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

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!

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



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.


The Joy and Struggle of Life with Dogs

February 14, 2017

Joy and Struggle

There’s the joy, the fun, the adventure…the stuff we love, and the very reasons we are so devoted to our dogs in the first place!

And then there is the struggle. The challenges:

  • Our dog seems to be defiant, and we feel frustrated.
  • Our dog is a ‘problem child’ and we are exhausted, trying to ‘fix’ our dog.
  • Maybe our dog is anxious, stressed, reactive, fearful…and we feel overwhelmed with worry and concern.
  • Sometimes we are embarrassed with the way our dog behaves.
  • Or we don’t understand why our dog who does great in practice is distracted or won’t listen at competitions.

You can you relate, right?

I’ve certainly had all of these experiences at one time or another with my dogs over the years. It’s made me a better person, that’s for sure.

More than once, I have said to myself as I look up into the sky in a moment of impatience, “do I Really need to work on growing my character Again? Really?”

Ah, yes, such is life.

Well, if you are anything like me, (and I know you are) you’d like to minimize those big challenges that force us into a new and better version of ourselves…and instead, plan for the growth, so the ‘new and more brilliant us’ blossoms in a less painful way.

That’s where the whole Partnership thing comes in…and where Cognitive Dog Training started, and the Foundation Formula too.

I wrote this on a page on my website:

At the heart of it is … the process of acquiring profound understanding and knowledge about our dogs, about ourselves and how we interact and respond to one another.

I just read it again, and I still love it…the significance of it. I love the ‘profound understanding’ part. It’s part of the foundation that is so important for building a trusting partnership with our dogs. Seeking this deep understanding has influenced how I train and compete with my dogs over the years.

Luc at the WWSDA 2012 Labor Day Trial

I’m thinking of Luc as one good example.

When I started his sheepdog (herding) training, he presented me with a challenge that I had not come across. He was clearly talented, and we had a solid foundation, a budding partnership. At a year old, I enjoyed working and training with my little man.

He was willing to take my direction, to listen, to please me. The challenge came with finding balance when he got closer to two.

When his instinct (which had perfect pitch) argued with my instruction, he believed he had to choose. He had to disregard his instinct and do what I said. Or, he had to disregard what I said and follow his instinct.

Wow, that was quite a difficult place for such a young dog to be in, right?

So, my challenge was to figure out a way to keep the communication flowing between us. I had to figure out how to allow my instructions to be taken as ‘clear guidelines’ but not as ‘must do commands’. I had to develop our partnership and communication, without taking away his initiative to follow his good instincts.

It was hit and miss for a while as we worked it out. Sometimes we nailed it. Other times, he was looking at me instead of the sheep … sometimes he was ignoring me, focusing only on the sheep.

Sometimes I was filled with joy with our progress. Sometimes I was frustrated at our imbalanced partnership.

The thing that got us through this new and challenging period was our foundation. Our trust for one another. Our partnership. It just kept growing, getting better and better.

Ultimately, our partnership became brilliant! One exciting example of that: We were Finalists at the USBCHA Nationals.  Luc and I worked our way to the championship final round, the famous double lift. It was quite an experience and I am both humbled and proud of our accomplishment as partners.

Take my little story about Luc, and imagine yourself and your dog in our place, in any context at all. The same struggle story applies to life skills, agility, rally, anything that you do with your dog:

Just imagine this struggle between your dog’s natural instincts and desire to please you and do what’s right.

Now imagine the successful outcome you dream of…

Here’s what I imagine you want to ask me:

Q: OK, I want that too! How can I get this kind of partnership with my dog?

A: Through the 5 step foundation formula that I have been teaching. Step-by-step. You’ve heard me talk about baby steps a lot. It’s the only way to go.

Partnership is really all about ever-increasing levels of good communication. Getting deeper into understanding. Deeper into what I call the ‘dialog loop’…an active exchange of thoughts, feelings, words, expressions, actions between me and my dog that informs my next move, my next choice of how to go on with the lesson my dog and I are learning together.

This is the “Partnership” that I tell you about. An interactive, collaborative relationship with our dogs that transforms struggles into joyful possibilities.

Follow these 5 Steps to work your way toward partnership with your dog:

  1. Start with an intention to actively communicate with your dog. To dialog. To truly listen with all of your senses, all of your being, to what your dog is telling you.
  2. Strive for clarity as you interact with your dog. Get really clear about what you want, and about how your dog needs you to teach this skill.
  3. Be a loving leader in the dance of your life together. The dance requires you and your dog to be competent at being attentive and responsive to one another.
  4. Foster a deeper, heart-to-heart holistic connection with your dog. This means that you become as balanced mentally, emotionally and physically as your dog.
  5. Develop a foundation of collaboration with your dog that becomes your cornerstone for easily transforming any struggle that crops up into brilliant possibility for success.


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