Animal Training

Training refers to the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies.    -Wikipedia


I have animal training on my mind lately, as I have been playing with clicker training my two cats, two horses, and one rabbit. Clicker training is a system of training using a sound marker for a yes answer followed by something the animal likes as a reinforcement of the behavior (usually food).  My cats like the concept of treats being handed out but haven’t become interested in the idea of performing a task. I will probably let those two have a free pass (they are cats after all).  Mallory, our pony, enjoys the training immensely. She shows up every day excited to learn.  Mostly we just play with tricks. She nods her head “yes” and we are currently working on “no” so we can have silly conversations (she does not comprehend the meaning of the head nods, to her it is just a trick). She also enjoys obstacle courses. Cat, our other horse, enjoys the training but gets a bit stuck sometimes. I am looking into her gut health as I feel she may have something going on preventing her from enjoying food. And then there is Ton Ton! He is by far the fastest learner in my household.  He is crazy for clicker training, and can’t wait to get to work. He vigorously reminds me if I have forgotten a session.

Some wonder why I would clicker train my animals when I can communicate telepathically with them. And for me the answer is “mostly for fun”.  Why go for a hike with a friend when you can just sit around and talk? Because, most beings in this physical world enjoy being physical.  Why not train them telepathically instead of clicker training? Well I do train telepathically too, but often learning to do a physical activity is easier when practiced not just conceptualized. With my horses the training also has practical applications, helping then understand behaviors that keep us all safe.

Most cats seem to prefer telepathic training over physical, and with any species telepathy is always helpful to jump start a training session.  Understanding in advance what is planned can help the animal learn faster in the physical session. Here is the condensed version of how to train using telepathy:  Simply mediate with the animal in mind, and show them what you want by imagining a movie filled with emotions, sounds, sights, and smells. Focus only on what you want and the emotion associated with what you want. Repeat this every day until the animal understands. At my animal communication workshops we expand on that simple training meditation.

Some people resist clicker training as they feel they shouldn’t have to pay their animal for doing their job, they should just do it out of love, loyalty, or morality. Look at the example of a dog coming when called: some say the dog should just want to “come” because he loves them.  Well here is what the dogs think: I love my person. I also love to chase squirrels, and when the opportunity arises I will do that, and then I will go to my person. My person’s love will always be there but this squirrel is fleeting. The dog is treating your calling him to come as optional because it is part of a loving relationship not part of a job (not well reinforced). So, here’s the deal: we all like to be paid for our work. The payment reinforces the behavior. Animals don’t care about money, so food is a good universal currency. Yes, some animals will accept physical affection and play as payment too. Horses often accept rest (a break), release of pressure, or praise as reinforcement (but honestly most still prefer food!)

For some animals and people training is optional and just for fun. For certain dogs and horses it is essential for them to learn how to live safely amongst humans. Fortunately, most dogs and horses also feel more comfortable and confident when they have a job and know how to do their job.  Being trained does not take away from their individual personality or enjoyment of life, it just helps them live more easily in domesticity. Also, relating with humans in such direct ways, through various training methods, can be very fun and enriching.

If you have naturally well behaved, safe animals living with you then fantastic, you can enjoy them as they are (like my cats) or you can train for fun (like my rabbit). If you have a horse or dog who needs to understand you in order to be safe, please consider combining telepathy with positive reinforcement training.

Mallory Riding

Mallory and Sierra have a riding/training session every afternoon. Here we are backing up on a loose lead. Sierra is holding onto a balance rein which has not been introduced as a cue for Mallory yet.


Check out a video of Ton Ton training.

Bramley’s Eulogy

I brought Bramley home when he was just a baby. I wanted him to bond with me and feel comfortable in our home, so I paid constant attention to him. I literally pet and hugged him every 45 minutes all day for weeks. I remember the first time he licked me- right on the nose. It was so surprising and cute!  Eventually licking became his signature affection/obsession. He was so friendly- as soon as anyone showed him affection, he would lick them. Only a month before his passing he licked his vet when the vet took a moment to pet him during an exam. Bramley knew how to make everyone feel special, and it was so genuine- he really loved people.

Throughout his life he was magnetic- charismatic- impressive. Without exception, everyone who met him was in awe. We had a door to door vacuum salesman forget his job and play with Bramley- he sent photos on his cell phone to his wife! At the time this attention was often attributed to his gigantic size, but the day he left his body I realized that it was all about the spirit that was shining through that magnificent physical form.  His vet was out of town the day he needed help out of his body. We went to a new clinic, and each person who saw him reacted just as people always had- tremendous admiration. His spirit shined so bright they barely noticed his emaciated body- they just saw the beauty that we had always seen.  Then, when he left his body I watched as his face changed. His body just looked like a rabbit- no longer so charismatic and amazing. I felt so much relief when I saw that because it was confirmation that who I loved all these years was Bramley’s spirit- not the body. (It would have been so hard to bury him if his face hadn’t changed.)

It is feels impossible to quantify how much Bramley gave to our family. He loved our daughters and took an active role in raising them since they were babies. He loved our kittens and cuddled with them often- creating photos that have delighted thousands. He assisted my animal communication workshops. He laid on my chest and cuddled me every evening. He snuggled Tim. He would get excited when he heard fruit and vegetables being chopped on the cutting board. He wrote a book, Bramley’s Little Sister.

Bramley’s personality was so simple and obvious. Telepathy with him was only a bonus- everyone could easily interpret his thoughts through his actions. His wisdom was in his love and generosity. I have always enjoyed sharing photos of Bramley, because so much of what he had to offer can transcend even the two dimensional limitations of a photo.

Even knowing his spirit lives on, even enjoying my memories, even looking at the photos… cannot take away the painful feeling that he is not here physically anymore.  I talk with clients so often about losses like this, I have been in this place many times myself, and each time I think I can’t possibly have another animal in my life that I could love as much- and then I do.  I will always love Bramley- and right now it hurts to lose his furry body, however we know he lives on in spirit and memory.

Animals Communicating with Each Other

I communicate with animals telepathically, but can animals communicate with each other telepathically?  Yes!

Many households are comprised of several species.  In my case we have humans (adults, toddler, baby), cats, rabbit, and the (outdoor) horses.  And everyone communicates with everyone.  Mostly, however, the animals are just “being”; not chatting, gossiping, thinking…

My experience has been that many species use their natural languages: voice, body language, and telepathy to convey in the moment thoughts with one another.  They don’t tend to discuss experiences, or thoughts outside of the present.  They do say, “hey, let’s snuggle together”; they don’t tend to say, “hey, did you notice our person bought a new car last week?”

So if they can communicate with each other, then why don’t they get along?  Well, I am sure you can think of a few experiences where you lived with someone who spoke the same language as you, and yet you found yourself not getting along!  Telepathic communication does not replace instincts such as cats being afraid of dogs who chase them, cats feeling territorial when a new cat arrives, dogs distrusting the UPS guy, etc.  For the sake of survival it is a good thing that your hamster doesn’t try negotiating a peace agreement with the huntress cat telepathically (although I have seen a few succeed at that!)

Here are a few recent stories of inter-species communications from my own household:

Calvin and Number Five are one-year-old brothers.  Recently Calvin hurt his paw in a harrowing experience.  In the process of that event his body literally smelled like fear.  When he came back into contact with Number Five, the reunion was anything but loving.  Five smelled him and then attacked him.  He was reacting to the smell of fear.  This is a common cat exchange that puzzles many of my clients.  If they can communicate with one another why is Five being so “mean”?  Well, this is a natural, instinctual reaction to the smell of fear.   For Five it was not a time for “talking”, it was a time for immediate action.
I separated them for the moment, and communicated with both of them about what had happened and what needed to happen from then on.  I assured Five that he was safe and did not need to attack his brother.  Later that day I found them sleeping on opposite sides of our bed.  I needed to go upstairs for a few minutes and Sierra offered to take care of Calvin.  She gave him her favorite bunny and read him a book (Five was there, in the background of this photo).

After Five had witnessed Sierra’s calm kind way of being with Calvin, he got up and cuddled with his brother.

Bramley and the cats often communicate through touch and telepathy.  Bramley is often asking the cats to snuggle with him.  This photo series captures a moment where Calvin was crowding Bramley and being a little too “paws on”.  Bramley telepathically told Calvin to move over and Calvin replied by nuzzling his cheek.  Bramley gave in and tucked his face in for a good long afternoon of cat cuddling!

My neighbor’s horses are so much fun to watch while they graze in my field.  My favorite is when they challenge each other to a race.  The start line is about 100 yards away at the brook and the finish line is just before the fence near my house.  One will “say” go, and the other three will follow.  The other day I saw Spike get a late start, and he charged with all his might.  When he saw Hawk cross the finish line he was still about 15 yards behind.  He was so mad he started bucking.  I could literally see them all discussing the race results!

Horses, like most herd animals, are in constant contact with one another.  They are always deciding where to go; the brook, in the barn, the shade, the apple tree, etc.  They all take turns watching for predators, and they take care of one another when one wants to lay down for a nap.  They also bicker sometimes, but they say it is all part of being a herd.

The Many Gifts of May

In December 1997 I was graduating from college and preparing to move from my family home into my own apartment.  I was setting up my animal communication practice and looking forward to new adventures.  We had three cats and a rabbit at my family home but none of them were available to come live with me.  I started hoping for a cat friend.

Several weeks later a six-month old gray kitten followed our neighbors and their Golden Retriever into my father’s workshop during a snowstorm.  As soon as I met her I was in love.  She told me that her name was May.

The two of us were fast friends and we moved together into a small apartment with my friend and her Chihuahua.  May could not have been happier.  She loves dogs!  Several months later one of my clients had a pregnant cat, the kittens were born on July 19th 1998 .  At four weeks old, May and I agreed on a kitten- Nikita, but waited until he was eight weeks old before he came home to live with us.  A few months later on November 1, 1998 I met my husband, Tim.  The four of us became a family.

Over the years we all welcomed a few new family members, and had a few losses along the way as well. The four of us remained a unit until May 4, 2009.  That is the day we said farewell to May in her physical form.  She has been by my side for all of my “grown-up” life; my business, my marriage, raising children, everything.  I don’t think I can explain how much I appreciate her, and love her in spirit, and yet miss her so much here in the physical realm.

One week before May died she told me that she was ill and dying.  For two days it felt inevitable and surreal at the same time, she didn’t really look that bad (and she was only 12).  I decided I needed to know why- medically- she was dying so I took her to her vet.  Dr Phillips confirmed the situation and told me that May’s heart was failing.  There was nothing to be done, and May had already told me that.  We went home together hoping to have a few good weeks.  We only had two days, and May couldn’t breathe, so we took her to the vet to help her leave her body.  She felt tremendous relief and peace upon leaving her body.

May was a partner in my animal communication practice, she gave input on consultations sometimes, and was almost always on my lap or desk during work.  She was teacher to those who attended my workshops, she often taught one or two of the connecting with an animal segments.  She was a friend to Bramley and Nikita, a quiet observer of my children, a companion to my husband and I, and she gave me a big warm hug every night before bed.  I have so many photos of her and I wish I had more.  I have many memories of her and still wish for more.

Our first photo together in January 1998.

May loved Tim.  She also loved Bramley, and gave him a gentle forehead bump as a greeting everyday.

As the co-founder of Dawn’s Animal Connection, May often slept on the job.

Nikita grieved for May for several weeks, but has recovered and is starting to befriend the kittens.

It took May almost a year to fully accept Sierra, but eventually they became very good friends.  Sierra’s gentle ways and appreciation for May brought them together.  The morning that we took May to the vet, we told Sierra that it was time for May to leave her body.  As we bustled around trying to get ready, Sierra sang Twinkle Twinkle to sooth May.  I happened to catch the moment on video (click here to see this video).

Photo on Right: Sierra age 1 with May.

After Hannah was born my lap was in high demand.  Here you can see May was making the best of it.

Releasing Fear

I took my two-year-old daughter to the doctor for a blood test and, needless to say, it was a very stressful event for both of us.  She talked about it that day as we drove to the co-op for lunch, but as the days went by it seemed forgotten.  Fast forward to one week later.  We were driving to the co-op again and she was complaining about the long car ride.  I said, “look out the window and you will see we are very close”.  She looked, then said, “Mama my arm hurts.”  “Really”, I said, “what happened?”  She replied, “two ladies stuck a sharp thing in it.  Mama it really hurts!”

I realized that the view out the window at that moment was the same as what she was looking at one week ago when her arm really was hurting.  This visual association took my live-in-the-moment toddler back to the past, and it felt real to her.

Many of my animal clients experience such fear by association episodes, and I have been experimenting with ways of helping them let go of the fear.  I use the technique with all species, but dogs seem to benefit most from this particular fear releasing meditation.

First, a clarification of living in the moment.  Most animals live in the moment all of the time.  However their past can affect their mental and emotional development, so they’re in the moment experiences can still be colored by past good or bad experiences.  Sometimes, as in the case with my daughter, the past can jump into the present moment when a memory is triggered by a sight, sound, smell, or other sensory input.  For example, I have one client with two cats that used to get along.  They had one terrifying experience, which lead to transferred aggression (one cat attacked the other) and now the house where they had their fight constantly keeps them in the experience of strife.  But, when they go to another house, they slowly integrate back into getting along.

What can you do if your animal is fearful?  The first step is to identify the fear or trigger.  One client called me when their dog Simon stopped eating.  They didn’t know if he didn’t like his food or if he was sick.  He had a different story altogether.  He had become afraid of his food bowl.  He is already a very sensitive guy, and when his collar contacted the bowl and made a noise he had become frightened.  The solution in this case was easy.  Reassure him and change the bowl!

On another occasion Simon became afraid of walking down the hallway past the door to the basement.  He let us know that he had seen the plumber man go down but never saw him come up.  He was afraid this man was lurking behind the door.  Poor Simon!  In this instance his fear was not as easily alleviated.  I tried my fear releasing meditation with him (see below to try it with your own animal friends).  He slowly felt better about the hallway, but it was not an overnight cure.  Of course we all know from our own experiences that letting go of a fear is an inner journey that usually takes time.

I would like to reassure you by letting you know that animals are not usually in a constant state of stress.  When they are faced with a fear or a reminder of a fear then they are fully engaged in that moment of fear.  But, when they are away from the situation, (such as Simon when he was in the yard instead of the hallway), they are happy and present with themselves in the moment.

(Thank you to Liz and Dianne for the handsome photos of Simon.)

Simon was not moping in the yard thinking, “Oh dear how am I going to live with that scary man in the basement.”  He wasn’t thinking about it at all, because he wasn’t looking at his trigger, the door.  Sometimes humans can accidentally create more drama around a fear by talking about it and worrying about, bringing it into the present moment more often than necessary.

There are many ways of working on releasing fears.  Re-associating the trigger with something positive can be very helpful.  i.e. if a dog is afraid of men, you can give him tons of delicious treats every time he sees a man.   I highly recommend the TTouch technique for helping animals release the fear from their bodies and cellular memory..  You can also try my meditation…

Fear Releasing Meditation

1)    Imagine the answer to the following question or have a consultation with me to find out… “What are you feeling?  Please show me exactly how this fear feels to you emotionally and physically.  Tell me what you think about this fear.”

2)  Repeat what you understood back to the animal.  Show them that you understand.  Don’t judge or tell them that the feeling is irrational or wrong.      Do not tell the animal that their feelings are unjustified.  Don’t say, “Thunder is nothing to be scared of.”  Invalidating feelings does not help; showing them a different way to feel does help.

3)  Meditate, imagining the scene from your animal’s perspective. Start from the most difficult point of the fear experience.  Then gently imagine a step they could take (emotionally) to feel better.  Don’t rush; just slowly imagine the physical surroundings remaining the same, but the feelings get better.  Example: A dog is afraid of thunder.  He feels like he can’t breathe and is terrified.  You go inside of that perspective (imagining the thunderstorm).  Gradually feel a physical relief in the breathing and gently imagine less fear.

4)  Repeat this meditation everyday for a few weeks, if you notice the fear response lessening then continue the mediation as needed.

Driving Horses

We share our property with my neighbor’s herd of Haflinger horses.  Most of the year the pasture belongs to the horses and I take the occasional walk-through to enjoy the wild flowers.  In the winter I enjoy cross country skiing, and the pasture is the perfect place when I don’t have time to leave home.

I usually ski with my daughter in a sled that gets pulled behind me.

A few weeks ago I headed into the pasture with four of the horses and they reacted with disbelief.

Hawk, the lead horse, took one look at me and the sled, and bolted.  The others followed.  They ran around getting more and more agitated.

I left the pasture and asked my neighbor if they would hurt us and he said, “not on purpose”.  I went back to the pasture and checked in with the horses.  I felt they would not be harmful, they were just startled.

After my second lap of the pasture they were still upset and it finally occurred to me to talk with them.

“Hey, guys, you are all driving horses.  You have all pulled a cart behind you.  How can this possibly be so foreign to you?”, I asked.

A calm look came over all of their faces.  “Oh, you’re driving!”, Hawk said.

“Yes!  Now please stop running around, you are making me nervous”, I said.

 After that they slowing walked behind the sled, enjoying the concept of a human doing the pulling for a change!

Naming Kittens

We spent several weeks calling the new kittens “Black” and “Gray” because none of us could come up with the right names.  Then “Black” got into serious trouble with me.

At the time my baby, Hannah, was only two months old and needed to nurse often.  Black would harass Hannah while she was nursing to the point where I had to lock him in a room during every feeding (1/2 of the day!).  It became very frustrating and upsetting for all of us.  I tried every way I knew to explain things to him and he would not listen. Finally one day I lost my temper and told him that I wasn’t committed to keeping him and if he couldn’t behave better I would send him back and only keep his brother.  He was shocked and immediately changed the behavior for twenty-hours.

That night I was talking to someone on the phone after my girls were in bed and I said that if I kept the black kitten, he would be my fifth pet.  He was listening.

The next morning my two-year-old, Sierra, was playing hide and seek and calling, “Number Five, where is you?”  I thought she was talking to a stuffed animal  but when “Black” came around the corner she exclaimed, “Number Five there you is!”

Sierra is a natural with the animal communication and it was clear that Number Five had giving himself a name and communicated it to my daughter.  It is a name with staying power (the power to stay and remain the fifth pet).

Since then Number Five has been trying and with the help of neutering and homeopathy, his behavior is dramatically better.  We love him and I let him know I was very sorry for what I said.

“Gray” still needed a name.  One day my husband, Tim, walked past him and said, “Hey casual Calvin.”  We all agreed it is a very nice name and suits him well, so welcome Calvin!

Bramley continues to be madly in love with Number Five and Calvin.  They cuddle on the couch every afternoon and I could not resist including photos of the love.

Communicating with Animals is Natural

My daughter, Sierra, is sixteen months old and communicates with animals every day.  She inspires me to be a better animal communicator.   I see how animals respond to her and I realize some “grownups” are missing qualities that really attract animals to her.

Here is what I have observed:

  • Sierra views animals as equally important beings in a room.  When she enters a space she immediately says “Hi” to the humans and animals one at a time.  Nikita is never just a cat sleeping on the couch.  He is important and loved.  She walks up right to him, looks him in the eye and says, “Nik! Hi!”.  This is not the type of greeting Nik appreciates from most humans.  I asked him why he accepts such forward behavior with Sierra but not with other people.  He said, “She is pure joy with no expectations.  She just wants to be with me– she doesn’t want something from me.”  I asked, “What do you mean ‘from me’?”  He said, “Sometimes people want me to love them or react to them or talk to them; but with Sierra I can just be myself– relaxed.”
  • Sierra is open to communicating with animals in their own language.  We went for a walk on the bike path and met up with a puppy.  The little pug was tiny and bouncing up and down with excitement.  Sierra leaned over and started barking.  She barked and barked for several minutes (the puppy was not barking.)  I tried to get Sierra’s attention so we could continue our walk (the man with the puppy was ready to go) but she just kept barking.  The puppy loved it– the puppy clearly loves attention, and Sierra really wanted to keep the connection going.  I am not saying we all need to bark at dogs, but maybe humans try to impose our view of the world on animals too often.
  • Sierra stays present in the moment and observant of the animal’s needs.  One day our cat, May, came down the stairs and I picked her up for a hug.  Sierra came over, put her face up to May and said, “May, Hi!”  Then she said “eat” and with her finger and thumb pinched together she offered May a pretend bite of food.  I set May down and she walked to her food bowl and started eating.  Sierra had clearly known that May was hungry.

I am convinced that we enter the world free of judgment about animals.  We arrive believing they are important sentient beings.  Most importantly we arrive believing that we can understand animals and they can understand us.  Several clients have shared very sweet stories about their children understanding animals.  These stories all have something in common; the animals and children are thinking and feeling in the moment.  It is always something simple like, “I want to go outside”.  Sierra notices when our animals need to go in and out, eat, or have another simple need, before I notice almost every time.  She is so connected with the present moment.  Sometimes I am thinking about other things- not tuned in.  When I do my work as an animal communicator I  deliberately get myself in sync with the moment, and I think that is one of the secrets to connecting with animals.

After seeing how Sierra is with animals and how they are with her, I feel more certain than ever that everyone can learn to understand animals.  I am inspired to help people reconnect with this innate ability and I hope to see you at one of my workshops soon.

Bramley and Everyday Communication

People often ask me what it is like living with my animals when I can “hear” them all the time.  For the most part it is really the same for me as it is for “non” telepathic people (really, we are all telepathic).  My cats and rabbit don’t chat, they live in the moment, mostly content and enjoying the day, occasionally making a request or comment.  Every once in a while my cat Nikita says something a little unexpected; like the other day when he asked me to “call his vet”.  He wasn’t feeling well with a belly ache and he stood next to me while I dialed the phone.  She wasn’t there so I left a message.  He was frustrated about having to wait and said, “that’s it, I’m annoyed, I am going outside.”  (He still loves his vet – he was glad once we got a hold of her).

Although they don’t “chat”, I really enjoy watching the animals interacting with each other and my family, and the sweet moments and side comments that I am privileged enough to witness.  Here are some typical thoughts in Bramley’s day.

First thing he says to Tim every morning, “Good morning, I am ready for breakfast.”  Sometimes Tim leaves for work in a hurry before feeding Bramley and I hear, “Oh no!  What about my breakfast?” (of course I feed him right away.)

After a little nap he comes into the living room and says, “what is this toy doing here!”.  If it is made with wood or soft plastic he chews it, if it is a book he just nibbles, and other toys he tosses out of his way.  He likes order, especially on the couch, he says, “this must stay clear (and tosses everything to the floor)”.

Sometimes he visits with Sierra and asks, “do you have any treats for me”.  She always understands and comes into the kitchen asking for food.  Often I assume she wants it for herself, only to look up and see Bramley waiting expectantly.  She loves feeding him and he loves to eat!  One day she “fed” him the TV remote, so now it is missing a few buttons (I caught her giggling as he munched away, the remote lovingly resting in her palms.)

Whenever possible he cuddles; with a cat, me, Tim, Sierra, or even a stuffed animal.  He hops over, snuggles up, and says, “I need some love.”  In the evening he gets very desperate for love and tells us, “I haven’t gotten enough cuddling.”

Finally it is the end of the night and he does a little dance of celebration, because it is time for “snackpacks” (a big bag of vegetables)!  We go to bed and he stays up eating.  After a while he adjourns to the couch for the night and waits for breakfast.

Bramley’s New Bunny

Bramley has a new “bunny” friend.  He and my daughter, Sierra, are the same size and he loves to cuddle and groom her… or at least he did last month.  He said, “Oh now I have a new beautiful bunny friend.  I love her so much.”  When she was fussy I would say, “Bramley will you come bunny-sit?”  He would hop over and snuggle his head into her lap and she would get very quiet.  Now she is not gentle enough, so he has been taking more breaks from her.  She loves his ears and pulls them, but that hurts!  So he calmly turns his body, releasing his ears and hops away.  He never reprimands her.  He is so full of sweetness, he says, “I don’t understand why she won’t pet nice.”  I reassure him that she will grow out of this stage.  He says, “for now I think I will stick with cuddling you Mama.”  So when we are on the couch or the floor I have a baby to my left and a bunny to my right.