Archives for posts with tag: Carol Lea Benjamin cartoons

Every good dog needs an education, not just the teaching of basic commands, but enough of an understanding about the ways of the human world they share with us to make appropriate decisions when circumstances require them to do so.

As many dogs do not.


Will your dog learn not to cross the street when cars are coming?  Probably not, but she definitely can learn to wait at the corner or the curb or whatever you have to separate pedestrians from traffic.  Will your dog learn the command “Use your inside voice”?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  But she can discern the difference between letting her hair down at home, so to speak, and manners befitting an outdoor cafe, a trip to the hardware store, a walk through a street fair.  How will she learn these things?  With education that is not robotic.  With education that encourages, even requires her to think and make decisions and to do so mostly for the pleasure of getting it right.  And by allowing her to figure things out when she is ready to do so.

When I take a service dog in training, meaning in my case, a puppy, to a restaurant, I do not ask her to sit or lie down next to the chair I am sitting on or under the table.  I usually tell the pup, this is your space for now, and proceed to converse with both the waiter and my companion.  Of course I do not ignore the pup.  I always watch her out of the corner of my eye.  At first, the pup will stand there.  What?  What!  What…  And then the pup, observing that I am happy to be where I am, will relax and either sit, fine with me, or lie down, also fine with me.  If you are lucky enough to be training a pup when you have an older, trained dog, the pup will merely copy the older dog.  Oh, he’s relaxed.  I think I’ll lie down, too.  Either way, the pup has made a sensible decision, and aside from perhaps an ear scritch, needs nothing from you.  Why not give a treat, say?  Because the emphasis is on the rightness, the comfort, the calmness, the satisfaction, the safety of making a carefully thought out, appropriate, sensible decision.  And the beginning of making good decisions when you are not around to give you opinion or a reward.

Are you teaching your pup to heel?  Good for you.  When you say the command, eventually your dog will fall in at your side.  But the dog who has been allowed to make sensible decisions will also fall in at your side when you are walking in a crowd. And like a service dog who often will help other people when that’s an appropriate thing to do (yes, it is appropriate sometimes), your dog may begin to decide when there’s something she can do without being asked.  She may get close to you or someone else who is feeling bad or sad.  She may put herself between you and something causing you to be stressed.  She may even bring a toy or ball when you are the one who needs to play.  She may pull you into the park, but not into the street.  She may – but don’t count on it – make the sensible but heart wrenching decision not to steal the defrosting roast.  Yeah, well, maybe that’s more sensible than we can count on.  But still.

As always, thanks for stopping by.  It was the sensible thing to do!





Years ago, when Mother Knows Best first came out, one of my clients was looking through the book and when she came to a photograph where there was much to get about dog behavior, about  how to interpret what you see, about how to relate to your dog and understand the way they attempt to relate to us, in a picture that just happened and that I couldn’t get again in a million years, she said, “I have the same boots!”

Long before that, I understood the power of drawing, the way it can focus the eye on what’s important and eliminate what isn’t, like the trainer’s very chic suede boots.  Long before that, I knew I could draw dogs to show what they were feeling, show it in a way far less subtile than their real faces, their real eyes, were apt to show it.  And that sometimes, after seeing the cartoon, pet owners could see that their real dog was feeling sad, mad, glad, or even bewildered, just like the dog I drew.


More and more, I saw that I could shine a light on the behavior of both human and dog by leaving things out of the picture, the cluttered background, the suede boots, even the trainer’s other hand, the one that wasn’t giving the signal I wanted the reader to see.  I could even leave out the trainer altogether, except for his or her voice, and still get the point across.


As important, I wasn’t one of those trainers who made people cry in class or made fun of them as they tried their best to learn what I was teaching – and good for them for wanting to learn something they didn’t know, something that would make sure they could live well and happily with whatever dog they had chosen, something that would make sure that dog would never ever end up in rescue.  Instead, when I wanted to show them a mistake they were making, I could do it in a drawing.  Yes, they’d get the point, but instead of feeling embarrassed and stupid, they’d be laughing when they got it, especially if the dog in the picture was mine and not theirs.  Because what good does it do to pretend you don’t ever have a problem with your dog?  All that does in alienate people.  All that does is show them that you don’t know what it feels like to stand in their shoes.  Better, I always thought, that they should know you’ve been there, where they are, and that whatever it is, it can be fixed.



There are other reasons why I draw.  The drawings do more than make other people learn and smile, they do the same for me. Art (a term I am using very loosely here) changes the brain.  A single drawing, painting or photograph can stick with you forever, shining light where before there was none, making you smile, helping you to relax and get on with it, even if the art is “just” a cartoon.  In fact, I like the idea of pointing the way with drawing so much that I did a whole dog training book that way.  Some of you already know it.  If not, you can get a free sample via iBooks or Kindle, see if it’s your cup of tea, too.  Meanwhile, it’s back to the drawing board for me! (Credit for that line entering our vocabulary goes to the cartoonist Peter Arno.)  See you soon!






The past is important, but the secret of life is this:  Keep moving forward.



When opportunity knocks, open the door.



When someone tells you something in confidence, don’t repeat it.



Keep your friends close and, unlike the advice in The Godfather, avoid your enemies.


Take care of those who take care of you.


Make time to play each and every day.



When there’s nothing to do, take a little nap.

NewOrleansMemphis 026

Happy Holidays, fellow dog lovers, and a healthy, fun New Year!