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2 Favorite Indoor Games to Play with Your Dog

January 14, 2018

2 Indoor games you can play when you're stuck inside with your dog

Stuck inside?  Dogs driving you crazy? Everyone a little stir crazy? Play some games!

After writing about what to do with your Stir Crazy dog in part one, I was flooded with old memories of long evenings and weekends inside with my pent up dogs.

We had so much fun! Laughing, playing, engaged, and loving every minute. The oldest memory comes from my first dog as a young woman, living on my own in an apartment in Chicago. I didn’t know how much Max would change my life when I picked out that cute little bundle of puppy love.

Kathy Kawalec with Lacee and dog Max in 1986.

Kathy with her horse Lacee, and her dog Max, enjoying a snowy winter day in 1986.

Game #1: “Find it”

Max loved this game. I can’t remember the exact number anymore, but I believe Max knew the names of 50 different toys/objects that he would go search for and bring to me upon request.

He was so good, that he could identify different colors of the identical object…like the yellow ball or the blue ball. And he could pick out different objects of the same color, like the blue ball and the blue rope.

This is a game that is fun, mentally stimulating and relatively quiet.

Step 1. Start with one of your dogs’ toys, and give it a name as you are playing. Let’s say it’s a red ball. After a few repetitions, your dog will associate that name with that particular object.

Step 2. Next, take the red ball, and put it behind your back or somewhere easy that your dog clearly knows where it is…you dog SAW you hiding it. Ask your dog in a playful way ..” where’s your red ball?” “find your red ball”…encouraging your dog to ‘find’ the red ball, either by touching it, and/or taking it, then giving it back to you. Celebrate success!

Step 3. Then, fake a throw of the red ball, and when your dog is looking away, quickly put the ball behind your back again. Repeat the playful encouragement to ‘find the red ball’. Have a party when your dog finds it!! Let your dog use its nose and its mind to figure out where the ball is. You can give hints, and if your dog seems confused at first…like flash the red ball out and back again. Or, look directly at where the ball is hiding.

Step 4. Now, you’ll hide the red ball in a more challenging location, like under the couch, or behind a pillow. Repeat. Then, you’ll hide it a little further away. Repeat this until you can hide the red ball just about anywhere, and your dog will find it…you can move around, pretending to look for the red ball with your dog until the game is really understood.

Step 5. Then, start the entire process over again with a different toy. And then another. At some point, you will be able to have two or three toys together and ask your dog to find a particular one, celebrating when your dog picks out the correct one.

Ultimately, your dog will be able to run over to the toy box and pick out the toy you have requested…for a really fun game!


Kathy Kawalec with Dallas, Reno and Haley

Kathy with her dogs in 1999 (l-r) Dallas, Reno and Haley. Dallas and Haley are waiting on the rainbow bridge. Reno is 15 and enjoying retirement in 2013.

Game #2 Hide ‘n Seek

I love this game for soooooo many reasons. It’s great fun. It teaches dogs to find family members. It teaches dogs to be attentive to you. It teaches dogs to be responsible for keeping you in their sight at all times, which is a crucial life skill. It’s an awesome way to spend quality time indoors when the weather is awful.

I remember frequently playing this game with my three dogs Dallas, Reno and Haley. Oh, my gosh, what fun we had…me, being inventive on where I could quickly hide. The dogs, loving the game so much that I could barely hide from them because they became so savvy. I would often start an instant flash mob kind of game with no warning. We all had such a blast!

Everybody loves a game of hide ‘n seek, right? Two things that make this game possible is the way dogs gather information. Dogs look for movement and silhouettes. So, if you are perfectly still, and you camouflage your silhouette by being next to a wall, piece of furniture etc…you can ‘hide’ from your dog in plain sight…for just long enough to make the game interesting. Fun!

Step 1. You casually get up and go somewhere, like to the bathroom. As you enter the bathroom, you slip behind the door which is ajar, and just hold still. If your dog doesn’t come looking for you, make a fun sound, like whistle or smooch, or giggle. Then be quiet again, while your dog looks for you. Give hints if your dog doesn’t get it at first. When your dog ‘finds’ you: laugh, play and run out of your hiding place, while your dog runs with you. “Good dog!”

Step 2. The moment you see your dog gets distracted…maybe she runs to get a toy because you are in a playful mood…you go hide again. Duck behind a chair, around a corner, hugging the wall, behind a door, on the other side of the bed…you get the idea. Again, give fun little sound hints if your dog isn’t actively looking for you, but do be a bit patient, so they get to ‘work’ at it.

Step 3. At some point, you’ll find that you can’t get away from your dog. As soon as that happens, you’ll need a distraction. The best one is to throw a toy and while your dog runs for the toy, you go in the other direction and hide quickly. Or, you can pretend to ‘end the game’ and as soon as your dog relaxes and goes to do something else…you go hide again.

If your dog LOVES the game, you can hide sneakily. If your dog isn’t that excited yet, then let your dog see you hide. What you’ll do is the human version of the play bow towards your dog, laugh and go running away, inviting your dog to chase you. Then you duck into your hiding place. Your dog will easily find you, and you go running away again to a new place while your dog chases you again. Such fun!!

Step 4. Play with another person…or more! While one person hides, the other person invites the dog to ‘find Mary’. “where’s Mary?” “where did Mary go?” “Find Mary”…you can help at first if needed. Then while the dog and Mary are partying about the find, you go hide and Mary repeats the process. “Where’s John?”

Step 5. You can move this game to multiple levels of your house, like upstairs or the basement. And, you can move it outside when it’s nice again. This game is a great way to get a kick a** recall on your dog.


These two games are at the top of my list…although with my ‘pack’ I don’t play these games much. I DO engage in hide’n seek outside when I can…it is such fun!

I have a few other great games…and I will write about them in the future…beware. lol.

I’d love to hear how you and your dogs enjoy playing these games. Leave a comment and let me know.

And, please spread the word…share this post with your friends!


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4 Ways to Calm Your ‘Winter Stir Crazy’ Dogs and Get a Better Partnership

January 7, 2018

Stuck inside with your dog? 4 things you can do right now!

Having wild, pent-up dogs could be a really good time to work on some important skills that’ll come in handy now AND later. So, think of it as a blessing in disguise! lol

Seriously? You probably think I’m crazy, reading my quote. (and, I’m not sayin you’re wrong!)    😉

Here’s Why:

The Dogs: Can learn how to have better impulse control. They can learn how to allow their person to calm them when they’re excited or tense. They can learn that sometimes thinking, mindful action eases the crazies better than spinning, jumping and racing.

The Humans: Can develop their ability to read their dog…to sense their dog’s mental, emotional and physical state of being in any moment. They can practice being calm, centered, relaxed and clear. They can learn how to help calm and relax their dogs in different environments.

Ahhh…feel the calm and connection.

Some backstory assumptions…aka Kathy’s worldview:

  • Dogs naturally have a desire to mature into contributing members of their family group. They innately understand that they must fulfill certain social and cultural obligations to help create a happy, balanced family group.
  • Any being (dog or handler) who is tense, distracted or frantically over-aroused cannot possibly think, learn, effectively teach or be their best.
  • We humans have a powerful influence on our dogs thru our body language, emotional state, and intention.
  • High-Arousal Activities that your dog engages in should be limited to no more than 15% each day.
  • Just “being” … hanging out together … is a really, really useful experience for your dog to have daily!

Here are 4 really useful things you can work on when it’s icky bad outside and your dogs are driving you crazy:

Dallas and Renie play in the snow#1. Teach your dogs to pay close attention to you and to be responsible partners.

I’m talking about having a dog that is fully aware of their part of the partnership, and knows to look to you for information by watching your body language…reading your intention…and feeling your feelings. They’re really good at all of that. We just have to expect them to be natural and inquisitive.

For example: you can teach your dog to sit or lie down and wait until you say it’s OK to approach their dinner bowl…WITHOUT SAYING A WORD.

Then, teach them how to do the same at doors, gates, crates, vehicles…everywhere.

And, teach your dog to ‘take turns’..for anything and everything. Like getting a treat. Or retrieving a ball. Or going thru the gate for a run with the pack…ONE DOG AT A TIME. In a different order, at your random choice.

Make it an adventure of experimenting and discover how to dialog with your dog with clear intention and body language using your “3P’s”: Posture, Position and Presence.


Dallas playing#2. Develop your skill at REALLY reading your dog.

This will be sooooooo useful as you train and handle your dog…whether it’s sheep herding, agility or anything else. I’m most familiar with sheep herding, but use your imagination to apply my comments to your own activity.

You want to know when your dog is tense, stressed, over-energized or manic. So, pay close attention.

What is your dog’s body posture? Head position? Facial expression? Are the muscles tense? Quivering, even? Or supple and smooth? Is your dog spinning around in circles or manically jumping? What about breathing: shallow and quick? anxious panting? Or smooth, even and slow? Eyes fixed and staring or wide and wild? Or softly and keenly taking in the environment? Is your dog eagerly and softly awaiting your next cue, or are nails digging into the ground in readiness to take off like a maniac?

Your goal is to read your dog in an instant and take action to calm and relax your dog BEFORE you do any training…in other words, prepare your dog to partner with you in a useful way.

Your partner should have the type of intensity that is eager, focused calm and confident. Not the kind of intensity that comes from being tensely over-stimulated and easily builds into a kind of frenzy.

Learn to objectively observe your dog in different situations and environments and if you don’t have a dog that is able to partner with you…STOP…and work on that first, before you proceed.


#3. Be a Zen Master: be able to BE a you that is calm, centered, confident and focused.

Because your dog is so keenly tapping into you…and what you are communicating…teaching yourself to objectively observe your own body, your focus and your level of calmness becomes a key step to your dog being his best…being able to do the job you are asking him to do.

So: what are YOUR muscles like? Scan your body, looking for tension…then relax those areas. What is your breathing like? Long, deep breaths can help to calm you as you let go of muscle tension and a closed posture. Check your emotions? Are you anxious or stressed? Take a few moments to allow your emotions to get back into balance…to calm and focused.

Listen to your voice (or your whistle). Are you speaking in a high pitch, rapid fire and over-animated? Is your own intensity raising to a fever pitch?

First, just notice…then breath as you observe yourself…then begin to relax and calm. Smile. Get a drink of water. Look around and find something that makes you happy and let that feeling fill your body. Hint: it’s probably your dog.


Kathy with 1 year old Luc, connecting during a work session#4. Use the Calming Power of Touch

Go ahead and touch your dog whenever either of you are feeling tense. Use long, smooth strokes under the chin and down the chest, or down the back, or along the sides.

Breathe in rhythm to your stroking…hum or tone if that helps you to breath more fluidly.

Walk a bit with your dog to release some of that tension. Maybe play a little.

Then touch some more. Long and smooth, solidy connecting with your dog. Feel your feet in touch with the ground…let your energy settle down into your feet then right out into the ground.  Maybe even sit there on the ground or floor with your dog, just breathing and enjoying one another’s company.

A little oxytocin will help you and your dog to calm and feel more deeply bonded. 🙂

There…now you and your dog are ready to try again. Isn’t that better?

 Part 2: Learn my 2 Favorite Games that are house friendly and fun!


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How to Be Your Dog’s Super Hero … without All The Overwhelm and Stress

October 15, 2017

Do you ever feel like you need to have super powers …

… or be like a juggler, simultaneously managing six different fragile objects that cannot be dropped?

It can be exhilarating and sometimes exhausting, right?

We have these important roles that we fill in our dog’s life, and I believe that having clarity and understanding about these roles makes it so much easier!

We fulfill the role as a parent, a teacher, a coach, a dog partner in activities that we do together, like dog sports, therapy, and work.

We are our dog’s friend and companion, and we are our dogs student.

That is a lot of hats to wear! 

There is a lot of complexity to our relationship with our dogs, and I think that complexity is one of the reasons that we have difficulty in some situations.

First realizing that we are fulfilling all those different roles, then understanding what they are is a great place to start.

There is so much more to it than being our dog’s trainer.

We are a superhero in so many ways, because we are so committed and devoted and dedicated to doing right by our dogs. Sometimes that gets us into trouble,  just like supermom, because we can slip into overwhelm and get stressed…and that can make our life more challenging than it needs to be.

Being “super dog mom” isn’t all fun and games!

supermom cartoon
Helping your dog to thrive and blossom

Let’s start with our role of parent. As our dog’s parent (and you can think of that as guardian, parent/guardian), we provide food, shelter, medical care, love, comfort when needed, support, the framework for living and setting guidelines and boundaries.

We teach our dogs to be responsible: responsible to us, responsible to themselves, responsible members of the family, responsible members of the community.

What do you think makes us a good parent?

Maybe think about it from a dog’s perspective. What would cause a dog to thrive and fully blossom into their fullest potential, to be their most brilliant?

Create an environment for natural learning

The role of teacher involves providing an environment where we are nurturing learning. We are setting our dogs up for success, and we are teaching them all the things that they need to know in life … the important foundation lessons as well as specialty skills.

We want to provide a supportive learning environment and to allow our dogs to blossom and to tap into their natural intelligence and natural cognitive abilities so they can be the most brilliant dogs that they are capable of being.

Nurturing and encouraging problem-solving, and to provide an environment where our dogs can tap into their natural independent thinking, problem-solving capabilities allows them to mature and blossom.

Our role as teacher requires us to master teaching. We want to understand what lessons our dogs need to learn AND what order works the best. Not just delivering the lesson and without concern for whether or not our student is learning but to ensure that we are presenting the information in such a way that each individual dog is able to learn and capture the essence of the lesson that we are teaching.

Then, the other thing that I think about is setting up the environment for integration.

For example, not just training a dog that will sit and stay on cue… but teaching a dog in a way that will allow integration and lead them to understand that there are certain situations when sitting patiently is really useful … and then to be able to discern when those times are, and to be responsible for doing it!

What does being a masterful dog teacher look like for you?

You might contemplate: “I wonder what qualities that my dog would really appreciate when I am fulfilling that role of being my dog’s teacher. What qualities might my dog really appreciate? What qualities might really help my dog thrive and love to learn and love to rehearse and love to integrate the lesson?”

Keeping your dog motivated and happy

The next role that I think about is coach. What does a coach do? What common aspects exist when coaching our dogs?

Some of the things that I think about is that we are responsible for their mental conditioning, to help them be in the right frame of mind in different types of circumstances. To prepare them to be able to thrive in different types of environments.

Then we are responsible for making sure that they are physically conditioned and up to the standard that they need for their lifestyle or their job.

If they are a sport dog or a working dog, as a coach we will be responsible for making sure that they have the right kind of conditioning program in place.

We would be responsible for encouraging them, keeping them motivated, keeping their drive and enthusiasm up so they really enjoy the different types of activities that we do with them.

We also can help our dogs to reach their true and full potential, whatever that is. It might just be to be the most awesome family dog and companion, and to be happy and healthy.

What does it mean to be a good coach for your dog? What qualities do you believe would be useful that would help your dog to thrive?

Leading a Dance you and your dog both love

What about our role of partner? I always think about it in terms of the leading partner of a dance.

Overall, we are the leading partner, but there are times when we do allow our dogs to lead and that is good. Part of being a partner is knowing the parts…to know what part of the partnership that you are responsible for, and what part of the partnership your dog is responsible for.

Identifying the parts is your job. One of the elements of leading the dance is that you are supportive. I’m talking about the type of leadership that is affirmative and supportive rather than assertive and domineering, you know what I mean?

Another aspect of being the leading partner is that you are also responsible for teaching your dog the dance steps. That may fall into the teacher role or the coach role, but in any case, you are responsible for teaching your dog the steps in anything that you are doing together.

What does it mean to you to be a good dog partner? What qualities are useful and important to be brilliant at this role of leading partner that you play?

When you are involved or engaged in being a loving leader for your dog, ask: “what are the qualities that I am exhibiting right now, as I see that my dog is really responding well. My dog is loving my affirmative positive leadership right now. What qualities am I embodying as I do this, because I can see that my dog is loving and responding well to these qualities.”

On the opposite side, “wow, I see that my dog is not loving my leadership qualities at the moment. Maybe I am being too wishy-washy. Maybe I am being a little too assertive. Maybe I have no clarity, maybe I am not communicating clearly enough or maybe I am not communicating at all, because I lost my focus.”

What will happen is that you will become more consciously aware of the things that your dog needs, what your dog needs from you … what your dog needs you to be in each of these different roles. And then through that awareness and your intention you will find that you are able to embody those qualities more and more and more.

The more awareness you have and the more often that you set that intention to bring those qualities into each of these roles, the more embedded and habituated they will become. It will just become your way of being. Pretty cool!

Best friends ROCK!!

The next role is friend/companion for our dogs. This friendship role allows our dogs to truly express themselves in their own personality, just like our human friends.

We hang out with our friends. We can just really be ourselves. We can just relax and we do not have to try to be anything else for anybody else. We can just be ourselves when we are amongst true friends, right?

That is a role that we can serve for our dogs too. We can give them an opportunity to just express who they truly are. We can make space to just hang out. We do not always have to be doing something like training or walking or working or practicing or whatever. I think that is really important element in this role.

The other element is arranging for fun adventures. Just like friends do. “Hey, let’s go kayaking this weekend.” “Hey, let’s meet at the café and have lunch or hang out.”  “Let’s go to the Blues Club next Saturday and let’s go listen to some awesome music.” 

Arranging for fun adventures for your dog, something that you both enjoy, that’s what friends do.

What do you and your dog both enjoy doing?

Then, the last element of a friend is being a shoulder to cry on. Dogs do not often need a shoulder to cry on, but sometimes they do, like if they are grieving. My sense is that dogs really need the doggy equivalent of a shoulder to cry and just to be there and to let your dog know that you understand and you care, just like we might do for a friend who is having a hard time.

If a dog is grieving or maybe something traumatic happened or maybe they got sick or injured..those are the times I’m thinking of.

Sometimes they might just need to express how they feel and you are just going to let them express without trying to fix them…or (ugh!) train them. Just holding space is what true friends do.

You might contemplate: “Well, I wonder what my dog would think is important as I fulfill the role o friend and companion. What might she really feel is important for that? What would he really appreciate in me?”

Some dogs might really love a fun adventure. Other dogs might love just hanging out with their favorite person…just relaxing, no pressure, enjoying life. Most dogs want a little of each.

Dogs are natural teachers, we are natural learners

In this role your dog is your teacher, and this is a really important role. I believe it is under-used, under-utilized, under-appreciated.

It starts with the mindset of “my dog has something to teach me. My dog is a thinking, intelligent, cognitive being who has life experience and has something that I can learn …that he/she has wisdom to share with me.”

You might just think about it as feedback, though I believe it goes much deeper than simple feedback. It is a multilayered and complex experience, just like most things in life are, this learning from our dog…

Sit Stay LearnAnother element is being willing to shift your perspective. In many circumstances it is really helpful to not just understand our dog’s perspective, but to actually adopt our dog’s perspective … and to use our dog’s perspective to shift what we do, and how we behave.

The ultimate role of being a student in this context is being willing to go deep. In other words, going beyond the superficial, the everyday stuff that we do with our dog, to go beyond that, to go deeper and get to a place of true understanding and to let our dogs lead us there.

Our dogs will lead us to have a deeper understanding of Life, (life with a capital L), you know what I mean. We only need to be open to it.

In a practical way, our dogs can teach us how to teach them… and how to train them, if we are open and willing to learn from them.

Our dogs will teach us how to be good leaders. Our dogs will teach us how to coach them if we are open to getting that from them.

What does it take to be a good student of your dog? We might not think about that when we are interacting and living with our dogs, but if we don’t, at least sometimes, put on the student hat, we are missing out on a lot of great stuff.

Juggling … it’s all about focus and balance

What happens when our many roles become imbalanced?

What if we are too much of a friend and not enough of a parent?

What if we were too much of a student not enough of a teacher?

What if we are an awesome coach but never a student, or not often a student?

Balance is always elusive and impermanent. It is a moving target, so to speak. Just simply having an awareness that we serve all these different roles in a dog’s life, can clear up some of that fog that happens when we are not aware.

I believe that by the act of contemplating this topic periodically we can find that balance and that can help us break through some challenges or some stuck places that we are having with our dogs.

Anytime we can find more clarity…our juggling becomes a thing of beauty…and it’s a joy for everyone involved!

I’d love to hear all about YOUR Super Powers!
Comment below.

Click the Banner to Download Your Free Book and get on my VIP Subscriber list for the latest tips and insights:

Ebook-Promo-Banner-headingExperience Success in all you do … sports, performance and every day life.

This FREE guide will teach you 5 Core Principles that will help you:

  • Identify and Solve Your Dog Training Challenges.
  • Get the Performance Results You Want.
  • Be a Fun, Confident, Attentive Trainer that Your Dog Adores!

Cognitive Dog Training: Small Changes = Big Rewards

September 22, 2017

Small Changes = BIG Rewards sm


Have you ever noticed how we are really attracted to BIG rewards?

I mean, who would seriously step over a $10 bill to get to a penny?

Would you?

What if I told you that the $10 bill is a one time deal, end of story. And the penny was the start of a trail leading to riches beyond your imagination?

Would you choose the $10 bill … or would you follow the penny trail?

Tougher choice, right? Instant reward that you can spend right now … vs a journey of slow, yet steady rewards for a lifetime.

Will you choose the $10 that will buy a meal that you really need right now … or the penny trail, which, by the way, has plenty of food ripe for picking along the way.

Did the choice get any easier for you, with that added detail? Maybe. Maybe not.

The same sort of choices come up with our dogs, and the struggles we face with them.

It can be a real challenge to ‘celebrate’ a baby step when we have a sort of desperate need to get a certain behavior NOW.

And yet, if we can take a deep breath, keep taking those baby steps that you hear me talking so much about … the unimagined riches that reveal themselves as we walk that trail actually get us the result we want:

Faster. Easier. And with much Less Drama.

I have the honor and privilege of working with passionate dog loving women (and a few men!) from all around North America and Europe … helping them discover their own personal ‘penny trail’ toward the riches of a deep and trusting partnership with their dogs that makes anything possible.

The baby steps our members are taking … and the BIG results they are getting is so inspiring to me. Unbelievably inspiring.

So, I’ve been thinking:

why wouldn’t I want to share some of these tiny wins so that YOU can be inspired too? So that you can begin to look for pennies of your own.

Let’s start with this story:

Sally, who is a veteran Foundation Formula member and an amazing woman doing great work with shelter dogs and with local family dogs, recently shared a story that left me in tears. (of joy!)

She took this frightened and snarly dog under her wing, had an ‘insight’ … and then … the dog made a transformation. Here’s the little story in her own words:

Sally shelter dog groom communication


A similar story of ‘communication from the heart’ is shared by Jane, who adopted a reactive border collie who has turned out to be quite a bit more challenging that Jane was imagining. There are two little wins that Jane shares with us. There is a personal win…an insight:

Jane -reactive dog focus on dog

And there is a ‘little’ win for their partnership:

Jane reactive walk past dogs

You might like to read this article about communication, or this one about partnership and staying present with your dog. 


Little wins in every day life can make such a difference, and build momentum as we follow our penny trail. Helen shares her ‘baby step’ wins during play and tracking … the focus and responsiveness is a true win for Helen and Storm!

Helen -dance and tracking

And Jennifer who was worried that her beautiful and sweet Peach didn’t want to ‘show’ with her any more shares her win that came from a shift to collaboration…

Jennifer show win

You can read more about Clarity and Partnership here … and about Collaboration and Communication right here.


The bottom line: It’s all about knowing, really knowing, dogs. Your dog.

It’s about knowing, really knowing, how every tiny part of you is influencing your dog in every single moment.

It’s about being so present, that you can instantly commune with your dog. And, instantly, magically, having a deep understanding on so many levels.

Brilliant Trainers Know


Try it …  and let me know about your ‘penny trail’ journey of small changes leading to big rewards.

Much love,

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One Dog’s Transformation from Trash to Treasure

September 11, 2017


When I adopted Maya, she had been labeled as ‘untrainable’ by her 3 previous homes, and was ready to be put down because of it.

You may know my sweet and sassy Maya…or you may know of her story.

She is quite a gal, with a jaded history. 😉

She was kicked out of 3 homes, and stood on death’s door because of her impossible behavior. She was labeled ‘untrainable’, and I was her last chance.

She chased anything that moved including kids, bikes, cows, horses…anything and everything! There was not a fence or gate that could stop her.

That was before she was 6 months old. Yep. She is quite a character.

We got off to a very rough start … and I began to question my sanity for taking her in. So, I did the one thing I was sure would be our path to partnership:

I spent our first 6 months working with her, creating partnership, developing self control and life skills … you know … The Foundation Formula stuff.

THEN, and only then, I started her sheepdog training. It was so worth the wait.

I took a chance on her, and I’m so glad I did.

She went from other’s Trash to my Treasure … and it turned out that she was a world-class sheep herding trial champion! Who knew?

I was religious about following my ONE RULE…and it payed off!

Watch the video to learn how I set her up for success and transformation:



Ready to Learn More About Partnership with Your Dog?

Click Here to Join the Free Online Partnership Training Workshop



Does Your Dog Love You … Or Just Your Treats and Toys?

September 2, 2017

How can you successfully train your dog…AND get your dog to love being with you more than anything else?

As positive trainers, we know that all living things repeat behaviors that are rewarding…including our dogs!

So, to effectively teach your dog, you need to reward behaviors that you like by rewarding your dog with things they really, really want!

Makes sense, right?

But here’s the twist…

Ultimately, what we want is for our dogs to find being with us, playing with us and working with us to be the best, most rewarding thing EVER!

What you DON”T want is…

…to have a dog that will only do what you ask if you have a treat in your hand…

…or a dog that will only stay engaged with you when you are actively playing with a toy.

And, you DON’T want a dog that just ignores you, or gets distracted or otherwise disconnects from you and can’t respond appropriately.

How do you get your dog to LOVE being with you and to love pleasing you more than any thing else?

By following the Top-Notch Training Formula, of course!  😉

Watch the video to learn all about the 3 Training Principles You MUST Master to create a brilliant partnership with your dog…


Ready to Learn More About Partnership With Your Dog?

Click Here to Join the Free Online Partnership Training Workshop


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 Help Dogs with Fear of Thunder and Fireworks

June 29, 2017

Fear of Fireworks blog fb

It’s that time of year.

If you have a dog who is afraid of thunder and fireworks, you know just what I’m talking about.

Panic, pacing, panting, drooling, running away. Those are some of the symptoms that tell you your dog doesn’t appreciate the beauty of mother nature’s storms or the city’s annual fireworks display. Should we even talk about the neighborhood kids who find pleasure in making the most possible noise with their firecrackers and M-80’s for days surrounding 4th of July?

This is part 3 in my series of Keeping Your Dog Safe This Summer. If you missed Part 2 it’s here: Hidden Dangers That Can Quickly Kill Your Dog. And Part 3 is: To Shave or Not to Shave? What’s Best for Your Dog?

Over the years, I’ve had my share of dogs with sounds sensitivity, and have found there are definitely ways that we can help our dogs be more comfortable during these stressful times.

One of the most important things we can do is keep our dogs safe. More dogs run away in a panic and are lost on the 4th of July than any other day of the year. Don’t take any chances…keep your dog safe.

5 Best Tips to Keep Your Dog Safe and Calm during Fireworks and Thunderstorms

  1. Don’t take your dog with you to watch fireworks...or have your dog outdoors during a storm. Your dog’s ears are incredibly more sensitive than yours. As is her nose. Leave dogs at home when you head out for fireworks, and don’t ignite fireworks around dogs. Don’t leave your dog alone in your yard during storms or fireworks. You’d be amazed on how fast and how high a dog will jump/climb when they are in a panic and adrenalin is fueling the desire to get away from the scary stuff. And, you never know when your previously unaffected dog will become frightened.Aside from sounding scary, exposure to lit fireworks can potentially result in severe burns or trauma to curious pets, and unused fireworks can be hazardous. Many fireworks contain potentially toxic substances such as potassium nitrate, copper, chlorates, arsenic and other heavy metals.
  2. Be sure your dog has a well-fitted collar or harness with identification. Even if your dog is normally so perfectly behaved she doesn’t need to wear a collar, a thunderstorm or 4th of July is no time to take a chance. Keep a collar with ID tags on your dog…and you might seriously consider microchipping your dog too. More dogs run away and are lost because of this fear than any other cause. Always leash your dog when you take them outdoors, even in your yard to potty if they are afraid. Don’t take any chances.
  3. Provide a Safe Haven for your dog. During any event that frightens your dog, like thunderstorms or fireworks, be sure your dog can get to a den where he feels safe. Because thunderstorms often create a static buildup on your dog, many dogs prefer to lay next to something that will prevent the buildup, like the toilet, the bathtub or next to a metal radiator. Fireworks or other loud noises make the basement a good choice for some dogs. Others prefer a covered crate in a cozy room they like. Play music just loud enough to help muffle the scary sounds. Close the curtains and turn ON the lights to soften the contrast of the lightening or firework flashes.
  4. Use Calming Products and Techniques. There are some great products that are designed to help calm anxious dogs. A Thundershirt Dog Anxiety Treatment is one of my favorites. They work with the ‘swaddling’ principle and are quite effective. A simple t-shirt can be really helpful in a pinch too. I also like to apply/diffuse some high-quality Aromatherapy blends designed to calm. As a long time certified TTouch practitioner, I use body work techniques with my own dogs and client dogs to teach them how to relax and release their anxiety.
    Some of my clients and students have had success with using a cannibis product like CannaGurt by Steve’s. Or a yummy calming treat like True Hemp. It’s possible to get the benefit of calm (without the high) by using these products made for dogs. Give one or more a try!!
  5. Be Your Dog’s Safe Haven. One of the things I teach every one of my dogs is to run TO me when they are frightened so that I can help them get safe. This is a life-saving technique every dog should know.

What to do when Fireworks or Thunder starts:

At the first sign of my dog showing stress due to fireworks, thunderstorms, gunshots and other loud scary events, (or before, if I know in advance) I reach into my holistic toolkit. Click on any of the pictures or bold words for more information and to order the products.

1. Apply calming Lavender essential oil blend.

Place a couple of drops into your hand and rub your hands together. Then gently pet your dog, along their back and top of their head with your hands.

You can purchase the oils online here

The bottles last a very LONG time. There is a reducer cap, so you can control how much oil comes out.


2. Put on a Thundershirt or a simple Ace bandage body wrap, or a t-shirt, for a calming hug. A long-time practice, studies show that this gentle pressure has a calming effect that helps about 80% of dogs and cats. It works!!

4. Set up and assist my dog to their safe place. (see above tip)

5. Do TTouch body work to calm my dogs. Ear slides, and ttouches can help release fear, tension and stress in dogs who are afraid of thunder and fireworks.

6. If my dog is able to play and eat treats…then we have a partay!  Lots of fun, play and treats in the house with some fun music makes a dog forget about their fear.

Be Prepared – Order Your Holistic Calming Products Today!

Links are my Amazon associate links – thanks for supporting my work. 🙂


Sam enjoys playing with the water hose

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  • Identify and Solve Your Dog Training Challenges.
  • Get the Performance Results You Want.
  • Be a Fun, Confident, Attentive Trainer that Your Dog Adores!


The Biggest Myth About Dog Training

May 5, 2017

Biggest Myth blog header

Is “training” REALLY the best solution for a misbehaving dog?

Or … is it the one thing that should be SKIPPED?

I think back to my very early dog training classes where I was so wowed by how easy it was to shape behaviors in my dogs … and how amazing my dogs were in class.
I also remember the intense guilt I felt when my dog didn’t listen in real life and well-intended dog trainers lectured me in front of my classmates…

I was told:

“You need to spend more time training every day.”

or “You need to be more consistent.”

or “You need to develop better timing.”

or  “You have to use rewards your dog likes better.”

When my dog misbehaved in spite of my best efforts, I felt like a complete failure, and I was so embarrassed. ugh. Can you relate?
The crazy thing is that the idea behind ‘more or better training’ is the biggest myth
Based only on behavior-focused studies, which does NOT consider other crucial factors, this MYTH can set us up for failure.

Biggest Myth text


“If only I was a better trainer, and could spend more time training, the struggles with my dog would be solved”.

I believe that as serious and committed dog people, we need to look at where dog training is working and where it’s not, so we can keep growing and learning.

Let’s face the limitations and look for better solutions as a community of passionate people who love our dogs, let’s continue to educate ourselves…our dogs deserve that.

We have this culture of dog training that categorizes training into one of two camps:


No matter which side of the road a person stands on, they say: “This is the only way that works, and the other fails miserably”.

So, as a dog lover, you ask yourself, “which method will work best for me and my dog?”

Now, the reason we are still having this debate, in my humble opinion, is that we are asking the wrong question entirely. And, I’ll get back to that below.

Let’s take a quick look at the Punitive style of dog training:

It uses Correction and Coercion. If a dog makes a choice that is incorrect according to the trainer, the dog is corrected or threatened with correction.

Unfortunately, this method gets quick results. (Fear and pain are strong motivators.) That’s why this method is still employed by some today.

I don’t know about you, but I have a visceral response to this, and I dream of a day when this method is a distant and unpleasant memory.

Then, we have the Positive style of training:

It’s the method of choice for those of us who reject punitive and coercive methods.

It uses ‘positive reinforcement’, meaning the dog is rewarded for making the right choice. The unwanted behaviors, when properly managed, fade away, and the reinforced behaviors grow into habits.

This method has gained popularity over the past 10 years. It’s allowed us to teach our dogs in ways that feel much better to us, and our dogs.

But, it’s not that easy for everyone to learn and use properly.

For many, it’s difficult to master, to get right. There’s a learning curve, and a lot of tools to manage, with the leash, the clicker, the treats or toy.

Timing is difficult to master. The steps to the end goal are often not well designed.

Even with experienced trainers, when the dog is not responding as expected, more training is done.

As more and more training is done …

Dogs become more and more confused, and try hard to make the choice that gets them the thing they want.

The dogs keep trying things to find the magic combination, getting increasingly more frantic. Or they shut down, check out, stop trying.

If you honestly look around, you can see so many examples of positive training (operant conditioning) not working well in real life circumstances. It is simply not meeting our needs, or the needs of our dogs.

It’s a world better than punitive training, certainly, but it’s not the end. It’s a stepping stone towards a better way.

So, then what does the future hold for us and our dogs?

  • We don’t want to physically correct or coerce our dogs.
  • We don’t want to bribe our dogs with treats and toys.
  • It doesn’t seem right to treat our dogs like they are ‘just’ conditioned response machines.

What we do want is …

  • A dog that loves to be with us, and is respectful and fun to hang out with.
  • A dog that loves to listen, and does listen even when you don’t have a cookie or toy.
  • A dog that loves to work train, compete with us…to be our team mate, our partner.

The way to get there is not through training, but through a partnership that recognizes that dogs are smart, emotional, and by design, want to connect with us in a real way.

In human research, behavioral science has been moved to the side by cognitive science.

And, modern science is leading the way to the next generation of dog training.

Through neuroscience, we now know that emotions are responsible for regulating every action we take.

Cognitive science recognizes the specialized intelligence of each species and research with dogs shows that dogs have a particular genius when it comes to understanding humans and have a natural motivation to cooperate with us.

So, we’ve gone from believing that dogs have no feelings or emotions …

… to the intelligence and emotions of dogs are not relevant …

… to dogs are emotionally driven and have a unique intelligence that makes partnership with humans a natural way of life.

Dogs, like humans, are socially intelligent … and we can and should use that intelligence to form cooperative partnerships as a lifestyle with our dogs.

OK, here’s my bottom line with training and this big myth:

Dog training is evolving, as it should. Positive training is simply a stepping stone on our journey. Let’s take the best of what IS working, and push it forward to the next best version.

And to the Myth of needing to be a better trainer or handler … I say:

You are having struggles with your dog NOT because YOU’RE not good enough…

it’s because of the limitations of the training method.

Biggest Myth Training types chart

So, if your dog is not behaving as you’d like …

  • If your dog is Reactive, Distracted, Worried …
  • If your dog is not performing the same at shows and trials as at home …
  • If you’re relationship just doesn’t seem as good as it should be …
  • And if you have put in the time and effort, but the training is just not working …

What can you do instead of more of that same training that’s failing you?

Try these 5 simple tactics that are proven to work in real life (NOT just in a training class)

1. Build a foundation partnership with your dog…one that is based on trust, intelligence and the bond you naturally share.

2. Learn to truly dialog, to communicate deeply, respecting your dog’s innate emotional and social intelligence.

3. Be a loving leader and a guide for your dog … leading by your example with genuine, sincere dialog.

4. Respect your dog as a thinking, feeling intelligent being and open your heart to form a deep connection and two-way flow of communication.

5. Adopt a relationship building and partnership enhancing lifestyle that encourages your dog to be attentive and responsive and responsible to learn how to behave.

Oh, and remember that question I said I’d get to?

Instead of asking yourself:

“which training method will work best for me and my dog?”

I believe you should ask yourself:

“how can I learn to be the best possible partner for my dog, so that together, we can reach our true potential?”

It’s partnership, not training, that gives you and your dog the inspiration and motivation to work through any struggle that comes your way. You can have a better relationship and breakthrough results with less training.

The benefits of partnership is quite amazing and no wonder it has changed my own life and so many others who have adopted partnership training as a way of life with their dogs…

Which is why I’ve created “Your Guide to a Brilliant Partnership and a Happy Dog” – a FREE online Partnership Quiz.

Take the assessment, then I’ll guide you to the next steps you can take to get the quickest results using my Foundation Formula framework.

It’s simple and it works!



Take your PQ Partnership Quiz and Download Your Results Roadmap pdf:

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