My Blog

Understanding Separation Anxiety: Thorns to protect the rose

Can an undernourished, mistreated puppy overcome his fear and confusion to find love and understanding?

Though I rarely take phone calls while I’m on the road, I put Karen on speaker phone and let her talk. Referred by a close friend, she clung to our conversation like a life raft and revealed her dilemma.

Her niece had found a stray puppy and was taking it to a shelter. 

Learning to Give: Teach Your Dog To Share

Does this sound familiar? Your dog is holding a sock. You grab for it. Your dog makes a move. You make a move. Chaos ensues.

One of the most important lessons you can teach your dog this summer is to share: to spit out whatever is in his mouth. I like to use the word “Give.” Here’s how to play this new game!

Put some treats in a cup. Shake the cup and reward your dog when he begins to recognize the sound. If your dog isn’t nuts about treats, substitute a desirable toy and purchase several duplicates.

Avoiding Frustration: Worst Mother of the Year Award

Like everyone, I try to do my best by my kids.  Most of the time, I’m mindful…considerate of their budding feelings as I gently remind them of “society’s formula for living.” I’m cool with the slow progression of “fine motor skills,” though I do insist that my six-year old use a fork at the table.  I remember the thrill of jumping into autumn leaves, but street-side piles in our Katonah village hamlet are off-limits. As a parent, I feel that I’m fair-minded, loving, patient…a good mom. That said, the other night I awarded myself the “Worst Mother of the Year” trophy. Of course this isn’t the first time I’ve placed so highly in this ongoing, self-imposed competition—and I’m sure it won’t be the last—but here’s what happened. It all started with the floppy brown dog.

Struggling to Relax: Yoga and Agility

I recently took up yoga. Friends promised I would love it. I’d feel more limber, more relaxed. There was even a pose called Downward Facing Dog. How could I resist?

I bought a mat and signed myself up. The first few minutes were fine. We closed our eyes and sat cross-legged—the Lotus pose. Look at me! I thought. Doing yoga! Why, this is relaxing. And with that, the instructor gently suggested we do a sequence of moves called the Sun Salutation. Then Warrior. Cobra. And the final straw—the One-legged King Pigeon.

Is there a Woman Fleeing Yoga pose?

Understanding and Appreciating: What Children (and Puppies) Really Want

My son is almost two years old and he has a toy chest full of goodies: colorful, safe, interactive, educational, appropriate. And he walks (almost) right by that chest and heads for his two favorite playthings: a one-quart saucepan and an ornate brass candle snuffer. Both are metal, cool to the touch and satisfyingly noisy. If he could talk, I know he’d tell me “Listen Mom, forget the stuffed animals and plastic gadgets…just hand over what you’re holding.” It’s all he really wants.

Surviving the multi-pet household: Winky Saves the Day

Yesterday was the first full day of Lindsay’s summer vacation so I decided to do something memorably fun. I packed my little family into the van for A Water Park Adventure. Forty-five highway minutes away, it came highly recommended by some fun-savvy neighborhood kids. It was hot—but not too hot–and my kids love water…it sounded perfect. We left early to be right at the head of the line: get in, get wet, get home for Bodie’s one o’clock nap.


The day before had been a sunny 69 and as I drove around from appointment to appointment I dreamed of taking my youngest puppy—my two year old son somewhere special the next day. Just me and my boy: Mommy and me time to make up for my absence. The little thumbnails on my IPhone promised another sunny day. It was settled—we were going to Muscoot Farm.

Forgetting to actually look outside I got the kids dressed in shorts and tee-shirts, packed the camera, and was half way to drop off my daughter at school before I noticed the clouds.

Resource Guarding: School Budget

What does the school budget have in common with an aggressive dog? Two words: “resource guarding.”

In the dog world, resource guarding is a problematic behavior in which a dog uses aggression to guard possessions. Dogs have long lists of desirable, protection-worthy stuff including—but not limited to–food, toys, comfy beds and favorite people. Some dogs feel so strongly about their possessions that they growl and bare their teeth. Some even bite.

Aging and Separation Anxiety: Older Dogs Need Sympathy, Too

Meet Riptide, a twelve-year-old unaltered Jack Russell terrier who arrived at my training studio riding shotgun on the center console of his owner’s Chevy truck.  Dan emerged from the driver’s seat, whistling his aging comrade forth, and then yelling loudly as he wandered across the street and into the neighbor’s yard.

A few things were clear from the outset: Riptide was not an average student, and Dan was not my typical leash-in-hand client.

Trick Training: A Conundrum

There are few things that excite me as much as working with a “Trick Dog.”  Of course everything we teach dogs is a type of “trick”. However, a dog who is energized by challenges beyond the ordinary sit-stays : a dog who loves to learn to “Dance”, “Jump” or give a “Paw” …this type of dog is like a fresh mound of clay in my hands.  With clients I select a trick or two to enhance everyday life. “Fetch the diaper” is a big hit with the parent set, while “Jump through a hoop” is a winner with the 7-12 year old crowd, and everybody would far prefer their dog dance when greeting than claw for attention, but………….


Yesterday, Balder, Bohdie and I sat on a bench outside the grade school, waiting patiently for my 7-year old daughter, Lindsay, to emerge from the building. Finally, she appeared and dropped the bombshell: she wanted to make the ½ mile walk home — alone. I struggled to maintain my cool at this very literal leap towards independence but I managed to croak out a very nonchalant “Sure!” – even though I wasn’t. 

Moving Out: Life’s Reassurances

In less than 3 weeks, we’re moving out of the house I’ve raised myself in. For almost 16 years, I’ve lived in and loved my little village home. The memories that I’ve packed so tightly into it – of my kids, my husband, my dogs…pretty much my whole adult life – will follow me to my new home, but I look at all the boxes and I can’t help but feel nostalgic, emotional, a little sad and seriously, seriously tired.

Chicks and Cats

Last week, it was Lindsay’s turn to write her school’s morning message, a short, informative passage that is read over the PA system and broadcast to all the classrooms in her school. The night before, we sat together in my office, both of us writing. I tried to concentrate on my projects, struggled not to interfere or hover. I did my best to just work alongside her…two writers, hard at their craft. I peeked only once to see her biting her lower lip and concentrating on what began as an empty page. 

The Stay-Home Dog

Summer Travel Dog Care Options

If you plan to leave your dog at home, there are several options. Consider your dog’s personality and needs when making your choice. Here are some tips to determine which is right for your dog.

Boarding Kennel
For social dogs, this is like summer camp. If your dog is the life of the local dog park, a kennel is just one more place to meet and greet. Kennels are not great, however, for protective, solitary or clingy types. Visit the location in person beforehand.

Staying Safe in Summer

Everyone knows the number one dog safety tip: do not leave your dog in a hot car…not even for a few minutes. Here are some other tips to keep your dog safe and comfortable.

Water, water, water. Place dishes of fresh, clean water indoors and out, upstairs and down. On walks, hikes or other trips, Take along a collapsible bowl or dog water bottle to keep your pal hydrated.

Staying or Going: Should Family Vacation Include the Dog?

Do your summer plans include travel? Whether you’re prepping for a few days at the beach or a multi-state tour of Civil War battlefields, think about your dog before you finalize your plans.

People love to travel. We love to see new sites, taste new foods and meet interesting people. We pour over travel sites and pick places we know we’ll enjoy. We pull out our calendars and create an itinerary: leave on Friday, home on Tuesday. For the most part, we know what’s coming and where we’re going. Your dog…not so much.

Keeping Your Dog in the Kennel: Some Memories are Best Forgotten

Spring break is a funny thing. Sometimes you get balmy spring sunshine, sometimes you get…40 degree rain. Every day. Me, two kids, two dogs and a new bunny, all under one roof, watching movies, indoor camping and creating role playing games. (Bunny was an unimpressive T-Rex but an excellent baby zebra.) We ventured out once for an umbrella-assisted Easter egg hunt. When we arrived home eggless, wet and cold, I looked at my calendar: five more days of school vacation. I grabbed my laptop and booked a trip.

Destroying to Communicate: Silly Gilly

OK. It’s Monday and the holidays are behind us. This year, Christmas and New Year’s Day both fell on Saturdays, so I decided to completely unplug from work for one solid, neatly bookended week.

It was a deeply refreshing, family-centered week but sitting here at my desk this morning, I know why I love being a dog trainer and a writer. Sorting through the usual collection of emails, I found a fan letter from a dog loving reader...