Stories of Transformation | Dancing Hearts Cognitive Dog Training

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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,

Click the banner below to download your free pdf book that will help you get a better relationship and breakthrough results with less training…


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?

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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:

CLICK HERE to take your Partnership Quiz Now >>>

Why you should Stop Training your Dog … Until You Read This…

February 20, 2017

Top dog training experts blog title

 The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.
-Helen Keller

You’ve heard the story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan?

Helen was struck by a fever as a toddler that left her in a dark, silent place … “blind, deaf and dumb”, according to Helen in her story.

Her loving parents did all they could to love her, teach her and provide what they hoped would be a happy life.

Helen was indeed happy for a few years…playing, growing, loving…seeming to be well adjusted for her age.

Until the day her inability to communicate began to consume her … she desperately wanted to be understood and to understand her family.

Her frustration led to more and more frequent fits of frenzy, hyperactive, unruly behavior … or downright violent tantrums where nothing around her was safe from her damaging outbursts.

Should we put her in a care home for the unable? Her family considered. No, they decided, let’s find a way to help her.

Then one day, Anne arrived. It was a day that would prove to be transformational for Helen.

Slowly and persistently, Anne began to teach Helen how to communicate, starting with spelling out word symbols in Helen’s hand.

Helen could easily play this finger-hand game and mimic the finger signs, making the word signs back to Anne’s hand…but she did not understand their meaning…she did not make the connection between the finger-hand game and the objects they were naming.

She had no understanding and no ability to think or process thought. She didn’t know she could. Until one memorable day when everything changed.

Helen Keller: The Story of My Life

Helen Keller tells the story of her epiphany in the autobiography The Story of My Life

Helen Keller“MEANWHILE the desire to express myself grew. The few signs I used became less and less adequate, and my failures to make myself understood were invariably followed by outbursts of passion. I felt as if invisible hands were holding me, and I made frantic efforts to free myself. I struggled–not that struggling helped matters, but the spirit of resistance was strong within me; I generally broke down in tears and physical exhaustion.

We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of the honeysuckle with which it was covered. Some one was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers.

Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten–a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free!”

A few weeks later she writes …

“I was stringing beads of different sizes in symmetrical groups–two large beads, three small ones, and so on. I had made many mistakes, and Miss Sullivan had pointed them out again and again with gentle patience. Finally I noticed a very obvious error in the sequence and for an instant I concentrated my attention on the lesson and tried to think how I should have arranged the beads. Miss Sullivan touched my forehead and spelled with decided emphasis, “Think”.

In a flash I knew that the word was the name of the process that was going on in my head. This was my first conscious perception of an abstract idea.

For a long time I was still–I was not thinking of the beads in my lap, but trying to find a meaning for “love” in the light of this new idea. The sun had been under a cloud all day, and there had been brief showers; but suddenly the sun broke forth in all its southern splendour.

Again, I asked my teacher, “Is this not love?”

“Love is something like the clouds that were in the sky before the sun came out,” she replied. Then in simpler words than these, which at that time I could not have understood, she explained: “You cannot touch the clouds, you know; but you feel the rain and know how glad the flowers and the thirsty earth are to have it after a hot day. You cannot touch love either; but you feel the sweetness that it pours into everything. Without love you would not be happy or want to play.”

The beautiful truth burst upon my mind–I felt that there were invisible lines stretched between my spirit and the spirits of others.”

Later, she writes:

“Any teacher can take a child to the classroom, but not every teacher can make him learn. He will not work joyously unless he feels that liberty is his, whether he is busy or at rest; he must feel the flush of victory and the heart-sinking of disappointment before he takes with a will the tasks distasteful to him and resolves to dance his way bravely through a dull routine of textbooks.

My teacher is so near to me that I scarcely think of myself apart from her. How much of my delight in all beautiful things is innate, and how much is due to her influence, I can never tell. I feel that her being is inseparable from my own, and that the footsteps of my life are in hers. All the best of me belongs to her–there is not a talent, or an aspiration or a joy in me that has not been awakened by her loving touch.

The love, the trust, and the relentless dedication of Helen’s teacher to partner with her student changed everything for this young girl who would, herself, grow up to be one of the world’s greatest teachers of all. You can read her full story here.

I trust that you can see the connection between Helen’s story and how our dogs are begging to be heard and truly understood … and our role in being the leaders and teachers … the PARTNERS … they so desperately need us to be.

Now, let me switch stories.

There was a woman with a young, smart-as-a-whip border collie … as energetic as she was clever.

This pup easily learned all the usual stuff like sit/down/stay/shake … she knew at least a couple dozen cued  tricks … and she could open doors and gate latches and she was so athletic she could leap 5 feet up from a stand still.

This youngster was well trained, yet she had so little impulse control that walking her caused the woman’s friends to exclaim: “it looks like you’re walking a helicopter on a string!!”  She was happy and eager to meet and greet, so she basically leapt in the air the entire time. There was no holding her down.

Phoenix frisbeeThe pup would get so frustrated at being contained, restrained, or restricted that she would just quiver and scream because her needs were not being understood.

When it came time for her herding training, a whole new level of frustration developed for this woman and her pup.

This experienced herding trainer could not teach this talented and smart pup how to stop at balance…the most basic of skills.

The woman tried harder, firmer, louder to get the stop.

The dog tried harder, firmer, louder to get what she wanted.

Expert advice offered little help. “Your pup is not listening, out of control, impossible to train”.

Punish her, correct her, hit her … give up on her … was the advice.

The woman refused, determined to find a way to help her dog.

They were both desperate to communicate. Neither was understood.


You may not know that I’m a trained healer, intuitive and animal communicator, able to tap into the most discreet, subtle expressions and unspoken communication.

Ultimately, I was able to use my intuitive skills and discover exactly what this pup was trying to communicate… and why she just refused to do such a simple thing.

In a weird twist of reality … it turns out the dog wanted the exact same thing as the woman, unbeknownst to either of them.

This clever and highly sensitive border collie had so precise a sense of balance, that she could not tolerate one sheep’s nose being off of dead center balance by one fraction of an inch.

She would just explode in frustrated frenzy, racing around instead of stopping when asked…so desperately reacting to not being understood.

Phoenix, the dog in this story, reminds me of Helen Keller in that old movie I saw as a kid …racing around the dinner table, throwing plates, food and glasses to the floor…so frustrated were her attempts to be heard.

Yes, as you may have guessed, this is my Phoenix, and the story of our rough start to herding.

It’s a similar story to the one I see repeated over and over with my students and clients … and with those who I wish were my students and clients.

I hear their dogs. I see the frustration on both sides. I know how they feel, and I know how to help.

I learned the hard way, to be sure.

If I knew then what I know now…I would NOT have kept rehearsing unwanted behavior over and over until it became our way of working together.

No…I would have stepped into my role as Leading Partner in our D.A.N.C.E.

What is this D.A.N.C.E., you ask?

I thought you’d never ask!

It’s a special way of connecting with dogs … a way of communicating and forming a partnership that decreases the overall need for training … while accelerating the training process.

The secrets of our connection with dogs, horses and other animals are not new…this wisdom has been passed down by the ancients who understood the profound connection between all living things.

What is new, is my SYSTEM that teaches dog enthusiasts exactly HOW to have that connection, to communicate in a way that allows dogs to feel understood and that allows people to easily communicate in a language both dog and human truly and naturally understand.

Today, science proves that we, our dogs, animals, plants and the earth are simply different combinations of the same elements…that we all share a DNA-deep connection.

Through Cognition … (the process of acquiring knowledge and understanding) … we can learn just HOW to tap into the power of that DNA-deep connection that we share with our dogs.

A cognitive dog trainer is willing to focus on this connection and then apply what they have learned to create the pure joy that is partnership between a dog and handler.

Dogs are ready, willing and able to be our devoted and collaborative partners. The joy they get when true partnership is experienced, I believe, is equal to ours.

When you learn and use the 5 principles contained in the DANCE of partnership…anything to which you dedicate yourself becomes possible…any dream you have will begin to unfold, and any training or handling problem can be easily solved.

Just like Helen Keller. And just like my Phoenix.

The D.A.N.C.E. Method:

Dance of connection and consensual partnership…mindful, joyful and delightful!
Art of responsible, heart-centered leadership you and your dog will love.
Notice: Attentive Responsiveness between you and your dog.
Competence at partnership and all the skills you are training for.
Equanimity. Calm, centered grace leads to a Joyful Dance between you and your dog.

Dance of connection and consensual leadership.


“To be clear and confident of your own dreams while remaining responsive to the needs and gifts of others, you must check your ego at the gate.”   ~Linda Kohanov

Partnership and Leadership itself is always a work in progress…it’s a true improvisation…an acknowledgement that there is no one, right, true way.

There’s this natural process in a well functioning community (of two or many) where leadership happens as a result of circumstance and everyone agrees it’s in the best interest of all.

This process allows for leadership roles to be traded, according to who is the calmest, clearest and most creative in a given situation.

This trading leadership roles is observed in mammals that live in social groups such as horses, wolves, and sheep.

My 40+ years working with and learning from horses (and horse partnership experts), has strongly influenced and helped to shape my body of work.

Horses ARE naturally hyper sensitive, like so many of our dogs. And we have spent thousands of years working with and partnering with horses. There is a lot to learn about human-animal relationships from the horse world.

Linda Kohanov: The Way of the Horse

In her book “Way of the Horse”, Linda Kohanov (a renowned expert in leadership) writes:

“In these equine communities, what an individual knows about, what he cares about, or what he’s calm about determines leadership, as all members have some talent, drive, or experience the others value or, at times, defer to.

Humans seeking an absolute definition of leadership and a concrete job description to go with it, don’t like this concept much, but it’s really not that hard to fathom. And the benefits of putting it into action far outweigh surface ambiguities.

If you propose to create an authentic community where true feelings, talents, dreams and motivations are acknowledged, you have to head in this general direction. No leader knows everything. To convince your followers otherwise is dishonest, requiring increasing levels of posturing, deception, and finally, intimidation.

Basically, you have to maintain good boundaries without feeling the need to order everyone else around. Consensual leadership draws on the wisdom and sentience of the entire herd.”

We’re all familiar with terms like ‘pecking order’ or ‘pack dynamics/alpha/dominant leader’ … and social organization based on dominance hierarchies is a common discussion when we talk about Leadership.

The need to show our ‘dominance’ over our dogs has been accepted as ‘truth’ and can be seen in our everyday language surrounding dog training.

People still speak of dog training in terms that imply a power struggle: we “housebreak” them … we make a dog “obedient”… dogs try to “dominate” us … they need to “obey” our “commands”… we “correct” them if they are wrong.

That’s old, proven to be wrong, ineffective information.

The reality is that what really happens in a family group is …

Consensual Leadership.

What an individual knows about, cares about or is calm about determines leadership, as all members have some talent or experience that other members value or defer to.

Translated as “sensing together” consensual leadership draws on the wisdom of everyone involved. When we are uncertain, or triggered by what is happening – we look to the individual who is most calm and centered in that situation.

In plain terms, leadership is awarded to the most helpful leader in each circumstance.

Sometimes our dog leads, like when following a track, retrieving a ball or gathering a field of sheep …

… and other times we are leading, like when we are providing dinner, or teaching  key skills, or negotiating a walk thru a crowd.

Dogs will naturally follow our lead (defer to us) when we are calm, congruent, clear and confident. Why wouldn’t they, right?

That’s just the kind of leadership we practice in our Brilliant Partners Academy, and when we do our breakout practice sessions for the Partnership Walking Dance at the LIve BPA  “Shine On” Weekend Intensive …

… partners will all come away with a profound understanding of what it really means to connect with our dogs in this consensual Dance.

Art of responsible, heart-centered leadership.

Suzanne Clothier: Bones Would Rain from the Sky

In her best selling book Bones Would Rain From The Sky, author Suzanne Clothier, writes:

“Each relationship between an animal and a human is a bridge uniquely shaped to carry only those two, and so must be crafted by them. Though the work of a lifetime, the building and repairs are done slowly, in the heart’s time, one beat after another. And it is thirsty work, as the work of the heart always is, for the heart thirsts after the things that are invisible to the eye, things you cannot grasp with your hand.”


The promise of a dog who eagerly responds to our lightest cue … who is attentive and responsive, and willing to follow our lead … is what awaits when we take full responsibility for these three key elements:

  1. Thoughts
  2. Actions
  3. Training Process

Our ability to design, implement and assess/adjust a plan for training grows as we gain knowledge and experience.

It starts with thinking about our dog and our dreams…and creating a plan of training that will lead us and our dogs toward that dream.

Then it’s time to take responsible action… taking small, successful steps that keep us moving in the direction of our dreams. A plan of training based on slow but steady progress achieves rapid results while building confidence and trust.

If you are training from the heart, with the best interest of your dog at the center, you will never go wrong…even if your plan is not well-designed or well-implemented.

You’ll simply learn, and course correct.

It starts with taking responsibility for our role…for our part of the partnership.

Patricia McConnell, Ph.D

In her best selling book The Other End of the Leash, author, speaker and Certified Animal Behaviorist Patricia McConnell, Ph.D, writes:

“Leader is another loaded term in dog training. The concept of dominance has been so misused and misunderstood that even the word leadership has fallen out of favor in some circles. That’s a shame, because most social animals profit from the wisdom of a wise leader.

Teaching dogs to be patient and polite while acting like a loving, benevolent leader has helped hundreds of my clients who were having trouble with their dogs.

Perhaps the dogs learn that they can get what they want by being patient and polite rather than rude and pushy and learn to deal with frustration without becoming aggressive or out of control.

These suggestions are not substitutes for a complete dog training manual or good video course, or better yet, a good class where you have a coach to help you out.

The first thing that every dog trainer learns is that most of the problems people have with their dogs, and dogs have with their people, are due to misunderstanding that could have been prevented.

Indeed, the goal of this book has been to promote an increased level of understanding of human and dog behavior, in the hope that it improves the relationships between people and their dogs.

Perhaps there’s value in a relationship that strives to share what it can and that accepts deeply and peacefully, it’s limitations.”

In the Brilliant Partners Academy, our focus is on learning the art of heart-centered, loving leadership.

Dogs, as socially intelligent animals, truly thrive when we provide just the right kind of balanced leadership. When we have that as our intention, and we learn to become congruent, even the most unruly dogs can learn to calm and to behave mindfully and responsibly.

Creating a better partnership with your dog starts with a ‘partnership assessment quiz’ so that you can easily see where your foundation needs some work. Take the free PQ Partnership Assessment Quiz that includes your Partnership Roadmap for a partnership breakthrough!

Art of responsible, heart-centered leadership.

“The best-laid plans can distract you from opportunities. Sometimes you must wait, patiently, for an opening – then act without hesitation.”


We hear a lot about the importance of timing when we are training our dogs – and it’s true – when we are sensitive to timing, we make great progress.

Good timing is an art, and it’s one that we can cultivate in ourselves with sincere intention.

It starts with being present, and being so focused that we can see opportunities as they occur. We only have the briefest of moments to act before it’s gone and if we are distracted in any way … gone it will be!

When we step into this state of ‘natural time’, we are able to let go of our agendas and cultivate attentive responsiveness between us and our dog…and attentive responsiveness is the ‘mother’ of all things good when it comes to training our dogs!

Artful timing requires self control, discernment, grace and abandon. Not coincidentally, those are the same qualities that our dogs need to navigate life with humans … and we can learn so much from them.

Luckily, our dogs don’t hold grudges when we mis-time our cues and loose points in a trial as a result.

Dogs live in natural time, always open to the next meaningful opportunity for harmony and communication … never holding on to ‘what could have been’.

“The Dance” enables you and your dog to become Competent at being attentive and responsive to one another.

There’s an interesting effect that happens …

when we begin to deeply connect with our dog with an intention of true listening and understanding, we are able to become engaged and fully present. And the more present we become, the better we can connect with and understand our dogs.

Brian Hare: The Genius of Dogs

In The Genius of Dogs, written by Brian Hare, associate professor of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University and Vanessa Woods, research scientist at the Center and award-winning author of Bonobo Handshake, is written:

“A cognitive approach works so well with dogs, not because they have no mind, but precisely because they do. The genius of dogs is their ability to understand human communication and their motivation to cooperate with us.

Dogs also have biases and limitations to their understanding of how the world works. A cognitive approach allows us to train around those biases and limitations instead of fighting a losing battle with them.

A dog will always learn from a human faster than a wolf, because dogs have evolved skills to read our communicative signals. While working dogs might be more skilled at using human gestures … all dogs are skilled at using human gestures.

…dogs are more skilled at using our gestures if we pay attention to them while giving the gesture.

When an experimenter shows where food has been hidden but then points at another location, dogs do not search for the food they saw, but instead go to where the human pointed.”

The bottom line is that dogs mirror us…

… and it’s in their DNA to look to us for guidance and leadership.

When we are fully present, training is accelerated, and the amount of time needed is greatly diminished.

Competent, attentive, responsive communication.

“Training is, after all, nothing more than the establishment of a system of communication between a dog and handler…and becoming competent at it.”

Being a beginner is hard. Fortunately, it’s temporary!

Novice or beginner handlers and trainers are faced with the problem of having to first think of each cue, then apply it.

Using the voice, body, expression, and intention together and in harmony can be a monumental task for the beginner.

But with intentional practice, communication becomes efficient, our confidence grows our self-image expands and our partnership with our dog builds into a foundation of trust and understanding.

Ultimately, with confidence born of competence, the result is graceful and worthy of awe.

Pat Miller: The Power of Positive Dog Training

Pat Miller, author of The Power of Positive Dog Training, writes:

“Great dogs don’t happen by accident. When you see an owner playing in the park with a dog who is playful, exuberant, and at the same time attentive, responsive, and obedient, you can be sure the owner has spent lots of quality time with her dog.

When you train your dog, you establish a powerful bond that helps to cement the relationship. This bond is the critical difference between the unfortunate dog who ends up at the shelter because the owner is moving and can’t keep him and the dog whose owner would live in his car or on the street before considering giving up his faithful, four-legged friend.

Every dog has the power to be great. Will yours? It’s up to you. Both you and your dog bring the power to success in the training adventure. You bring the power to teach; your dog brings the power and eagerness to learn what you teach.

Learning how to communicate with your dog can be a joyful and awe-inspiring experience of mutual empowerment. As you train your dog, you create a relationship based on trust and understanding.

You will also be thrilled and amazed by your dog’s unlimited learning potential and positive attitude. Open your eyes, your mind, and your heart … and get ready to discover your dog.”

Positive vs Permissive…

So many people get very confused by the difference between positive and permissive. There are few role models for how to be a positive leader, getting what you want without being punitive.

It means, in my world, having a working partnership where the human is the leader of the dance. My programs are all about dogs loving guidance, leadership, clarity and clear communication.

Being a clear and loving leader often means swiftly interrupting undesired behavior, and replacing that with Teaching what to do instead.

It often means being firm and confident in your ask, deliberate and congruent … insistent without being adversarial …  delivering a ‘no option’ directive.

It sometimes means using a tone of voice and body language that clearly communicates to the dogs that their current action or the choice they are considering is NOT acceptable.

Because I am calm and clear, my dogs will defer to my leadership in those situations.

It means staying fully present so we can be responsible leaders for our dogs.

I call that being ATTENTIVE AND RESPONSIVE. Which is exactly how we want our dogs to be too.

Practicing the skills of communication between you and your dog prepare you for practicing the skills of any specialty sport or activity like agility, herding, rally.

Just like a child learning the ABC’s, then words, then little sentences, and then books…

Learning how to communicate with your 3P’s: Posture, Position, Presence and by practicing the Dance … establishes the language you need to support your dog’s education in all things.

Sometimes, communication transcends the physical and becomes effortless. This happens when the handler is no longer centered on herself, but is a true partner of her dog. They are one. The handler thinks of the desired work and no more. Thoughts become the cues without conscious direction.

Every once in a while, everything comes together and we get into The Zone…a place where time disappears and we are in a heightened state of awareness and in sync.

Together dog and handler enter  “the zone” in which the two blend so naturally that the experience seems effortless, without conscious interference. It’s a beautiful thing!

Equanimity and Training as Dance.


Evenness of mind, especially under stress, is one of those Leadership qualities that will take us far with our dogs.

Patience with ourselves and our dog is an essential element that will keep us centered when others (like our dog) become over-aroused or reactive.

A patient leader sets reasonable boundaries without ordering others around…and whose clarity, composure and poise are downright contagious!

When we lead by example, not by force or dominance, we become the one that our dogs want to follow.

As a Certified Tellington TTouch practitioner and member of The Guild, you can bet that my work includes the power of the TTouch Method.

Linda Tellington-Jones

In her book, Getting in TTouch with Your Dog, highly acclaimed animal expert and horse woman, Linda Tellington-Jones shares:

“Dogs enrich their owners’ lives in so many ways. We can reciprocate by being mindful of the Canine Golden Rule: Treat your dog as you would like to be treated … with kindness and understanding.”

Proven to have the SAME positive effect on the human doing the work, as well as the dog receiving the work, TTouch is a simple, effective way to influence equanimity and help bring mental, emotional and physical balance.

”The TTouches build confidence, instill obedience and develop an animal’s ability and willingness to learn. It takes animals beyond instinct, teaching them to think and learn instead of react.”

The work we will do at the Brilliant Partners LIVE! “Shine On” Weekend Intensive includes working TTouch segments taken from my Foundation Formula.

Learning how to connect and communicate with our dogs in this profound way … helps us to achieve and to maintain a balance, even state of mind that is so important for our dogs. And it helps our dogs to reach a place of alert, yet calm state of mind, ideal for learning.

Learning the Art of Partnership

“A moment of choice is a moment of truth. It’s the testing point of our character and competence.”-Stephen Covey

I call these “choice points” … they come up in daily life, and they come up every time we work or train our dogs.

Will I choose the high road when my dog doesn’t listen…and pause to teach?

Or, will I choose the other, perhaps easier, and more heavily traveled road…and correct my dog for blowing me off?

Sometimes it gets really hard

Yes, Learning the art of partnership with our dogs requires a change of mind and a change of heart.

And it requires taking ACTION.

Here’s where all comes together…partnership in action draws upon responsiveness, assertiveness, discernment, mental and emotional agility, subtle-body awareness, intuition, consensual leadership…

The Dance of Partnership is stunning to watch … and puts us into a place of ecstasy … intense joy.

And it’s addictive…which leads to serious challenges.

Can we stay present and focused …even when we are not ‘in the zone’. be able to Dance with frustration, conflict, performance anxiety, miscommunication, poor timing.

Yes…that is indeed a challenge!  It’s THE challenge, really.

Dancing becomes a metaphor for:

  • Leading without dominating
  • Following without loosing boundaries
  • Trading leads in true partnership

Speaking of Rupert Sheldrake …

In her book, Linda Tellington-Jones writes:

“World-renowned scientist Rupert Sheldrake, in his fascinating book, Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home, has finally proved that dogs can read our minds and pick up our mental pictures even when far away.

It confirms to me that it was the clarity of my  expectations that made my dogs so cooperative over the years, and is the difference between success and failure in so many cases of inappropriate behavior.”

Ahhh…Clarity. It’s such a crucial element of a solid foundation  and a brilliant partnership with our dogs … that I have a full module in the Foundation Formula, just about Clarity.

Yes, it is empowering to know that if we change our own emotional responses, our own behavior, our own actions …. that our dogs will change too.

And we can’t do it alone. Sometimes, no matter how clear our vision is … we can go off course.

We need the eyes of someone who understands us, our dogs, our journey, our dreams and our goals to keep us on course. We all need someone we trust that can help us to see when and how to course correct, before we stray too far away from our vision.

How can you learn to D.A.N.C.E. with your dog?

As a child, I could see the light shining in the eyes of animals. I was attracted to their openness and acceptance and I followed their light willingly. The animals offered a safe container for that shy, introverted, thoughtful child that offered kindness to animals and people alike.

You might say that my natural gifts of intuition, empathy and compassion have always been strong.

I’ve always known when someone’s inner light has dulled with pain. It was that knowing that drove me to learn all I could and study the work of those masterful at helping another’s light to shine.

It was that knowing that fueled my strong passion to bring people and animals together into a place of harmonic collaboration … to find joy in one another, and in the learning process.

I never wanted to be the one who caused the dulling of the light in my horses, dogs, people. Alas, I am not always successful, though I always try.

Even though I was well studied and practiced in them, learning theories and training principles became flat, dry, unsatisfying substitutes for the deep, rich, multi-sensory experience of connecting heart-to-heart, in a truly holistic way.

There is nothing like it!!

My perception tells me that the dogs, horses, all others really, experience something quite similar.

Can I say that I LOVE my work?

To be able to share the wisdom the animals have brought to my life and to be able to offer the opportunity to others to be ‘keepers of the light’ as we train, play, work with our dogs is truly a blessing!

Hundreds of passionate dog people love my online courses and coaching programs, where I share it all…teaching all the pieces of the Foundation Formula and the Brilliant Partners D.A.N.C.E. Method.

The results and transformations are astounding, truly.

Let me know if you put these partnership principles to work for you and your dog … it’s well worth a try!


Click here to download your free pdf: Top Dog Training Experts On the Power of Partnership.


Maya’s Journey of Transformation

April 9, 2013

Another Story of Transformation I Want to Share with You.

Kathy Kawalec's Maya captured in a painting by Bev Gross

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.

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

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

I made a video journal of the start of her herding training, and the beginnings of her sheepdog trial career.

You might want to go watch this right now. It turned out she was a world-class champion. Who knew?

Love to you and your dogs,
Kathy xoxo



Dirty Secrets Revealed: Confessions of a Professional Dog Trainer

December 14, 2012

Or: How I (almost) Wrecked My Dogs…

Kathy's dogs looking up at her attentivelyThere’s one thing that I’ve learned from all of my years of living with and training dogs that stands head and shoulders above the rest:

If you don’t have a good sense of humor, you might as well just throw in the towel and live a boring and sterile dogless life that features light carpeting, upholstered furniture, and a nice car that you are not embarrassed to have your mother or your boss ride in.

No, that’s not for me. Laughing at myself and my ineptness as a dog trainer – then sharing that with the world – way more fun. Who doesn’t need a little humility to keep things in balance?



Sue at 5 weeks old.

Confession #1:

How I Taught My Dog to Pee in the House. (and in other inconvenient places)

It’s really easy to house train a puppy. It is. I have a simple system that I use and teach to my clients, have for years. A no brainer. A 3 year old could do this. All of my dogs have easily learned to pee outside.

Then came Sue. She was about 90% house trained by 8 weeks old. The puppies in the litter were eager to move away from their sleeping area to potty by 3 weeks old and I made sure that was easy for them.

I thought to myself: “this will be the easiest house training job ever.” Right.

Sue was the sweetest puppy. Everything was going just fine. Clearly, she understood that potty happened outside, she always peed when I took her out and said my usual “go potty”. I was on top of taking her out at the usual times, staying attentive to any signs she needed to pee, and doing my best to stay focused any time she had house freedom.

The first time ‘it’ happened I was so surprised.

There was sweet Sue, looking up at me with those beautiful dark brown puppy eyes…I was looking adoringly back at her, smiling and letting her know how much I loved her. All this love flowing between us…as the pee flowed right out of Sue onto the floor. What??? I could not believe it.

As I cleaned up the mess on the floor, I had time to contemplate what had happened.

Did she have a bladder infection? Did she think that pee happened in a position relative to me? Did she just suddenly realize she had to pee and couldn’t hold it any longer? She was just a little puppy, after all.

I decided that I needed to pay more attention, stay more focused, do a better job at getting her outside. All good…no pee in the house for a couple of weeks. Whew. Then, “it” happened again. Sue and I lovingly gazing into one another’s eyes. I’m thinking about how much I love her and what a good, smart puppy she is. And Sue pees. Right there in front of me, looking up at me while I sweet talked to her. What the heck??? I’m even more shocked than the first time.

Sue at 7 weeks old, sitting ... and oh, so cute!Then, the same thing happened a month later.

This time we were on the couch. Yes, peed right there, looking into my eyes, standing on the couch next to me. OMG! Flurry of activity ensued. Thank god I have blankets on the couch, I’m thinking, as I rip them off before the pee can soak into the upholstery. By this time, Sue is 5 or 6 months old and she pees A LOT. Is it possible to be even more shocked than the last time? Yes. I’m sure I stood there with my mouth wide open for some time. I know I was shaking my head in disbelief as I sprayed nature’s miracle on the couch, hoping to quickly render the pee odorless.

Now, I’m completely dumbfounded. What the heck is going on? Why is she doing this? It’s so random, so sporadic, so incredibly puzzling. So freakin weird. Did she pee on the couch because it’s a soft place that will soak up pee, like a rug or grass? Again, I re-commit to being even more vigilant about watching for signs.

“It” didn’t happen again. For a couple of months, I mean. I absolutely could not believe “it” was possible. Exact repeat of the couch pee incident. Sue, eyes, sweet talk, pee. There I am, madly ripping blankets, pillows, dogs and dog toys off the couch. This is crazy. I’m a little pissed.

And, suddenly, it hits me. I mean SLAM. Whacked on top of the head.

That sweet, penetrating, imploring, relentless gaze from Sue? THAT is her signal to me that she needs to go potty. What a dumbass I am. All this time, I’m thinking that she is simply connecting to me…wants to engage, wants to be loved. No. That is not a gaze of love. That is a look of “I have to pee right now, you crazy distracted person. Would you PLEASE open the door for me? If you don’t open the door for me right now, I’m gonna have to pee right here, because I can’t hold it any more”.

Yeah. Sometimes it takes a flood of information before learning takes place for humans. Pun intended.

I’d love to report that my big “aha” after the 2nd couch pee means that was the last time Sue and I had a communication failure. But, sadly, that is not the case.

Well, to be accurate, that was the last time it happened during waking hours. The next big hurdle was overnight. Now that Sue was a ‘big girl’ and all grown up, she had bed privileges overnight. In the house, in the RV, and in the occasional motel room.

Now, you need to understand that Sue is a sweet and loving dog who likes to snuggle, and gives great doggy kisses. Really, how was I to know that she was laying on top of me in bed, licking my face and staring into my closed eyes because she had to pee? Seriously, how was I to know? Yep. Peed on the bed. Wake up Joe. Frantically rip off comforter, blanket and sheets from our organic cotton and wool mattress. Thank goodness…it didn’t soak thru. Close call.

That fun scenario happened twice more, in the camper. If you happened to walk past my camper at a herding trial a couple of years ago and saw bedding hanging out to dry and wondered why, now you know. I did not pee in the bed. It was Sue. Really. The bed pee phase coincided with Sue coming into season for the first time. So I guess her bladder was extra sensitive or something. She felt bloated and desperate to pee, poor thing. I know just how that feels.


Sue at 3 months old.OK, so how many times does it take a border collie to pee on your bed before you realize that she does NOT want to snuggle, but really needs to go pee and is trying to make you get up? Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding!! I know the answer to that question!!!

Four! That is the magic number, friends. Four times. The last time (please, God) was the best. It got my attention. Finally. I apparently am way more dense than I seem. We were traveling with Nancy and her dogs for a quick trip to a herding trial and decided to stay in a motel, rather than bring the camper. Sue was still in season so the boys went into the crates in the room and the girls had bed privileges.

I was really tired. A long day outdoors at a trial.

Middle of the night, sleeping. Sue on me…licking my face. I open my eyes to see her staring at me, just inches away..looking deeply into my eyes. Go to sleep, Sue, I tell her. She does. 1/2 hr later, I open my eyes to find Sue staring at me again. Go to sleep, Sue, I say again. She moves to the foot of the bed. A few minutes later, she lays on top of me again. I don’t even open my eyes this time. Go to sleep Sue, I insist. She goes to the foot of the bed and I feel warm wetness soaking onto my feet.

No way!! Panic ensues. Wildly throwing covers off the bed, desperate to keep the mattress dry. And the smell. OMG. If you’ve never had the pleasure of being in a closed room filled with the scent of girl in season pee, you have not lived! No wonder the boy dogs are crazed by that musky scent. Not many places to put soiled stinky bedding in a motel room, finally landed on the shower. Perfect!

Now, I’m REALLY tired.

2 am. Tired. Took the comforter off of Nancy’s bed to cover myself up. Back to sleep. I know this will be nearly impossible for you to believe, but it happened again that night. Apparently Sue only peed enough the first time to make herself comfortable, because at 5 am the whole thing was repeated. Yes, including me telling her to “go to sleep”…I guess I thought she was eager to get a fun day started really early. Never considered she had to pee again. I know, I know.

Now we have 2 really stinky comforters in the shower along with a blanket and a sheet. Time to check out. I left an apologetic note for the housekeepers, along with $20, hoping they would forgive me the extra work. All the way home, I was thinking I should have left them way more.

Four time’s a charm. Finally I get it: Sue does not wake me up to snuggle in the middle of the night.

She wakes me up to pee. No matter how tired I am, or how great that dream I’m having is…if Sue stares at me through my closed eyelids, I know it. And I get up.

You gotta love the clever ways a border collie uses their ‘eye’. Even sheep are smarter than some humans, if you know what I mean.

 Sue working sheep at 18 months old.

Moral of this story:

Meaningful dialog between species is always possible. Sometimes it just takes a while to learn the others language.

And, it is always a worthwhile endeavor to dialog with our dogs. They have so much great stuff to tell us. Sue and I now have a wonderful language worked out.

For ‘Yes/No’ questions we have a 3 part system.

Step 1. We gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes.

Step 2. I ask her a question:  (like: “Sue, do you have to go potty?”)

Step 3. Sue answers. If it’s a NO, she takes one step backwards. If it’s a YES, she steps towards me.

All the while, she maintains direct eye contact. Using her ‘eye’ to keep me under control and focused. That’s a good thing. There are lots of BSO’s. Everywhere, if you know what I’m sayin’.  😉


Raven at 9 weeks old. Sue hasn’t peed in the house since that last time in the motel, several years ago. Her daughter Raven, at 10 months old, had a similar style of communicating “I have to potty”. Raven runs halfway up the stairway near the door, and stares at me through the spaces in the railing.

Of course, I’m not usually in a place where I can see her staring out.

That could have been a problem, but thanks to the training I got from Sue, it only took me one time of having her pee upstairs to learn about her signal. I am now tuned in to the sound of paws on the stairs. Day or Night.

Who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks?


Your Action Steps:

  1.  Read my confession above and read, re-read (or remember) my 5 Step Formula for Dog Training Success book. This time, as you read the 5 Step book, focus on communication, dialog, understanding and misunderstanding. What additional layers can you learn about communication?
  2. Every day, try to pick out 3-5 ways your dog is communicating with you that you did not notice before. Look for subtle body language, posture, expression. Write them down in a journal or notebook.
  3. Every day, try to communicate ONE thing to your dog in the most subtle way you can think of. Tiny movements. Subtle expressions. No (or very little) talking or verbalizing from you…use mostly body language, facial expression, tiny hand movements.  Really subtle. Write down how it went for you, and for your dog.
  4. After a week, notice how much more you and your dog are paying attention to one another, and how much more you understand each other. And notice how this has influenced your dogs behavior, training, engagement, work.

In no time at all, you will be a master communicator and a person your dog can really understand!


Coming up: Confession #2 … Let’s just say that I am sure you will relate to the next story.  🙂

In the  meantime…

Share YOUR confessions. Don’t be afraid. We’ll be laughing with you (not at you.)  Ha!  😉


The Long, Hard Road to Dog Training Success.

September 21, 2012

Dreams and Transformations. Love Stories, really.

Sometimes things aren’t what they seem, you know? Sometimes it feels like there’s not much happening, like time is standing still and we’re in the same place we’ve always been. Then, one day our life is completely changed. The thing we thought we might never get to is right there. We are astounded and filled with a sense of disbelief at first.

Am I dreaming, we ask ourselves, blinking our eyes and looking around more carefully, holding our breath. Then it sinks in. We did it! We really did it. Holy crap!

It’s been a long, hot and dry summer this year. So hot and dry that the grass stopped growing and turned a deep golden brown. It crackled under my feet. Dogs feet payed a high price, turning to raw and red when they made the mistake of running too hard, turning too fast.

Mostly I remember looking for shade. A tree. An umbrella. A big hat. The shade was holding a space for me, ready when I needed it. I needed it a lot this summer.

Holding space for someone is sacred work.

Being someone’s believing eyes is sometimes challenging but always fruitful. It’s what we are meant to do for each other. I’m sure of it.

I do that often, holding space and believing in dreams. It’s life affirming and makes me whole. It’s also a chance for me to pay it forward, because I’ve been lucky enough to have been on the receiving end of that incredible act of kindness. More than once.

This summer, while standing in the shade and believing in the dreams of my clients and friends, my fellow earth walkers…magic was happening. Hard, slow, meticulous work was being lovingly carried out, one thin slice at a time. And then the rains came. Beautiful, beautiful rain that softened the hard ground and softened the heart-callouses of long, hard work.

This is a story of success. A story of the joy that comes from sticking with the hard, waiting for the rain, then finding yourself in the middle of the most beautiful field of flowers ever. It’s also a story of celebration. Not only for those in the story, but for all of us. Indeed.


Remember the transformation story of Dee and Phalen?

Dee and Phalen share a hug

Phalen is Dee’s dream dog. A stunningly beautiful White Shepherd. Along with his handsome looks, he came with some ‘stuff’. Reactivity being the one thing that scared Dee to her core. Dee was crushed and their relationship suffered severe damage the day Phalen attacked another of their dogs. As serendipity happens, Dee found her way to me and we worked out a plan. One that honored the love between Dee and Phalen, and built trust between them.

Dee wrote in her story: “My language has always been about changing Phalen. “Phalen is perfect, except for the reactivity. I wouldn’t change anything about Phalen except for his reactivity. If only he weren’t reactive we could do anything.” It has been through my work with Kathy that today I can say; “I love Phalen exactly as he is today and think he is perfect “. That has been a major shift for us and while it may seem small it is gigantic and changes everything for us.”

Their long, hard work payed off.

It is with great honor and respect and awe that I share this wonderful news:

Last week, Phalen earned his CGC. And…wait for it. His TDI. Phalen is now a certified Therapy Dog. Dee is happy beyond words. I am so happy for them both!

Phalen earns his TDI certificate

You may now stand and applaud. And cry. This is a time for congratulations and celebration!

Dee and Phalen, you ROCK. And, I wish you a long, happy and joy-filled life, together.


Now, remember the story of Tresa and Fleck?

Fleck, a close up

Fleck is an intense border collie that would get so ‘busy’ while he worked that he couldn’t listen to Tresa. At all. They sought the help of many trainers. Went to many clinics. Tresa told us in her story that because the trainers all felt that Fleck was ‘blowing her off’ he needed to be handled rather harshly, and being a ‘ruler with a harsh hand’ just wasn’t her. Nope, she wasn’t gonna do that to her dog.

Tresa was ready to give up herding completely, even though she knew Fleck loved it so much, and so did she. She was brave enough to try one more time. This time with me.

Tresa wrote in her story: “Kathy quickly helped me realize that the breakdown in our relationship was that I didn’t have a clear picture in my head of what I really wanted Fleck to do. All these years I went to trainer after trainer and clinic after clinic trying to “fix my dog” and all the while I just needed to fix me.”

We worked out a plan that would help Tresa to communicate with Fleck with clarity and consistency. To stay calm and focused and to chunk things down into thin slices. This was long, hard work. They both had habits that needed transformation. They stuck with it.

In July, Tresa and her husband Don hosted a herding trial at their lovely farm. It was a big undertaking and an act of love for sheepdogs and herding. As I sat in the shade of a canopy, judging the runs that day, what I was witnessed was heart-warming: a competent dog and handler, working in the pens and pushing sheep out to the setout…calmly and with the finesse of a team that belied their novice status. I was blown away.

But that didn’t top the day. Coming down to the post, and running the course as non-compete, Tresa and Fleck laid down a nearly perfect run. The best run of the day, by far. Again, I was blown away, as I thought about how far they had come together. About the long, hard work they had put in to get to this amazing place.

While Tresa and Fleck are learning to drive, working with whistles and looking forward to soon moving up a class to Ranch…they made a trek down to a sheepdog trial in Indiana, competing in Novice.

I am pleased as punch to report this:

Tresa and Fleck earned a 2nd Place at the Columbus Scottish Festival Sheepdog Trial!!  

Tresa and Fleck earn a 2nd Place

Standing O, everyone! They have earned big congratulations and a reason to celebrate!

Tresa and Fleck…you ROCK! And, I wish you many more years of learning, partnership and having fun together.


‘Nancy and Bruce Learning to Dance’ was a wonderful story to read. Remember?

Bruce working sheep, showing great style.

Bruce is a keen border collie with lots of drive, power and style. He’s a lot of dog for Nancy, who has been lucky to be trained by easier, softer dogs earlier in her sheepdog career.

I know this dog well. I brought him into the world…and he is much like his sire, Russell and siblings, my Sue and Luc. Good dogs all.

Nancy told us in her story that staying calm, focused and unemotional are not natural for her. She explained that she gets impatient and frustrated when things don’t go well. Which happens a lot with a young, keen dog. That starts a crazy vortex that spins everyone to place where partnership and collaboration are pipe dreams that don’t apply to this context. Not good.

Even when training and practice was OK, the extreme pressure of competing in pro-novice and open ranch tested their working partnership to the max, and they traveled home from most trials wanting better for each other and from each other.

A road map to a better place is what Nancy and I planned out. Changing Nancy’s focus to clear communication and away from blind commanding. Thin slicing everything so that supreme clarity could be revealed. Good timing, supportive intonation, competent execution, and enthusiasm for the process became her mantra.

The long, hard road to transformation was initiated. Now, they had a reliable map to follow. Nancy wrote in her story: “With Kathy’s help, I was ready for a methodology that could take my mind off of the dog I didn’t have and put my heart into the dog I do have. I used to think that training a sheepdog was about having a dog that would do what you said when you said it. Turns out it’s about creating a champion working partnership with a partner that trusts you to ‘lead the dance’.”

This long, hot summer provided the space for Nancy and Bruce to work together in the way they longed for. I was privileged to witness some wonderful partnership and work from this budding team: setting out sheep at the Laughing Frog Farm trial – a pleasure to watch from the shaded judging tent. Pushing out sheep at the LOLBCA trial with the finesse of an advanced team. I have to say that brought a brief tear to my eye.

Here’s the big news, folks:

Nancy and Bruce made their “OPEN” debut last week down at the Columbus Scottish Festival Trial.

(FYI: Open is the top level of border collie trialing) Two runs that were well completed, including the sheds. AND: first time Open scores in the mid 70’s. Now, that’s what I’m talking about!

Nancy and Bruce setting out sheep at a trial

Let’s hear it everyone: cheering and clapping. Loud enthusiastic celebratory whistling.

Nancy and Bruce: you ROCK! I see many fantastic runs in your future! And I wish you much excellence, partnership and joy in all you do together.


The Moral of the Story

Follow your dreams. Seek believing eyes…someone who has been there and can light the way for you, holding space in that beautiful place of success. Stay your course. Work hard and long. You’ll get there. Your dog is counting on you. And your dog is teaching you, each step of the journey. Enjoy it.


Ready for YOUR transformation? I’m ready to be YOUR believing eyes! Click the banner below to learn how.

Kathy Kawalec's True Potential

Dog Walking Nightmare Transformed

June 21, 2012

Heidi and Bailey: A Personal Story of Transformation

Bailey smiling.

Bailey…now a happy dog

Let’s Walk…Together!

(this is a guest blog by Heidi Thorne)

I am on the Board of the Friends of DuPage County Animal Care & Control, a foundation that supports the DuPage County animal shelter which receives no taxpayer funding. My friends at the shelter and on the Board knew I was looking for a new family member. So when a 1 year old golden retriever came into the shelter as a stray, they alerted me right away. But Bailey’s story is a little more complicated than that…

Bailey arrived at the shelter and was brought in by a DuPage resident. They had brought the stray into their home and could not understand why he was always vomiting. They could not afford the diagnostic and care costs so they surrendered him to the shelter. The shelter vet quickly ruled out any of the known diseases with these symptoms. Then the x-rays revealed the problem: he had swallowed some fabric which had gotten stuck in his colon. After emergency surgery, Bailey was up and about in a few days. But the recovery took months!

Bailey has a super strong tracking instinct, along with a tendency to get “lost” in his tracking which would cause him to panic and “moon walk,” sometimes almost pulling out of his collar.

Pulling, Panic Attacks and Dangerous Episodes

He seemed to get along pretty well with our older golden girl, Molly, except for that he needs to be reminded who’s boss (that’s Molly, of course). But walks with them together were just about impossible. Bailey has a super strong tracking instinct, along with a tendency to get “lost” in his tracking which would cause him to panic and “moon walk,” sometimes almost pulling out of his collar. His panic would also result in massive pulling which would almost land me on the ground. Add Molly with a huge hunt instinct and you’ve got a recipe for an owner who gets dragged and hurt.

I was looking for a way to make this daily nightmare go away. I just wanted to be able to walk my dogs!

Bailey and Molly enjoy each other

Bailey and Molly enjoy each other

We tried several leash and training strategies to no avail. That’s when I called Carol Schulz, an animal communicator recommended by a dear friend, to help sort out the behaviors I was observing. We came to the conclusion that he was having episodes similar autism and/or ADHD, i.e. getting “stuck” on some obsessive behavior and not being able to get unstuck, causing disorientation and panic. I was grateful for being able to get some idea of what was causing these bizarre episodes. But I was looking for a way to make this daily nightmare go away. I just wanted to be able to walk my dogs!

The Coaching, Communication, Competence and Commitment

Carol recommended that I call Kathy Kawalec who trains dogs using holistic methods. So Bailey and I trekked it out to Kathy’s farm and she showed me a way to hold Bailey’s leash so that he still gets feedback, but feels more reassured. She also recommended that I walk with Bailey and Molly individually so that I can give each of them the attention they need. Kathy also demonstrated the use of T-touch massage techniques to help Bailey focus and relax.

So I began working with Bailey every day, twice a day with the new leash strategy and using T-touch as needed. Within about two months, just before Thanksgiving, Bailey was walking almost episode-free with only some occasional hesitation. Something to be thankful for that year! But it took a sustained effort to make this a reality.

Today, about 1-1/2 years later, Bailey is a joy for me to walk and we enjoy our time outside.

We still can’t walk together with Molly and double walks do take time, but that may resolve with time and as Bailey matures. Molly has her own issues (hip dysplasia) that need individual attention, too.

While the walking has become a manageable situation, Bailey still has some issues with obsessive behaviors (eating grass!). So I’ve reached out to Kathy again and we are working on those issues. She has always offered solutions that don’t involve the use of drugs or coercive training methods which is important for me since I try to use as many natural/green alternatives as possible.

Thanks, Kathy, for helping us bring more peace into our family!

Heidi Thorne, Promo With Purpose Today

Here’s what I would LOVE for YOU to do for each Personal Story of Transformation published here:

Show your appreciation. Send supportive comments. Share your similar experiences. These brave and wonderful women love their dogs with all of their heart, and would love to feel your gratitude for their willingness to share.

Get Your Free Copy of the book with the principles that Heidi used: “5 Step Formula for Dog Training Success!”

Miscommunication and Training Failures Transformed

June 19, 2012

Robie walking up on sheepThe Long and Winding Road to Partnership…it’s a beautiful ride!

(This is a guest blog by Debra Smilie Blomgren)

I was born wanting a dog. Thanks to my beloved Grandma, whose family raised Boxers in Germany, my gift for my 12th birthday was a dog. My wish was for a German Shepherd. Instead, a wrinkled Pug puppy was placed in my waiting arms. I loved him instantly and named him Bonzo.

Bonzo would be the first of decades of dogs that I would train in obedience. I had an excellent instructor with Bonzo who taught me foundations of obedience training. There were no treats or clickers or special collars. I took a training class from him with many of my dogs.

Throughout my life, all of my dogs have been successful in obedience training. Occasionally, I dabbled in competitive obedience. Ten years ago, I started doing therapy work with my rescued Sheltie, Sam. My now 5 year old Border Collie, Kai, followed in Sam’s paw prints. In 2009, I brought home my second Border Collie, Robie. All of my training methods and techniques first learned with Bonzo and tweaked and readjusted as I trained my German Shorthair, German Shepherd, Great Dane, Shelties, Belgian Tervuren and Kai, exploded into pieces when I started to train Robie.

I knew then that Robie was telling me that my training methods needed some drastic changes if he and I were going to be successful partners.

Debra's first childhood dog, Bonzo

I set off to find a new trainer and a new way to train.

I quickly learned at our first obedience class that always inquisitive Robie found no value in the word “stay”. An ant crawling along the floor or a hawk circling in the sky demanded Robie’s immediate attention. The trainer, upset with what she saw as my ineptness in reigning in Robie, ordered that I use a prong collar on him, a command that I disregarded as I searched for another instructor. The second trainer, who demanded that young Robie learn to stay, was also convinced that Robie and I were just total failures. One day we got to her class early and the jumps from the Open class were still set up. With my guidance, Robie sailed over all of them. I knew then that Robie was telling me that my training methods needed some drastic changes if he and I were going to be successful partners. I set off to find a new way to train.

Starting our new adventure.

On a cold winter day in January 2011, Robie and I traveled to meet Kathy at Dancing Hearts to see if Robie had instinct for herding. Robie calmly keened in on the sheep and with instructions from Kathy, we moved the sheep around the pen. I liked what Kathy explained to me on that first lesson. Instead of wanting us to resort to different collars or more treats, Kathy described how success begins in clearly understanding my goals and finding the road I must travel to reach them so I can communicate that vision and that pathway to Robie. It made sense to me. This was where I wanted to train and Robie and I returned for more lessons.

Work obligations and another dream I was chasing with Robie kept us away from herding lessons for awhile. Kathy’s words, though, stayed with me and I saw how they worked in all aspects of training with both of my Border Collies. Last Fall, Robie and I returned to herding lessons, committed to building a successful partnership in the field.

Understanding what my dog is telling me.

While Robie has his natural instincts, Kathy taught me that I have to learn to develop the clear vision so I can assist Robie in learning how, when and where to use his instincts. Once I can define the vision, it is up to me to communicate that information to Robie. I have learned that when Robie focuses on sniffing grass rather than watching sheep, it is because I have not clearly communicated to him what to do at that time.

Robie and I have begun to take monumental baby steps forward in our quest to become successful herding partners. I have started to feel the flow of our steps together. My confidence is increasing as I learn to train in this new venue.

Kathy’s lessons don’t stop at the pasture gate. Every day is a training day. Learning to clearly communicate has meant that always impatient Robie now sits at the door and waits for his collar rather than endless circling. I now understand why Kai or Robie do not follow through with something I am trying to teach them.

Instead of repeating the frustration of failure, I embrace the challenge of finding a better way to communicate.

Debra with Kai (l) and Robie (r)Building any partnership in life on a solid foundation takes time. There are no shortcuts if you want to do it right. Robie and I have embarked on a new journey of learning. I know with Kathy’s guidance, my commitment to succeed and to develop clear, concise communication skills, Robie and I will achieve our goal of becoming a solid working partnership, in and out of the pasture.

Debra enjoys life with her two border collies and husband in northern Illinois. For the past 10 plus years, she has been involved in training therapy dogs. Sheltie Sam, and now her Border Collie, Kai, work in a large hospital-based animal assisted therapy dog program. Debra is also a Therapy Dog Inc. evaluator. Her Border Collie, Robie, has taken her into new ventures, including herding, agility and earning his Grand Championship in conformation.


Here’s what I would LOVE for YOU to do for each Personal Story of Transformation published here:

Show your appreciation. Send supportive comments. Share your similar experiences. These brave and wonderful women love their dogs with all of their heart, and would love to feel your gratitude for their willingness to share.


Learn about the training system Debra embraced: Get Your Free Copy of “5 Step Formula for Dog Training Success!”

Dog Barking-Lunging Fits Transformed

June 14, 2012

Connie and Rowley: A Personal Story of Transformation

Rowley sitting on the deckAn Adventure in Learning.

(This is a guest blog by Connie Burnet)

Some people, when they get into middle age, buy a sports car. Me? I adopted my first Border Collie!

Being single and in my 50s, my dogs are my immediate family. I have several Shelties that I’ve raised from puppyhood; my dearly departed heart dog, Sander, was a Sheltie; and I am a serial adopter of senior Shelties from a rescue in Illinois. A senior Lapphund, also a rescue, found his way to my house in 2008, and he fits right in.

But in January 2010, my youngest Sheltie had to retire from agility because of an arthritic elbow, and I was surprised to realize that she was over 9 years old. I had a house full of senior dogs! Very restful, and certainly they’re good company, but I needed a more active dog, I needed an agility dog, a go-everywhere-with-me dog. I’d wanted a Border Collie for years, so I adopted from a local BC rescue. The dog they called Rowdy was young – about 10 months old – and had been pulled from a rural shelter in western Illinois.

A natural at agility!

I started him in agility immediately. What fun! He showed himself to be a natural athlete, strong and flexible and capable of almost floating over jumps, and right away he developed an amiable interest in the sport. I’d been working an agility dog with a shy temperament and not the best structure for jumping, so I found myself in handler heaven with Rowley (his new name). He was such a dream come true in agility for me that a few months later, I took him to Dancing Hearts to see if he would be a candidate for herding lessons. Kathy assessed him and told me that yes, he would be suitable for training. Looking back on that now, I laugh: the pool looked so placid, so safe! I was sure we would just hop in and be able to swim! After all, he’s a BORDER COLLIE, right? Sure, I’d have to learn a few things, but I wanted to do it, so let’s go!

If I hadn’t taken that plunge, I might have accepted at face value a lot of what I thought my relationship with Rowley was, and I would have missed one of the biggest learning opportunities of my life.

In almost every area of his life, Rowley was easygoing and biddable, tail up and waving gaily, always happy to see me, friendly to other people and not in the least bothered by other dogs. But there were two places that caused a dramatic change in his demeanor: walks, and the sheep pen. In those environments, it was not about play and fun and let’s-do-that-together. It was about the serious business of taking charge, and he got so excited and nervous that he tuned me out almost entirely.

He went into crouching, bark-screaming fits. Walks were awful; he pulled every second, on every foot of the walk.

I put a pinch collar on him but took it off when I realized that it didn’t deter him at all, he’d pull just as hard with it on, and that was a recipe for neck injuries. I tried a walking harness that connected the leash to a ring on the front of the harness, on his chest, and that got me a dog who turned himself into a pretzel and then pulled me down the street. I tried being a tree; I tried talking to him; I tried clicking him for not pulling; I tried putting him on a ‘heel’ command. It was so not fun.

And he was even worse around sheep.

Pulling, lunging, barely registering my presence – he seemed to want me to drop him off at the sheep pen and leave him to his own devices, because I didn’t figure in his plans at all. He ripped the lead out of my hand, he pulled me out of my chair, he was crazed by the very sight of the sheep and beyond the reach of my voice.

Then we’d get home and he was again my sweet, happy-go-lucky young dog who loved being with me and loved playing with toys with me and loved everything we did together, even if it was just a nap on the couch. I could not reconcile the two dogs that he seemed to be.

I thought about quitting the herding lessons.

It would be so easy to just not deal with that. In agility he was the perfect dog and people didn’t believe me when I told them he was a whole other creature in the sheep pen. And I still wasn’t enjoying our walks. I avoided that by taking him to local parks where he could be off-leash – his recall was stellar – and just pretended that it wasn’t a problem.

The reason I didn’t quit wasn’t pride, or stubbornness, or that I had any great desire to do stock work, which I had never done before and found confusing most of the time.

It was that for Rowley, working sheep is part of what he is. Without it, he won’t entirely be the dog that he can be, and I’ve seen enough to know that the dog he can be is a pretty awesome dog. By growing into his abilities, he’s going to learn so much that I can’t teach him in any other way, and he’s going to gain a confidence and a maturity that I can’t approximate for him elsewhere. And by doing that work with me, we’re going to create a bond that will be deeper, and teach both of us more, than we could otherwise achieve. I really want that for him, and I want it for me!

I hope to have a long life with this dog and I want to be able to trust him and have him trust me every step of the way.

Rowley getting calm on his walk.I know people who don’t think that you can really and truly trust a dog at some level, but I have had that trust and I know it’s real. I had it with my heart-dog, a Sheltie who spent 14 years with me. Sander gave me all of the things he taught me, and it seemed to me that all I had to do was to love him and believe in him. Rowley is making me work for the things he’s teaching me – but maybe that work is just another form of loving him and believing in him.

How does that translate to training? Well, I knew what wasn’t working! I didn’t realize why it wasn’t working until I examined the 5 C ideas. The very first C is “clarity” and I could see that my dog did not find my instructions or actions clear at all. He mostly found my frustration and confusion unnerving, and he reacted to that with frustration of his own. I needed calmness in order to achieve clarity; I also needed to revise my picture of communication. The word ‘command’, so often used in training, is one that I find problematic. It conjures an image of a drill sergeant barking orders. When I gave my dog a ‘command’ my tone changed and became stern. The pressure in that tone was apparent even to me. And the frustration was just behind it. The results were predictable:

Rowley didn’t see that he and I were doing something together, he saw that I was trying to compel him to do something and to stop him from doing something else.

Not the way to foster a partnership at all!

Rowley’s excess of excitement meant, I realized, that he wasn’t finding an emotional ‘ground’ in me. As his partner, I need to provide that for him – not just in the sheep pen, but in every aspect of his life. When he encountered something that made him froth with emotion like an uncorked champagne bottle, he would only have the ability to control that emotion if he had an outlet for it, a way to ground all the energy that was aroused by his impulses or instincts. No amount of putting him on command could help with this; in fact, that would only increase the pressure that he feels (and can’t handle). I did some homework and found a way to start addressing this, and I worked on deepening that connection in everyday situations.

Then Kathy and I incorporated it into the herding lessons, so that Rowley was learning to relax and
remain connected to me when he was around sheep. His connection to the sheep, which he had been frantically trying to make on his own, can only come through me, and that is the ‘ground’ that he needs emotionally.

An important lesson from Kathy’s dog Sue.

This point was made for me by one of Kathy’s dogs one day: Sue wanted to work sheep, and she kept presenting herself to Kathy and casting imploring looks from Kathy to the sheep. As Kathy pointed out, Sue wanted the sheep, but she didn’t express that want by racing to the sheep pen or by focusing on the sheep; she expressed the want by coming to the person who contained and facilitated her connection to the sheep: the shepherd.

It was an unforgettable vignette that made the point beautifully, without any words!

After a very long time, and after many missed approaches on my part, Rowley and I are now starting to be a team around sheep. We’re still working on getting my keen boy to handle his emotional energy around the stock, but he is no longer lunging, bark-screaming, and trembling uncontrollably. He can remain connected to me through play, with the sheep just a few yards away from him. He knows they’re there but he doesn’t feel that he has to ‘do something, anything!’ about that.

The next step is to transition him from play to work mode while keeping the calmness that comes from his connection to me in the sheep pen. I have no idea how long it will take to achieve that. It probably won’t take nearly as long as it took me to figure out the correct approach for this dog and this situation and this very green handler, though. And Rowley is only three years old, so we’ve got time.

We’re in this together, for the long haul.

We’re in this for the long haul, because as I realized early on, this is part of what Rowley is. He will be competent as I acquire competence. He’s way ahead of me in his intuitive knowledge of sheep, but I have to be the leading partner on this team, and I still have a lot to learn.

As for the coaching, that couldn’t be better. I’m certain that if I had taken Rowley anywhere other than to Kathy’s place to ‘try herding’, I’d have quit long ago in the face of utterly colossal frustration. Kathy saw all the frustration, she saw the reasons for it, I’m sure she saw the solutions to it, and when eventually I got myself and my dog headed in the right direction, she was there waiting to help us. That’s the thing about coaching – it isn’t a series of commands. It’s often a process of assisting someone as they reformulate their objectives and methodology. Being told something is not at all the same as realizing that thing, and the best coaches know that they have to wait for the student to realize what they need to know in order to even start working on things like skills.

The 5 C’s are the formula for a winning partnership.

I have found the Five Cs to be the formula for a winning partnership. I had to create a program specific to my dog and his needs, but once I did that, observing the Five Cs began paying enormous rewards. Rowley was always biddable in situations not involving sheep: now he’s more than biddable, he’s genuinely connected to me. I don’t issue ‘commands’ now – I give directions. The walks are enjoyable now. When he’s on leash, the pulling is occasional and I know how to stop it. When he’s off-leash, he pays even more attention to me and checks in constantly. All the potential for partnership that I sensed in this dog is starting to be borne out.

And as always when we work with dogs, the benefits that are realized by the dog are realized by the human, too.

Rowley needed emotional control? So did I. Rowley needed connection and trust? So did I. As Jimmy Buffett said, “it was so simple, it plumb evaded me.” But we’ve got the idea now, and it’s with genuine confidence and enthusiasm that I look forward to what comes next for us in this partnership.

Connie Burnet lives in the southwest suburbs of Chicago with her happy family of dogs.


Here’s what I would LOVE for YOU to do for each Personal Story of Transformation published here:

Show your appreciation. Send supportive comments. Share your similar experiences. These brave and wonderful women love their dogs with all of their heart, and would love to feel your gratitude for their willingness to share.

Get Your Free Copy of the 5 C’s that Connie uses in the “5 Step Formula for Dog Training Success!”