you’ll want the dog to be very attentive to you, but when training for film you want the dog to look natural. You don’t want him looking at you. You also don’t want to excite him or stimulate him. So you would not use a clicker in that case. You affirm to the dog that he got it right by moving to the next behavior. However, I would use the clicker when training something new like asking the dog to cover his eyes with paws. That requires a lot of precise timing and shaping to develop the behavior.

Let’s talk about your new book, ‘What Color Is Your Dog’. I am enjoying this book. The writing is concise and engaging. The book is very user-friendly. How did you develop this concept of identifying dogs by color?

I went to the book store and looked through the training books. I felt there was a need for a fresh new approach to dog training. The book developed from two philosophies of mine about training.

The first is my observation that the most successful dog trainers develop a relationship – they create a bond of trust with the dog prior to starting the training. They spend some time just getting to know the dog for two to four weeks. Once the relationship is built, the dog will do what you want – you won’t need to force him. The second philosophy is that every dog is different and should be handled according to its personality.

I wrote this book with the new dog owner in mind. Too many dogs are adopted from shelters and rescues, only to be returned because the new owner didn’t understand the dog and how to train it. My goal with this book is to increase the number of adoptions that work out and decrease the number of dogs returned to the pound.

Joel's best friend and companion is Foster.

Joel’s best friend and companion is Foster.

Are some breeds more prevalent in particular colors? I’m thinking Border Collies and Australian Shepherds must be Red dogs.

I try not to generalize. Any breed can be any color. A lot of people think that Border Collies and Australian Shepherds are Red dogs, but in my experience they tend to be Green more often because they are a little bit timid and reserved. The color is more about a dog’s emotional personality rather than energy level.

The idea is to move a dog from an extreme color like Red or Blue towards the center of the color spectrum which is Mellow Yellow. What causes the shift? Is it environment, experience, age …?

What changes the dog is you. You have the power to change his color.

Can a dog move between colors during stressful situations? Can a Blue dog turn Red?

No. A dog cannot move from one extreme to another. This is important to understand. Let’s say you have a Green dog. He’s a nippy little Chihuahua-mix. He can go one of two ways, towards Yellow or towards Blue. If he’s forced to do something and is afraid, he’ll go to the extreme of Blue. A Blue dog can be fear aggressive and bite. The same Green dog, this Chihuahua-mix, if you train him the right way, he’ll move towards Yellow. Another example would be an Orange pit bull mix with a bit of an aggressive streak. You pull the leash and his hackles go up. You keep forcing him and he’ll become a Red dog. If you calm him down he’ll go towards Yellow.

Are some behavioral problems (house training, biting, fighting) associated with certain colors?

Not necessarily. Biting and fighting are just how dogs are in general. Any color dog can have difficulty with housetraining. All dogs can learn the basic commands that I teach in the book. These are Sit, Stay, Come and No. In the book I explain how to teach these commands based upon your dog’s personality color.

As a clicker trainer, it was interesting to me that you recommend not using clicker training with Red and some Orange dogs. Is it the sound of the clicker, the excitement of the treats, or what?

It’s excitement in general. When you think about a Red dog, think about a dog that jumps. He jumps on people, he jumps on furniture, he just jumps and jumps and jumps. I’m not saying you couldn’t clicker train a Red dog, but I think that would not be the fastest way to train him. You want to calm this dog down. Tactile rewards, like petting and stroking, get the Red dog moving towards Yellow.

Should people pick the dog color that matches their own personality?

No, I wouldn’t say that. You can have chemistry with any dog.

It seems to me that anyone who deals with a lot of different dogs on a frequent basis, such as a rescue organization, animal shelter or a veterinarian’s office would find this book useful.

Absolutely. I’ve been going around speaking to different groups. This book is about is not forcing dogs. This is a way to train all types of dogs based on their personality.

Joel, thank you for sharing this time with me. It’s been an honor. It’s obvious you are a really nice guy and you genuinely love dogs. This book will have a huge impact on people’s ability to understand their dogs and train accordingly. I believe you will achieve your goal of decreasing the number of dogs returned to shelters. If every new owner, and current owners alike, were to read your very reasonably-priced gem of a book, people would avoid feeling frustrated and overwhelmed which in turn leads them to give up on their dog. You make it all so simple and easy!