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How do you know?

by on September 6, 2013

We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.

Anais Nin

So much of what happens when we are working together is not specific to dog training.  It is this sensibility that made me question what dog training was in the first place. Even more, what does it mean to train, or to teach? How do we decide who is the teacher and who is the taught, the trainer and the trained?

Most of us just go according to convention, in which case the answer is a resounding, “Duh.” “You are the Pack Leader.  You are the Teacher. You are the Trainer”

I’ve never been satisfied with convention.  I understand the rhetoric.  Iv’e been in front of the same consideration and the same paradigm.  The problem is that it just explains what is going on inside someone’s story of Dog. It is a story about them, not Dog. And it distracts us from being present to the dog that s right in front of us.  Thats where the information is.  Thats where relationship is and that is where the teaching and training must happen if it is to be of any real value.

What I’m suggesting is that dog training is not about a methodology or approach.  It’s not about anything intellectual.  It’s about connecting.

Try it out for yourself: Close your eyes. Start by putting down, just for a minute, any ideas you have about training… then about dogs… and then about yourself.  Feel your body.  Take a  breath. Now open your eyes.  Look at your dog.  And just let go.

Now who’s training who?


The Leash.

by on March 27, 2013

The Leash.



 The leash is your voice. It is a physical manifestation of your connection. A symbol of your relationship. It’s how you communicate directly without the need for understanding or translation. So what its made of and how it feels to both you and your dog really matters. There are primarily two types of leashes: fixed-length and retractable. In this post we are just going to discuss fixed-length leashes: what we use and why.



Material. Why leather? Two reasons. Number one, because your experience matters just as much as yours dog’s and anyone who has ever used nylon leash knows what i am talking about. Nothing feels more unnatural or uncomfortable in your hand. On the other hand, leather is comfortable, natural, and easily gripped with or without gloves. Secondly, the quality of a signal is different based on the material. Cotton feels different from nylon feels different from leather. The leather signal moves in a way that is more organic. Rubber handles…do you really want to be an anchor? Cotton is good for a long leash line but unless you’re a fan of rope burn I recommend against it.



Yes it’s true, size matters.



Length. The standard length for a leash is 6ft long. Any shorter and you’d be having one of those conversations with way too many words. With a short leash, the amount of interaction you are forced to have is way beyond what is necessary for most situations. A short leash gives you few options and zero flexibility. Also, you want to be able to have both hands on the leash. That said, if you are 5ft 2in or under, 6ft might be too long, try a 5ft.



Width. For dogs under 50 lbs, I recommend a half inch wide leash. For dogs over 50 lbs I recommend a 5/8in. This of course varies from dog to dog, the difference being the weight. More sensitive dogs respond to a heavier leash the same way they would respond to a heavy handed handler. The more sensitive the dog, the greater the need for a lighter leash. For some of the more physically powerful breeds, thicker is better. I’d rather not have to have a disagreement with a Rottweiler with a piece of string.

Rainy Days

by on January 26, 2012

Rainy days can really get you down, huh? Especially if you work with dogs.  Ask a dog-walker: Rainy days are tough.  I love rain, but after a minute it gets taxing. And I think I’m in the minority.  I think most mobile creatures prefer not-rain; and dogs are no exception. I’ve met a few dogs who either don’t notice or don’t care, but by and large dogs don’t like rain, any more than we do. But still, we all have to go outside.  Is there anything we can do to make it suck a little less?
Actually, yes, there are a number of things you can do…


the first, being get clear about what your intention for going outside is. Are you going out for a business walk? (“Pee Here Now,” clients, pay close attention!) Or are you going out for exercise/play/connection?  This matters in the way you set expectations for your dog.  This can determine whether or not you have a successful outcome.  If your dog expects to go for a long walk to the park every time you put the leash on, you might be in for a longer walk than you bargained for.  The city is full of reasons for dogs to not take an opportunity to go to the bathroom… and rain is one of the most compelling of them.  It’s difficult to just go to the bathroom right in the middle of everything and when your tense because you don’t like rain and being cold and wet, it’s not any easier!



The second is taking a minute to make sure all of your needs are met before taking your dog outside.  Since, in the city, we can’t just let our dogs out to go to the bathroom and get exercise, we have to take them out on a leash.  You’d be amazed the difference a little self-care before a walk in the rain can make.  Are you wearing the right gear?  Have you used the bathroom yourself?  Are you actually awake?  These things can make the difference between whether or not you enjoy the walk and therefor whether or not your dog does.  I keep a cap and slip on rain boots right next to the door with my leashes and poop-bags and a towel.  This way I don’t have to spend time hunting around for them while my dog does the I-Gotta-Pee dance.

Third:: Encourage a moment of play just before entering the building.  This slight increase in energy will encourage your dog to shake off, leaving the street water on the sidewalk, rather than inside your apartment.  Ask me how I figured out that one… I keep numerous towels next to my door to wipe off feet and wet coats… not just to save my furniture, but also because as much as I love ’em, Wet Dog is not a fragrance I’m going out of my way to experience with any kind of regularity.

I’m sure this is not exhaustive and that you have questions, so… Let’s have ’em?  ((Especially if they are house-training questions))


by on January 4, 2012

Tension is the marker.

Without tension, nothing can be initiated.  We have no way of knowing where to put our attention. Tension is focus.  Tension is effort. Tension is expertise and achievement.  

What sucks about our relationship to tensions is when we get stuck. Tension is designed to move into flow and flow into tension.  When we get stuck in tension we are stressed and tired and have a short fuse. When we get stuck in flow we are passive and disconnected and lethargic, like we have given up… And that’s because we have: we have given up tension.

My point is this: Neither tension or flow are good or bad: they just are.  The difference in how they manifest really comes down to the bias in which they occur, the psychic ecosystem, if I may be such an ass.  In a state distinguished by it’s filter for possibilities strategy, tension is how we begin things, it is the initiating feature of action.  Flow is the initiating feature of inaction; both perfect states of being.  It is our inner climate that makes the difference.

My other point though, is this.  For our purposes, tension is how we know where to put out attention next… so in a way you could say it is, “good.”  Think about it like a mental massage:  how do you know where to work?  Yeah.  Right there.

You might be thinking, how does this apply to dog training? Well, when you set out to change the behavior or the way of being of another, your attention is organized to sort for problems to fix.  This is how we notice for tensions, both in the body and in the attitude/energy of our dogs and ourselves. When we approach problems in this way we are bringing tension to tension and therefor contributing to the stuck-ness in this way.

So, I say it’s time to bring flow into our relationship with tensions… they are a signal from our body our the body of our working partner (dog) that something is happening, and there is a place to put our attention and love.
Do you notice tension in your dog when you’re working with her? How about the tension in your body when you’re working? How do you understand tension?  What do you do when you notice it?

Save the Pit Bull!!! ((From Herself.))

by on December 13, 2011

So my friends up and went to Argentina for a month, leaving in my care, their ornery, cat-killing, drama queen, blue-nosed pit, named Jada. Bitch. She is resistant, like pits often are but she’s also dubious, in general.  What’s up with this dog???

You know, I see stuff all the time that says, “Save the Pits!!!”  Or, “Save this Poor Dog!!!” And what really bothers me is that we don’t have to save them from euthanasia or neglect or any of that crap, we just have to stop doing it.  It’s not that hard, we just have to find a way… I mean, what is it? Money? Really?  I just don’t buy that.  We need to stop fighting and find solutions.

The real issue from what I can see is that they suffer.  I don’t mean from neglect or abuse or illness or anything like that.  I mean from just being weird… and Pits do this better than anyone, except maybe Chihuahuas.  And when I say, “suffer,” I mean SUFFER.  If you know pits you know what I’m talking about.  It’s that groan from across the room on the couch because it’s 3 o’clock.  Or that trauma about going through a doorway at the same time as you.  Or the unbearable wait for the right spot to pee, that can drag on for days.  I mean the most pathetic, Nobody-Loves-Me look that shames even adolescent goths and their razor blades.  This is serious! Has anyone considered a support group or a suicide hotline for these, the most depressed of dogs?

So, since I won’t even try to endure this for a month, I’m going to have to work with her… And Save Jada, from Herself.  I’ll keep you posted.

Oh, by the way, guys: You forgot to leave me her helmet.

Back to NYC Full Time

by on November 14, 2011

I am going to be in Brooklyn for the rest of 2011. I’ll be working with a few select clients over the next few months. If you get what I’m doing and want to work with me to deepen the experience, or amp up your training, give me a call.  I am still working with a couple of families upstate so I am not limited to Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Look forward to hearing from you.