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Archive for month: August, 2017

Are You the Real Cause of Your Dogs Lack of Focus?

August 30, 2017

How can you have a communication ‘Dialog Loop” with your dog that gets your dog focused on YOU, instead of being distracted, reactive or worried…automatically, with no training?

Let’s start with this question: what exactly is “communication”?

Good communication is the successful exchange of information, ideas and feelings

Let me repeat that: the EXCHANGE of information ideas and feelings … between you and your dog.

Exchange implies that we must spend as much or greater time listening to our dogs as we do talking at them.

Communication, and what I call the ‘dialog loop’ is the most powerful and effective training tool available to us…

In my decades of working with people and their dogs, I have seen that the biggest problem we face with effective communication between us and our dogs is our (mistaken) belief that it has been accomplished.

It often goes like this:

“My dog NEVER does this at home. He KNOWS how to (fill in the blank).”


“She KNOWS how to (fill in the blank). She just refuses to listen to me!”


From there, it’s really easy to blame our dog for misbehaving, or blowing us off…


When WE take on the responsibility of making sure our dogs understand what we are trying to communicate, we are headed for success.

When we don’t take on that responsibility, we are faced with our own feelings of impatience and frustration, which shuts down the flow of communication even more.

Let’s talk about how people and dogs communicate…watch the short video below:



The Crystal-Clear Communication Formula :

 Speak Clearly + Listen Carefully =
Powerful Understanding between you and your dog.


Ready to Learn More About Partnership with Your Dog?

Click Here to Join the Free Online Partnership Training Workshop


Are You the Right Kind of Leader for Your Dog?

August 28, 2017


How can you be the RIGHT kind of leader for your dog …without being punitive, and without having to be a non-stop treat or toy dispenser?

One of the core philosophies of my work is that Dogs thrive when being guided by clear, consistent leadership that provides a framework to live by.

There’s a common myth that being a leader means you have to be alpha or domineering. 

That is simply NOT true.

Because we have embraced positive training methods and rejected the punitive approach to dog training and the domineering ‘alpha’ role of leadership that comes with it …

… we have often left our dogs without any real guidance on how to navigate through life.

We end up providing No leadership, or a permissive kind of leadership. And neither of those works. Trust me.

With No leadership that will teach our dog how to ‘be’ calm, responsible, resilient members of the family, we have to be in ‘training mode’ or ‘management mode’ all the time. Indefinitely. Like forever. 🙁

When we are in ‘training mode’ all the time, our dogs are too. Think about that. Instead of having a dog who is a responsible part of the family, we have a dog who is dependent on us for every choice, every move.

We tell the dog when to sit, when to stay, when to come, when to leave it, when to take it … you get the idea.

And then sometimes we have a dog who becomes afraid of missing out on a reward opportunity so they are on ‘high alert’ and won’t make a move without our permission…OR, they keep offering behavior after behavior in the hopes they will hit the ‘right’ one.

How exhausting, right? And frustrating too. For both dog and human!

At the opposite end of the leadership spectrum is being permissive.

That style of leadership gives dogs ‘free rein’ to figure things out. There’s little structure or routine for dogs to rely on, and there’s not much management. So dogs end up like sort of a ‘wild child’ … and since this approach often leads to a lack good social skills, activities like going for a walk or interacting with guests is next to impossible.

This is not the kind of freedom that makes us or our dogs happy. Quite the opposite. We are overwhelmed and the dog is overwhelmed, over-aroused, perhaps even anxious or frantic.

Just like children who are raised with guidance, structure and active parenting, our dogs thrive when we master a loving leadership role.

So … if your dog thrives with guidance, but you don’t want to be alpha and domineering (which we know doesn’t work, and has been thoroughly disproven, despite what we see on TV) and you don’t want to be permissive…

What choice do you have?

Loving Leadership that leads to a collaborative, attentive and responsive partnership with your dog is the answer.

It’s part of my foundation formula for partnership.

Watch the video below where Kathy teaches you about loving leadership.



Starts September 6th, 2018



How to Start Herding the Right Way

August 16, 2017

Kathy Kawalec and her border collie LucTo: Fellow Herding Dog Enthusiasts

From: Kathy “learned the hard way” Kawalec

If you have a herding breed dog, you have likely thought about how cool it would be to enjoy a trip out to the farm and give herding a try!

Maybe you have a herding dog who really needs a job and misbehaves without a proper outlet.

Or you’ve been dreaming of starting herding with your dog…the right way.
I had dreams of what it would be like when I started herding with my young border collie, so many years ago.

I imagined beautiful sunny days in green pastures … me and my dog, happily working contented sheep…gracefully collaborating as good partners do…learning and having fun together.

I thought I had a good relationship with my dog, and she already had basic training…we were good to go, I believed.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

What I discovered is that learning Herding is hard…and unless we are prepared in advance: it will bring up ALL the holes in our relationship, our foundation training and in our working partnership.

My own start was rocky, that’s for sure.

My first herding trainer used those common and outdated ‘yell, chase in circles, wield your stick, harsh pressure’ methods to train herding dogs.

Even though I was positive and refused the ‘instructions’ to physically correct my dog, I didn’t realize just how damaging those tactics really were. My poor dog!

And, it breaks my heart that this is STILL common, 20+ years later. These poor dogs!

Well…there is a better way!!

After going from a struggling beginner to 9x national sheepdog finals qualifier (and more) with 5 different dogs, and supporting 100’s of coaching clients and many herding breeds to achieve herding success…

my dream is to share what I’ve learned with everyone who loves herding and herding dogs…

…and wants to have success WITHOUT sacrificing their trusting relationship with their dog.

That’s YOU, right?


Why You Should Do Herding with Your Dog and
How to Start Herding the Right Way

3 Skills you and your herding dog need …
for herding AND for everything you do together:

Skill #1: Herding Dogs Need to Know How to be Mindful.
They need to be attentive and responsive to us. And keen and mindful in their work. This means they are thinking, and they are learning, and they are applying what they learn into the context of the moment.

Skill #2: Herding Dogs Need to Know How to follow your Positive Leadership.
Communication, trust, understanding, role modeling are crucial skills that you and your dog will develop together.

When we know how to effectively communicate with our dogs by understanding their nature and their emotions, and by creating and maintaining a dialog loop, our dogs naturally choose to follow our leadership because they trust us.

Skill #3: Herding Dogs Need to Know How to be Responsible.
Partnership doesn’t happen because your dog is obedient. Partnership happens because your dog understands their responsibility and looks to you for positive leadership.

There’s a formula for that!


Kathy Kawalec and her border collie Sue at a sheepdog competition

Kathy Kawalec and her border collie Sue at a sheepdog competition

Just Imagine…

…your dog: always eager to learn, train and compete with you…happy to be your partner. Stress and tension that causes your dog to misbehave fades away as you become fluent in communicating with your dog in a way that he/she really understands.

…how great it will be when you and your dog are working together, as herding partners. No challenge is too difficult when the two of you solve problems TOGETHER.

…that amazing feeling that happens as you finish a great run. The partnership…the focus…the good handling…the great work your dog did handling those tough sheep. It was an awe-inspiring experience that you FELT and others noticed.


Herding magic happens because of a partnership that is built on trust. A deep trust that comes from learning how to be a good partner…from working TOGETHER with your dog as you learn, as true partners do.


Herding as a life skill.

Herding shows us ALL of our relationship/partnership foundation ‘holes’ in full HD detail. AND it provides a perfect venue to work on our partnership…to bring us to that place of brilliance that we envisioned when we brought home our herding dog.

Herding dogs are so smart, so sensitive and so attuned to their environment and to us … any mistakes we make in raising and training them can’t be disguised … and our herding dogs, with all their sensitivity, can either make us look brilliant or make us look embarrassingly inept. Don’t I know it!

The path that herding dogs take us on requires commitment, consistency and it requires passion. Most importantly, it requires skill.

Many people acknowledge that herding is, by far, the hardest thing they have ever done with their dog. Maybe the hardest thing ever. Period.

Those of us who jump in, get hooked on this life-changing experience we call herding.


To truly enjoy herding as it’s meant to be:

  • You need to develop YOUR skills as your dogs trainer, handler and partner.
  • You need to develop herding-specific skills in you and your dog.
  • You need to have a solid herding foundation that you can build upon as you and your dog progress. Without this foundation, your path will be blocked with frustrations and challenges that stand in the way of your brilliant success.


5 Great Reasons to do Herding with Your Herding Dog:

  1. Dogs that are bred for herding may realize their reason for being.
  2. Enjoy fresh air and open spaces.
  3. A new kind of partnership will blossom between the you and your dog.
  4. Give your dog a real job!
  5. Herding trials are everywhere and fun!

Sue in shedding ring at WWSDA Labor Day trial


Why do herding Kathy’s way?

Most beginners are thrown into a pen with their untrained dog, some sheep, and a tool they are told to use to keep their dog away from the sheep. Chaos ensues, as the uninitiated dog and person frantically try to figure out how to do what the instructor is yelling at them to do as everyone runs around the pen.

It’s crazy. We don’t learn, nor do we teach anything else to our dogs in this manner.

5 Great Reasons to do Herding, Kathy’s Herding Partners way:

  1. Fosters respect for all: sheep, dogs, people.
  2. Accelerates learning for dogs and people.
  3. Establishes a calm, mindful practice of sheep handling.
  4. Allows keenness to emerge in a supportive setting.
  5. Keeps everybody safe.
  6. A bonus reason: it’s way more fun! 🙂


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