So you think education is plagued by solutionism, evangelizing experts, and extreme viewpoints that make people choose camps– it’s nothing compared to the world of information about… dog training. Talk about voracious blog commenting and virtual rock tossing!

My new sweet dog Felix has one major problem- he does not like being left alone. This makes it hard to go shopping for food, or just to take a bike ride. In one short experiment, in less than 45 seconds of leaving for a trip to the shed, I found him standing on my dining room table (over an open laptop), pawing at the blinds.

I’ve started some short experiments with leaving him in a crate; I turn on a video on my laptop, and drive around the block in my truck (yes, it’s not easy to watch, but its instructive).

The “experts” are rather convincing. You have Cesar Milan with his “way” as the “Dog Whisperer” being something short of a cult and something very much an enterprise. It’s all about asserting control as the alpha. Then there is another viewpoint I turned on to, the Natural Dog Training camp, Kevin Behan et al who profess its more about understanding and tuning into the flow of energy in and out of your dog.

And there are thousands more experts. This guy’s video I came across in trying to learn about separation anxiety:

He does not use any dog toys, only antlers. He wants all walks tightly controlled. No play in the house. Lots of commands. I got a few ideas from him, but I’m not taking it all.

Yet the logic comes down (which he says a lot) — if you want to believe this works, see my dogs I’ve trained. Each expert thus tells you their methods are extensible to your situation… why? because they can put on camera the ones that have succeeded.

I am not doubting their techniques, but there is no one, whisperer or not, that really knows what’s in a dog’s mind. Not one dog has spoken of their true nature, interests, or motivation. It’s all projection.

Can you follow a leap perhaps to educational experts? Just because they can show some success on camera, or tote out a version of Dog Anxiety Reducer Air Blast Can, there is one thing they cannot do– they do not know what you know about your dog. Experts cannot see your context, and they will never never ever know it as well as you. You are more equipped than them.

Even if you feel like you really have no expertise with your learning or your dog, you are the closest to knowing it, you have more information than Cesar or Kevin or whome-ever.

This is not to dismiss expertise, but to leave it in its place, as maybe a suggestion, something to try, but not something you have to adopt like a religion.

It sure would be nice if all I had to do was follow every step in the book or video, but at some point, you really have to blend it all with your own awareness and intuition.

Yeah, I am not being an enforcer of a Furniture Rule… but this dog has only been with me less than 2 weeks, he’s coming off some trauma of previous owner and stays in the animal shelter, and he is not with me for boot camp. And it’s my couch, damnit (well now it’s Felix’s too).

Maybe I will be in trouble later or not being militant, but I gotta do this my way. Leave the experts to their video channels.

Top / Featured Image: screenshot from “Standard YouTube Licensed” video Separation Anxiety Can be Stopped by Solid K9 Training

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. In my corner, we support Relationship-based Training. Contol the environment to limit the possibility of bad behaviour, make sure the dog’s needs have been met, work to improve communication – both ways, and make desired behaviours rewarding. Sounds like what you are doing.

  2. Remove the blinds

    And there is no video, so your criticism is invalid!

    Ours tore down the crappy lace curtains. Reason being he is looking for you, and they are in the way. Nothing stopping him seeing you, or in this case, not seeing you. Eventually ours goes to sit somewhere else and is ok ish.

  3. Friends don’t let friends inflict Cesar Milan* on their new canines — and the air blaster will only make separation anxiety worse. Felix is a lucky dog to have found you. That’s why he’s so freaked out when you have the audacity to leave him. Gently (or perhaps roughly)-used as he is, it will take him a while to adjust and realize that the Levine household is one of security and soft couches, and that its his for the long haul. I salute your nod to owner’s intuition. You are the only one who can really help Felix become the fabulous companion he can be. If you do want to consult an expert – try Patricia McConnell ( IMO she is the WordPress of dog trainers — because she takes human behavior seriously as well. There’s also a wonderful (short) book by Carol Lee Benjamin that has lots of good tips for working with rescued dogs: *(Google “What’s wrong with Cesar Milan” if you need convincing on this one.)

  4. Yes yes yes. Also applies to parenting. Also applies to your ownself dealing with different students/dogs/kids – different times of ur life, different contexts (not just individuals). And even those who can speak back to you (like adult students) may not even always know how to express what they want or ….know what they need. Am a big fan of learning what experts say then picking and choosing. In Arabic we have a saying that difference of opinion/tastes is a good thing or else no one would buy anything. Difference in expert opinion literally invites u to choose w ur intuition and local knowledge bits and pieces. It would be different if experts agreed…. On sthg like…. Chemical reactions or something. Even medicine gives u leeway coz it involves humans who aren’t identical in many ways

  5. Check comment spam folder for a comment I left yesterday that is not spam? Might help? Felix is lucky to have you.

  6. Well, if I had a dog, he would certainly sit on the couch! And sleep on the bed.
    I wonder what people shrinks do about separation anxiety? Peter gets it if I’m gone too long or range too far–not pathologically, thank heavens. Probably humans would get a mild tranq during separation events.
    Keep on doing heart science–you and Felix will figure it out between you!
    (Did you that wonderful book about a dog named Merle? That owner was doing heart science, too.)

    1. Heart science? Really? Sounds like a paradox… Unless it is meant as a joke? (err when u mean emotions not cardiology)

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