leash walking | Dancing Hearts Cognitive Dog Training

Tag Archive for: leash walking

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!


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!

Let’s Be Perfectly Clear: Dog Training Basics

February 18, 2014

Let's Be Perfectly Clear blog graphic


Clarity leads to each partner taking responsibility for their part of the partnership…intuiting what the other wants and needs. It’s a beautiful thing!


If you’ve been around me for more than a minute, you’ve probably heard me speak about “Clarity” and how important that is to training our dogs. But, what does that mean, how do we do that, and how is it applied to our training?

[klar-i-tee] noun
clearness or lucidity as to perception or understanding; freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity.


In order to deliver clear information, there are a few things that we need to take into account.

1. Bridging the Language Gap.

Establishing a common language between dog and human is crucial to communicating clearly. That seems so simple, yet it’s an often overlooked aspect of training. Because we humans are taking the lead with the training process, it is our responsibility to learn to ‘speak’ to our dogs in a way that they can understand.

We know that dogs naturally communicate by reading body language, expression, movement and direction. We know that we want to teach our dogs to respond to hand signals and verbal (audible) cues, since that is our natural communication style. But how do we bridge that gap effectively, in a manner that encourages partnership and an eagerness to seek understanding?

I suggest we establish a ‘common language’ that is based on the native communication skills of our dog…which is, fortunately, also part of the communication toolbox of humans!

Start by using appropriate body language, expression, movement and direction to communicate our desire to our dogs…and then we begin to name (assign a verbal/audible cue) to the active response by the dog…and ultimately fade out much of the body language and movement as the dog becomes fluent at responding to our verbal cues or whistles.

This common language gives us the foundation upon which we can build the skills that are necessary for the required task.

For example: we crouch down and move invitingly away from our puppy to encourage her to move towards us, right into our open, palm up and soft hands. Eventually, that becomes our recall. And, it becomes a cue to move toward us with the sheep in between as we are developing a gather. That ultimately leads us to be able to call our dog in smartly to hold off a single sheep.

Puppy Sit:StayThe flip side is when we are teaching our puppy to wait at a doorway, or to keep his feet on the ground: we stand tall, raise a flat and solid palm-out hand, and extend our personal space out in such a way the puppy reads our body language and “feels” the edge of our personal space bubble and understands not to move into that bubble. That communication becomes a wait or stay, it can lead into a ‘back up’ away from the handler; it eventually becomes a pause then a stop behind the sheep, and importantly, it helps us to help our young herding dog to ‘feel’ the sheep as we merge our own personal space with that of the sheep.

Mindfully and artfully used, we have now established a solid language that communicates two fundamental skills: move in and move out. We will be using this language for the most basic foundation skills on up to mastery of advanced skills. And, so it goes with ALL of the language we will be establishing with our dogs. This system can be used to build skills for any sport or activity and for every-day life.

2. Communicate with Intention.

In order to provide clarity to our dogs, we need to establish our intention. It’s like your declaration of a course of action that you intend to follow…and an objective that will guide your actions. Dogs clearly read our intention and the way they do this is by reading the minutia of our communications. It’s in the tiniest of details in our body language and expression. It’s the same way they read the sheep.

Our lack of attention to those same details is what makes our timing off, our communication sloppy and ultimately what causes our dogs to not “listen” to what we are saying. If we take a moment to be clear in our own heads and bodies about what our objective is in the present moment, then our intention will be clear to us and to our dog.

For example:

• Do you want your dog to flank correctly right now, or do you really just want the dog to get over to the side so you can let the sheep in the gate? Your intention will communicate to your dog what you really expect, no matter what you are saying audibly.

• Do you really want your dog to lie down right there? Or, do you mean that he should turn in at balance and move the sheep towards you? When you have clear intention, your dog will better understand what you are asking for and you will be more likely to help your dog to rehearse good moves.

• Do you want your dog to think and take initiative for what to do? Or, do you want your dog to just listen to your instructions? Your mindful intention makes all the difference in how your dog will respond in each situation.

3. Congruency brings Clarity.

The most direct path to clearly communicate with your dog is to be congruent: All aspects of you are in harmony, without conflict or disorder. That means: what you are thinking, how you are feeling, what your body is doing, and what your voice and expression are telegraphing must all be the same. Or at least really similar.

In order to be congruent, we must be mindful and aware of all of the aspects of ourselves. That is a learned behavior and requires intention and much practice. Lots and lots of practice. Speaking from my own path of experience, I can say that it takes determination, persistence and patience to learn to BE congruent. At least the majority of the time. OK, maybe a little more than half of the time. It’s one of life’s HARDS.

Dogs know when we are congruent and when we are not. When we’re not, they are confused. That confusion translates into different things for different dogs in different circumstances. Some dogs distract themselves by eating grass or poo. Other dogs get fast and frantic. Or stop and look back at their handler.

For example, if we want our dog to lie down, we can’t be thinking about stopping that breaking ewe. When we want to create ‘flow’ for a shed, we can’t be focused on stopping the leader.

Communicating with ALL of ourselves is what will help our dogs to understand what we want, and will help them to willingly comply. This is critically important in the beginning and intermediate stages of training and if done well, leads to a breath-taking dance where you and your dog seem to be like one.

Kat_puppies_wClarity leads to:

Each partner taking responsibility for their part of the partnership…intuiting what the other wants and needs.
It’s a beautiful thing!

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!

Dog Training Partnership that Rocks!

April 8, 2013

I just have a quick announcement for you today.

 A new video of me and my dogs.

As I put this quick video together today, I am reminded of how much I LOVE the partnerships I have with each of my dogs. My heart fills with gratitude and love just thinking about it.

You can have that too. Check out my video and come back here to let me know what you think.

 The Foundation Formula - Kathy Kawalec's Dogs


Happy Spring!

Kathy xoxo


One of my most painful mistakes and what I learned

April 5, 2013

If you’re anything like me and most of my students and clients, your dog is a core part of your life…and you do, or would like to do, lots of fun things with your dog.

You dream of enjoying the benefits of having a happy, friendly dog in your life…a dog that you can take anywhere!

Maybe you dream of competing in a dog sport like agility, herding, or obedience…and of being successful … bringing home ribbons and titles … or even national championships.

And for you, the process of getting that good as a team is the enjoyable part…the ribbons are a bonus to all the fun and adventure you would love to have with your dog as you train and compete.

But, like most of us, you’ve also been in that place where your dreams seem out of reach because a challenge or struggle with your dog stops you dead in your tracks.

So, You reached out for help and what you found were methods that you didn’t like and wouldn’t use…or techniques that seemed too hard or just took too long to get results.

You’ve probably tried so many things, but nothing sticks and you end up in the same or worse place than before.

It can be so frustrating. I know, I’ve been there.

For the past 15 years or so, you might know that my passion has been sheep herding. When I first set out to learn about sheep herding with my first border collie, Dallas, I already knew about positive and natural training methods and I KNEW that I needed to find someone who could help me learn this new and really challenging ‘hobby’ in a fun way.

I knew this because of a really hard lesson. Really hard. This is a story that is still hard to share, 20 years later.

Here’s my story

I brought home my beautiful sheltie, Haley, when she was about 16 weeks old. You may have already read some of Haley’s story on my blog, but there was one part I left out. It was just too painful to write about. Still is, but I’m gonna cowgirl up. <gulp>

Haley enjoying a visit at a friends farm.

Right before I officially dropped out of competitive obedience, there was an incident that blew a hole into my world as I knew it.

Sometimes ‘having great potential’ is a curse, not a blessing. It can cause us to make decisions that we later regret. We can put pressure on ourselves and our dogs that blows things up in our face.

Haley and I had a stellar obedience beginning, in spite of our many challenges. She being really shy and timid with people. Me, inexperienced, with my first ‘obedience’ dog.

Our CD came easy. Three tries, scores in the mid to high nineties. Stressful in many ways for both of us, but still fun.

“Potential: The Curse” Could be the name of my next book. Or a movie.

My obedience trainer said I “had” to put a pinch collar on Haley, my beautiful and sensitive sheltie, in order to get snappy heeling and I “had’ to pinch her ear until she cried out so that I could shove the dumbbell into her open mouth. That was the ONLY way to go on, working towards our CDX. That if I didn’t do these things, I would be a loser. Yes, they said that I might get a Q if I was lucky, but there would be no chance of winning or being really successful.

I was firm about the ear pinch. But, my friends were so convincing as they told me that the collar would not hurt Haley, but that it would provide more clear communication. One of my friends had a collar with tiny little prongs that she assured me would not even penetrate my dog’s thick fur.

So, I tried the collar once.

Up to then, Haley had only worn a plain flat buckle collar because I had refused to use a metal slip collar. (aka choke chain) Everyone I knew thought I was a freak because of my beliefs. At the time, there was NO other way, or so everyone thought.

We fitted the prong collar on her and I heeled with her up the side of the ring.

That went ok, until Haley moved a tiny bit ahead of me and the trainer said now, just give her a tiny little quick pop. I did.

Haley cried out, shocked and scared.

“She’ll be ok, it didn’t hurt her, it just scared her”, they told me. “She needs to learn how to take a correction”, they assured me.

I decided to call it a night and take Haley home, rather than continue with the class.

I went home that night, confused, frustrated, angry at myself. Not sure what to do next. We practiced with our normal buckle collar and had fun during the week.

The next week at training class, when I reached into my training bag, and Haley saw that borrowed collar, she shrank away from me with a look on her face I will never forget.

So, right then and there, I quit obedience. That was 20 years ago. I cried as I wrote this today. And I cried again when I read it for edits.

That decision changed my life. For me, for the dogs I will have the rest of my life, and for so many that I have shared my hard-earned philosophies and methods with…


The lesson that really stands out for me is this:

Positive Reinforcement isn’t an end to the evolution of dog training, it’s a beginning.

Partnership-driven training for dogs and their people is on the horizon. I’m on a mission from DOG … to make the world a better place for dogs and for people too!

Love your dogs today,

Kathy xoxo


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!”

Big dog dangerously pulling his person by the leash is transformed to an attentive partner.

May 15, 2012


Theresa and DaVinci learn how to connect.

(This is a guest blog by Theresa Urbanczyk)

My name is Theresa Urbanczyk and my dog is DaVinci. I’m 53 years old and work full-time for a trade show management company. I love animals and nature. I love to garden and do landscaping, as I love to be outdoors as much as I can. I love going for long walks with my dog. I’ve done dog sports with my previous dogs, but mostly walking is what I do with my new one now.

DaVinci is 2 ½ years old and is half Bernese Mountain dog and a Great Pyrenees. I adopted him from a shelter a few months ago and didn’t get too much history on him.

DaVinci enjoying the day, relaxing in the yard

He is a big powerful dog and I didn’t want him to pull me down the street or pull my arm out of the socket anymore.

This big dog didn’t know how strong he was.

The struggle that I have with DaVinci is walking without pulling. Since he is such a big dog and is pretty powerful, I didn’t want to have him drag me down the street or pull my arm out at the socket anymore. The things that get him really excited and he starts pulling me are squirrels, rabbits and other dogs; especially if the other dog is going a little crazy behind its fence. I would like to be able to take him anywhere I go and not pull or get overly excited about those things. I would like to walk together with him and have him pay attention to staying with me. Not get distracted about all the other triggers that get him excited, and not to pull.

In the past, I’ve tried to pull him back, tried to stop and hold but that didn’t work well. Sometimes I would get him going with difficulty and at others he would still pull to where I would get frustrated with the walks. I know he got frustrated too, because sometimes he would put on the brakes and not want to go further.

I wanted to have Kathy help me with him as I’ve worked with her in the past with my previous dog for both agility and herding. I know she’s good with dogs and can read them very well. She can see what the problems are and what solutions to come up with to help us work as a team. After reading her method/5 C’s, it makes so much sense as to why teamwork sometimes just doesn’t happen.

I’m teaching him that ‘partners’ don’t pull each other around and it starts with me.

Working with the 5 C’s, I’m learning to communicate better with DaVinci so he really understands what I’m asking him to do. I also see if there is something he does not like to do, I do not force the issue and try another way around it. If he doesn’t like to go in a certain direction, I find a way to make a wide circle around an area to where I’m eventually going in the direction I want to. This way I’m not pulling him and I’m teaching him that ‘partners’ don’t pull each other around.

There were a lot of times when my body would be going one way, and I’m trying to get him to go another. I can see where I was confusing him. I also learned the value of high end treats to reward him and get his attention on me when he’s really distracted, even if it’s just a few seconds. Those few seconds help to get him re-focused on what we were doing which is going for a walk together.

Learning from our mistakes is hard work but it’s worth it.

The walks are better, as long as I stayed focused and pay attention to what I am doing and saying, and what DaVinci is doing. When I become distracted, he often begins pulling me towards something more interesting, and it can get very hard to stop him, especially if I don’t take action right away. When this happens, I try to see how I can better help him next time, learning from my mistakes.

The improvements I see with Kathy’s methods, not only help me communicate better with DaVinci, but with people. I also had a tendency to say one thing and mean another. It helps me devote myself to getting it right with working as a team with DaVinci and the results show when I come back from a walk with him and I’m very relaxed; and so his he.

My plan is to be able to take DaVinci to “Bark in the Park” and “Woofstock”.

I had to put our work on hold for a couple of weeks as I really pulled my hamstring muscle and could not walk that well so I’m waiting until I can walk without worry about it being re-injured. I can do slow walks now without limping, but I believe in another week I can start at it again. Since taking my long walks now is not an option, I’m working on getting DaVinci to focus more on when I call or stopping when coming excitedly at me when I come home from work so he doesn’t jump on me.

All of Kathy’s methods are tied together from wanting to walk as a team to not jumping up or coming when called. If you are not clear on what you are asking your dog to do, he will be confused. If you do not communicate clearly, he doesn’t understand. You have to take the time to work with him. Everything takes practice. I know there will be setbacks as I do make mistakes, but hopefully by remembering the 5 C’s, they will be less and less.

My plan for the future is to keep at it so we can eventually go to places where there are other dogs, such as events like “Bark in the Park”, or “Woofstock”.

In the meantime, I’m really enjoying spending time with my new partner.

DaVinci and Theresa share a loving moment.

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 Copy of the free guidebook Theresa uses: “5 Step Formula for Dog Training Success!”