Thursday, December 13, 2012


A gift for you!

* peace  *  companionship   *  joy  *  pleasure  *  healing *

…all things the canine brings to our world (just to name a few, that is!). Who knew that America’s favorite family pet could make such an impact in, on and for our lives? What a gift!

 A gift to the young man with physical limitations who lives alone in a large, empty home. Canine companionship offers him a constant in his world… a warm greeting upon coming home from his daily 14-hour work day. The evening training games, the feeding and walking routine fill his personal world with goodness. Suddenly, his home feels not so empty. Dogs do that…

A gift  to the high-drive, successful professional woman that lives alone and works alone, from home (longer hours than anyone I know). Canine companionship has offered her a connection that was missing from her world. Her dogs MAKE her take breaks throughout the day and oh the smiles they bring with their goofy little antics! Stress reduction at its finest! Suddenly, no longer a feeling of isolation. Dogs do that…

A gift  to the professional dog trainer who recently lost her working dog and still struggles with a gaping hole in her heart...the size of Texas. Canine companionship, with a new young Aussie, has given her hope…this pain WILL ease. Joy happens. Change is okay…suddenly loss does not sting so horribly. Dogs do that…

A gift  to the married couple that has desired a dog in the family for 9 years now, but delayed, for years, this decision since mama had a horrible experience with a dog in her childhood. Canine companionship, by a new and very lucky dog, offers another opportunity to grow together and completes this beautiful family! Suddenly, new memories are created. Dogs do that…

A gift  to a beautiful, caring mommy that was, herself, the victim of a dog attack at a young age. With two young children in the home, she bravely pushes outside of her own comfort zone in an effort to teach her children. She is now the proud owner of her first dog. A huge, gentle retriever who will change the way she views the canine animal and will teach her girls the goodness of pet ownership. Suddenly, healing begins. Dogs do that…

A gift  to the older woman (a single mom with grown children) who lives alone, with no family in town, and now has a community to support her. Canine companionship has opened up a world of new friends, hobbies, and responsibilities. Working partners, now, rally around her in good times and bad. Suddenly, again, her smiles shine with purpose. Dogs do that…

A gift  to the couple that cannot conceive children of their own. Canine companionship doesn’t change it AND it offers a caring man and woman the opportunity to BE a mommy and a daddy in a very unique and special way. Suddenly, there’s a healthy distraction and a full family. Coping happens. Dogs do that…

A gift  to the young dude in his late 20’s who struggles repeatedly to find just the right love to heal his heart. A love of which we are all worthy. Canine companionship offers him an outlet in between broken relationships. Always, that shepherd is there…waiting to care for her sheep. Suddenly, change can be okay because there’s always one constant. Dogs do that…

*Overcoming grief *Overcoming obstacles * Overcoming fear*   *Overcoming loneliness*

My gift to you todayturn around, take a look…there’s probably a little soul behind you breathing heavily, tail wagging, fish-breath ready to deliver sloppy kisses and undoubtedly ready to offer you an unconditional love for the remainder of his or her life. This gift, today, my friends, is to offer you a moment to slow down this holiday season and SEE it. Breathe it in. Rejoice in it and remember this most awesome experience (even if only a minute) of gratitude and love. Dogs do that!

Happy holidays. Thank you, as always, for sharing this journey of the canine with myself and my team! Paws up for you and your canine companion!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Compulsion Has No Home Here...

The dictionary's definition of compulsion speaks of an "urge to form a behavior against one's normal wishes".

Surely the idea has no home in the world

 of training animals.

Why not encourage a dog to do something with a reward...something she likes, something she enjoys? You'll feel better about it too!

Enjoy a beautiful relationship with your dog through nothing more than a respectful two-sided communication. Thank you for sharing such a great moment, Leslie!

I do know this...compulsion is sometimes used without making a conscious decision to do might stem from an old habit, actual instruction or acute frustration. Bottom line, if you are seeing it in your own daily habits or training repertoire, please don't feel ashamed or guilty, just change something! BE your own change! Learn a new way...a kinder, softer, gentler way!

Paws up!
Kimberly Burgan, CPDT-KA
Author of "Poppy and Puppy Are Friends"


"So true and well written, Kimberly. Works for 2 leggers also. I work better for something I like. And it's really great when the activity becomes the reward. I love the way my dogs light up when they hear "car" or "walk". And Sandy dances when she sees her Divine Canines vest. Happy well trained dogs make my life easier and more joyful." - Alice Aves, Austin, TX

Kimberly Burgan, CPDT-KA is the author of "Poppy and Puppy Are Friends: A Child's Introduction to Responsible Dog Ownership". This gem of a storyline for adults and children is now available for purchase at Amazon!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Forward Motion!

There will always be the loose dog that runs up on you, the responsible dog owner with YOUR dog(s) on leash. While complaining about it to your dog-owning community of friends may serve its purpose, it is not moving you forward. So, how do we move forward? We arm ourselves with the information we need to set our dog(s) up for success when it does happen.

You will never find yourself successful at changing the behavior of others, so let’s – for a moment – entertain the idea of changing our own behaviors? Join me!

While out for a jog this morning, I saw a man walking his two dogs on leash. It appeared to be a nice, pleasing and easy stroll until a nearby household opened the front door and out charged a young male shepherd mix. I watched, for a moment, from a distance. Dude, I hope that household has a solid recall, I thought. Nope. Even if she DID, wouldn’t this be a really hard one?

Note: If you can’t call your dog off of other dogs, don’t shame yourself, just set a new goal and work towards it! Training your dog to a higher level of reliability can be fun! Forward motion!
As I make my way towards the situation to assess and/or dive in to help out, I see the man with his two dogs come to a stop. While the dogs initially begin a pleasant and appropriate exchange, the man pulls up on his leashes and begins pulling the dogs backwards, towards him. Yikes. Restraint! It is awkward. Instantly, his own human behavior creates a greater stress for his dogs -- where there was very little before. The dogs begin moving against the owners pull (a natural opposition reflex) and a circular motion by all dogs begins. Leashes begin tangling. I shout out, “Sir, you’ll want to keep walking” as I approach closer, I have to repeat myself in a normal voice: “Sir, you’ll need to go ahead and keep walking”. “I am” he replies (he has no idea that he is, in fact, standing in place). “Sir, I can help you, but I need for you to keep your body moving in a forward motion. KEEP WALKING." The man continues to keep his feet planted in the same spot. Posturing begins. Note: this man offers the behavior of your typical dog owner. There is nothing wrong with what he has done, but you must see by now that he is not doing anything to promote a safe situation for his dogs. Do you see him inadvertently making the situation worse without a strategy? He is set in his own ways. His strong  default behavior prevents him from hearing the canine professional telling him exactly what to do.

Many times in life, not just dog training, we need to identify our weakness and just move forward. We get to do that today. Together.

1.      Keep moving! A forward motion actually gives your dog something constructive to do and without you realizing it, it likely changes your dog’s body posture to one that is more socially accepted by the oncoming canine. Your eyes, hips and shoulders should be pointed in the direction that you are moving (thus, in the direction in which you want your dog to move)…this “body language” speaks loud and clear to your dog “come with me”.  Note: Your initial movement should be to move away from, not towards (so this may require a 90 or 180 degree turn before you find your forward motion). Once you find that forward motion, however, do not deviate, regardless of where the other dog positions himself. Walk with purpose!

2.      Do not stop your body. A pause in your motion only introduces a greater ambiguity to the situation. Tell your dog WHAT you want by merely moving forward with your body. Move away from the situation. Don’t stop.

3.      Ignore the other dog. Do your best to focus on your own movements (forward) and allow the off-leash dog owner to handle her own dog. We all know it’s REALLY hard to reach in and grab circular moving dogs tangled in leashes. AND it only creates a greater duration of frustration for all. Your forward motion will also serve to get all the dogs moving in a linear path making it easier for the other handler to gain control.

4.      Refrain from tugging or pulling your dog towards you. A tight leash should only occur because you are moving forward and your dog is looking behind. When you do otherwise, you are making (yes…MAKING) your dog offer a posture that he/she would not have naturally offered. You have now created a bigger problem.

5.      Remain calm. BECAUSE YOU HAVE A PLAN NOW! Remaining calm and confident will only serve to create the same demeanor in your dog(s). This means that you should not be shouting out verbal commands to your dogs or to the other dog. This means that you should not be shouting at all. In fact doing so will only serve to increase arousal in all of the dogs i.e. you maximize potential for a dog fight when you insert your voice. Why? Because it is a stressed voice. Silently, communicate to your dog by your own forward motion. Oh…and once this situation is over, please, please don’t stand around yelling at the other person. Get out of there, move FORWARD! Your dogs do not need any more stress or arousal.

KB: In a slow, calm, low-toned voice I hear myself say “Sir, you MUST WALK FORWARD or drop your leashes. You are about to create a fight. I need you to hear me and MOVE FORWARD DOWN THAT SIDEWALK”.

Walk way and provide your dog
with the confidence in knowing
that you will lead!
He finally hears me. He begins moving his body forward. “Stop looking back” he hears me say. The leashes untangle, his leashed dogs are so grateful and pay no attention to the hoodlum who ran up on them (who was just curious). Yeah, so...all his dogs wanted to do in the first place was what? Have their space. Yes. They just wanted the opportunity to offer their own greeting and then continue on their walk, the same route they take every single day. His dogs craved forward motion. The dogs knew exactly what to do. Do you see? Owner behavior, in this instance, prevented the dogs from having what could have been just a neutral experience. Owner behavior created the tension where there was none before. Forward motion was the answer all along! The woman from the home is able to grab her dog because now everyone is moving smoothly in the same direction. The whole thing resolves itself. The answer, here, it is crystal clear: it is forward motion.

Rehearse it. Picture it. Visualize yourself offering this behavior to your dog before the incident occurs. Know your strategy and I promise you WILL minimize the potential for greater conflict.
If you find your eyes right HERE…I congratulate you for reading this and adding to your own dog training toolbox. Responsible Dog Ownership at its finest!

Paws up! ~ Kimberly
Kimberly Burgan, CPDT-KA and Author of “Poppy and Puppy Are Friends: A Child’s Introduction to Responsible Dog Ownership | Dog Training in Austin, Texas
AVAILABLE NOW! “Poppy & Puppy Are Friends” written by Kimberly Burgan, CPDT-KA and illustrated by Christy Stallop at: A children’s book about kids and dogs and responsible dog ownership.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Scout It Out, Old Boy!

As a professional dog trainer, I come to know many of my canine clients and their owners in the most intimate of ways. Together, we travel on a journey called understanding and growth. Scout's journey came to an end today. Hemangiosarcoma, the dreadful cancer - common to the Labrador - that took my Bailey Burgan just 375 days ago, claimed another canine life. I know all too well the steps that Scout's faithful owners took, today, to give him the most peaceful exit to this life and most beautiful entrance to his next life. And I remember all too well Scout's owners holding me through Bailey's most critical moments...talking me through the night. Holding me through what I didn't know would become the end.

Really, over time, each of these dogs takes hold of a special place within my heart. Then, when it is time to let go, each takes a piece of my heart with them. This dog, however, will take a piece of my soul. He is quite possibly the most inspiring dog I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Surely, one of the best "books" I've ever had the opportunity to read.

For the last two and a half years, I've  worked with Scout weekly. He's anything but graceful. Old, arthritic, blind and losing his hearing but with a brilliant Labrador zest for life and desire to live, learn and earn! He likely taught me more than I could have ever taught him. Scout role modeled perseverance and tenacity. He exuded bravery. He taught me to always, always, always get up after falling down and to do so with a smile. He always found something...anything to be happy about, even throughout rounds of chemotherapy. Correction. He always found something to be THRILLED about! This is a dog that never gave up on anything or the possibility of everything!

Scout taught me, too, to always carry a spare set of pants with me. As one of six dogs (but the only blind canine), he apparently decided that there was NO WAY that anyone was getting the liver treats from my pocket but him and him only. The only problem was that he, um, he took my whole pocket. In a split second "said pocket" was gone! of my pants leaving a gaping hole of bare KB skin. He promised he didn't "see" anything! Yeah, KBDT Outdoor Adventures was, in fact, rather adventurous that day! Note to self: add spare set of clothing to training bag in the future!

Who needs eyesight when you are a dog with such vision?

My dear Scout, for 14 years, you faithfully brought peace, joy, comfort and inspiration to others, it is now time to go find your own. Go "see" again. Go "hear" again. Go "run" again, without pain, without tripping, without bumping, without falling. May the scent of lavender provide you with an endless olfactory memory of retrieval games with your mommy and daddy that loved you and gave you everything, always...and then some. Go chase lizards with my Bailey. Swim with her, for miles, and return to dry land to shake it off and then find Mr. Mannix, again. Take in his scent, for all of us, and just "be" all that is you! Scout it out for us, old boy, and we'll see you again someday!

In loving memory of Scout.
He knew joy. He knew life. He KNEW life ♥
September 6, 1998 - June 28, 2012
It has been said, that it is a fearful thing to love what death can touch. I get that. But, with a deep breath...and without fear, I'll say that after seven years of watching this amazing creature, learning from him, and at times drawing strength from him, I would not have had it any other way. We love big and we lose big...but we love!

My deepest condolences to Scout's family, both human and canine. I remember with you. I sit with you. With love and so much gratitude, Kimberly

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Like A Whisper

“Our life dreams the Utopia. Our death achieves the ideal.” – Victor Hugo
As the second anniversary of his death approaches, there’s an anxiety stirring up within many of us who miss Lee Mannix beyond words. We all know it is there, May 2, a date right around the corner that will bring to surface a gut-wrenching pain and for some, an anguish. We reach out to one another in a calm, evasive way to “check in”. Vague in our responses, but encouraging, we remind one another that he is looking down and smiling – on each of us – that carry on his work or simply carry on his dream.

Photo by Lara Gale
In death, I have to believe he is living the ideal…because I know he dreamed the "Utopia" during his time with us, here on earth.

Lee Mannix dreamed BIG and he shared his dream with so many of us. Some of us chose to accept such a dream and build with him, others frowned on his efforts as he did theirs. He was a cocky young pup with a “my way or the highway” approach…but through HIS dream, he shared a beautiful gift, with so many…                                

“Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together.” – Eugene Ionesco

He gifted the pet dog owner a down-to-earth way to better understand these beloved animals we call “companions” thereby creating a two-sided communication leading to greater relationships.

He gifted shelters and sanctuaries ingenious ways to improve quality of life for dogs during their stay, regardless of their fate.

He gifted countless rescue organizations his time and energy to aid them in saving one dog at a time and shared, too, the gift of letting go.

He gifted the pet therapy world a vision of animal assisted therapy available to dogs in need of jobs resulting in greater rehabilitation for all involved.

He gifted young, rookie dog trainers a chance to grow and fulfill their own dreams in the dog industry…helping dogs and helping people help dogs.

He gifted the canine. Oh God, he gifted the canine. An eternal gift, of sorts. In his death, above the clouds we know he continues his work with the companions we've lost...and here on earth, in the work of many of us (because he gave so much), he will continue to gift the canine. Eternally.

“You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving.”  – Author Unknown

And finally, the gift that changed my world…
On a silver platter, he handed me every bit of his knowledge, skill and talent; every bit of his passion. He never held back (except maybe when he was yelling at me…pushing me, the only way he knew how, to be better). He shared with wisdom, experience, and skill through smiles, laughter, blood and tears. Lots of smiles and so many tears…vividly, they fill my mind now. My goodness, I miss him. He watched me grow from a rookie crying in the middle of my first group class, to the professional who now holds the hand of rookies crying in the middle of their first group class! Lee Mannix entered my world as my mentor. Lee Mannix left this world as one of my very closest friends. He knew me inside and out, without words…he knew my heart, he knew my dream, he knew my passion…and my most prized notion – brought to me by Bart Emken – he knew my potential.  

In his dream, he was imperfect…in his training (though effective and naturally damn good), he was imperfect…as a man, he was imperfect…but in his gifts, he was beautifully perfect.

Last year, I spent this time (the first anniversary of Lee's death) in Utah, in Zion, alone and searching for some sort of peace. Zion is where I learned that a soul can scream louder than loud in anguish. The echo, I remember, exemplified the hurt of many others I knew were right there with me, in spirit, holding my hand as I faced my own grief…as I faced my own loss and each of theirs as well. This year, that scream remains within my own body. The screaming, you see, it is still there…the loss…the anguish…the grief. It is all still there. I wonder, with tears, when will it fade? When will it get softer? I need this hit to be softer. And as I hear myself scream – inside my own body – under my breath, I realize that I hear no echo this time. I’m not screaming out loud anymore. It must be softer, like a whisper.

Rest in peace, Mannix. ~ Kimberly

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bite to the face...who bit who?

This is a real bummer situation for all involved. Our prayers are with all who are suffering the consequences. Nobody did anything "wrong"...but nobody really did anything "right" either. Net/net, it is a great learning opportunity for many.

SEE NEWS STORY/VIDEO CLIP: "Rescue dog bites news anchor in face"

Let us all understand a few things:

*There are consequences for getting nose-to-nose with a dog. This is NOT even acceptable human-human behavior.
**There are even greater consequences for getting nose-to-nose with a dog you do not know.

***There are even greater consequences for getting nose-to-nose with an unfamiliar dog, under stress (uh, maybe a new environment, being restrained by the collar, surrounded by camera men, get the picture!).

****There are even greater consequences for getting nose-to-nose with an unfamiliar dog, under stress, who has undergone either a series of multiple low-level stressors or a single enormous stressor in the last 72 hours.
Do you see now, the build up? Do you see how how something like this happens? Humans explain it using phrases like "out of the blue, the dog bit her face"; we often hear this from parents of bitten children (and so often to the face). Really, it is not something that occurs "out of the blue". As soon as we get that, people and dogs will be safer together...and dogs will not be blamed for "the bite". Education will help us attain such a goal!

For those that are here to learn, this is what we call "pushing a dog beyond bite threshold". Unfortunately, it is the dog, possibly his owner, and certainly the canine community that suffers the greatest consequence here.

This news anchor ended up with a different storyline for the day and likely learned a LOT from it, as did thousands of viewers. Common sense keeps us safe...even a little bit of knowledge goes a long way. This one is a bummer. Let us all learn from it.

Kimberly Burgan, CPDT-KA
KBDT | Austin, TX

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Awakening the Body and the Mind

I arrived at class today, not knowing what to expect. The standard meet-and-greet rituals took place before everyone relaxed and sat down. The instructor, along with many of the other participants, were all communicating fluidly using words and gestures that I didn’t understand at all! I felt a little left out…unsure of what to do, but there I sat, because that is what I was told to do.