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No More Private Training at Benson Ranch - The End of an Era

Updated: May 23

These are the pups currently in training with me. Rosemary and Basil work the edges of this new field in the background while the Ever Green trio learn about novel surfaces.

Every trainer hits a wall at some point. There comes that time, many times, when the emotional toll of what we love to do is bigger than the joy and satisfaction we feel at a job well done.

Trainers become trainers for diverse reasons. For me, first I was hungry to learn how to provide the best life to my working LGDs, then I wanted to share the journey with others, and I learned more, and I shared more, and here I am. Becoming "a trainer" was never one of my goals.

Here on my ranch, over the last ten years I have lived with and done training with 300+ LGDs. I have learned as much from them as they have from me. This has been my absolute privilege and a sugar-high like no other. I am my happiest and most centered self when I am with a dog, thinking about a dog, writing about a dog, or talking about an dog - LGDs specifically.

A morning on my ranch like so many others, with me on a tractor in an upper field and the pups in training working this new area like the pros they are. The red dog belongs to my husband; she is a less-than-enthusiastic puppy trainer for me.

Because I don't handle boredom well, and I am so passionate about LGDs, I have further dedicated myself to paying forward what the dogs have taught me. I know doing so save dogs' lives and provides comfort to their confused and frustrated owners.

Wanna know my strengths?

#1 - Super good at training dogs.

#2 - A gifted author and creator of educational content (my view, anyway)

#3 - Less skillful with people skills.

#4 - Struggling to learn marketing so that LGD people can find my resources.

This is me teaching a free educational event here at my ranch in 2019.

Wanna know what I consider one of my biggest weaknesses?

When I feel emotionally hurt or afraid my creative mind shuts down. When this happens, I cannot write or create new educational content. I cannot teach as well because that trauma floats around in my mind as I try to come from a place of trust and warmth with my students and clients. When I am with my beloved dogs, client's dogs or my own, I become clingy and a little desperate as I reach to them hoping they will help heal my heart. That isn't fair to them and I know it.

These photos are not shared here for their shock value, but they do provide some context as to what my life with dogs is like. Reya was born here in 2019. She was returned to me last year for "killing lambs for years." This is what she looked like on the outside when I brought here home. Below is what was true for her over 1/4 of her body, under these matts. She lived in pain for years and it probably contributed to her behavior around lambs. I hired an attorney and spent $6000 enforcing my sales contract that stipulates a minimum of care to bring Reya's two siblings home as well. Both showed extensive physical and emotional damage, as Reya did, and their story did not end well. One sibling, out of the three, will stay with me for the rest of his life and I am lucky in that.

The stakes are very high for LGDs - dogs should not pay with their lives.

This is a portion of a video I made for the online course; Reya has her head in my hands while her brother Tuari joins us as well. She had been back with me for three months, Tuari for only a week. Reya was euthanized in my arms on Christmas Day, 2023; Tauri is here and happy. I suspect you can understand how I feel when I see this video and think about Reya.

This should not happen, does not NEED to happen - education of owners and their participation with their dogs is the key.

How private training at the ranch has worked with me

I don't choose to bring very many dogs to my ranch for training because I am very good at empowering owners to become the trainers their dogs need. But sometimes the infrastructure I have here helps dogs, and some dogs are tricky if their lives have been out-of-balance for a long time.

It is important to note that regardless of what I am skillful at teaching dogs here the benefit of that stays with me unless the owner is learning just as much as I am teaching their dog.

And herein lies the problem - and the reason I will no longer bring other people's dogs here to train. In the past, if someone wanted to bring a dog here to me this began a three-way partnership; that is a requirement, a boldly stated, never ambiguous, truth. End -of -story.

The three-way partnership:

The dog, who is learning on speed dial while with me, is working hard and learning to trust himself as well as learning confidence in working with a human.

The trainer, who is pulling out all the stops, every day, several times a day, for weeks or months, giving my very best effort at supporting the dog as he learns to become his very best self.

The owner, whose task it is to work just as hard, and spend just as much time as is necessary to do so, to get the education the dog is owed - and I have been promised - while the dog is in training with me. This does NOT mean cramming at the end; it means learning in step with their dogs.

What I offer to support this partnership goal

Owners are encouraged to come here to train with me with their dog frequently. Weekly is my preference, but that is often impractical for logistical and time considerations. Because of this, I offer live Zoom sessions with owners pretty much as often as they want them; remember, my goal is to train the owner in step with training their dog. I take lots of videos of their dogs in training and share them frequently with owners. I write about their dogs, and create detailed voice-over videos about their dogs teasing out the deeper science of what I am doing.

As I step down as an in-person on my ranch trainer, the monthly fee for a pair of dogs in training is $700, with the owner providing food and paying for veterinary work and other necessary care. All of the above is included in this fee. I think this is the deal of the century, as is my Novice to Expert online course.

This is Rosemary and Basil about a week after they arrived to me.

This is Rosemary. Her education with me is complete

and she is ready to go home - yep, you guessed it.

That sense of urgency

When puppies come to me, the urgency is in their tender age and the window of opportunity that provides. With more mature dogs, what brings them here is that their behavior has become a concern for the owner, so solving that problem is at the forefront of everyone's mind. I go right to work - and the owners slow down. The immediate problem is solved, in that the dogs are here and productive and the owner's stress is greatly diminished, but here is where my stress begins.

My online courses were published in January, 2024. I keep track of the progress students make in my courses so that I know how to best support their learning journey with me. Since then, this is what I have seen of client's dogs recently:

0% of the course completed- Dogs in training with me for 23 days

4% of the course completed- Dogs with me for 82 days

An owner in contract with the breeder to complete the course prior to the purchased dog leaving my ranch; this dog was in training with me for six months. Husband and wife, course completed, but the person managing the dog was not the person who completed the course. The dog was returned to the breeder 52 days later pronounced unfit as a goat guardian and worthy of being a companion dog only. The breeder reported to me that the buyers had not been in contact, to ask questions or otherwise, until the email came stating that the dog must leave. Blessedly, that dog was gifted to me by the breeder and is here doing well - with livestock and in all other ways - and here he will stay. The buyer is out $3500, as is appropriate because the dog no longer has the resale value he had 52 days prior due to his learned mismanagement.

This is Rocket a month before he went to his 52 day home.

An owner in contract with the breeder to complete the course prior to the purchased dogs leaving my ranch. I have history with this buyer and the pups stayed with me for further training - while I waited for the buyer to complete, or start, the course. He did not. When I informed the buyer the dogs must leave, they had been in training with me for eight months. His agent completed the course in three days: 300 slides, 168 PDFs, 2.5 hours of video.

Owner who brought me a lovely pair of pups who did wonderfully here. So well, in fact, that the owner wasn't impatient to get them back, as well as not participating in the educational part of our agreement. My wonderful husband returned the pups to their owner for me, a 1600 mile round trip, so that I did not continue to be in this position.

All of this has happened within the last six months.

What have I learned from this?

I tell clients that my remote clients are at least as successful as clients who bring their dogs here. What I now believe is that most of them are MORE successful than local clients because they live with their dogs and are immediately responsible for them. They can't hand their dogs off to me. They look into the eyes of the dogs they love and understand that they are the key to their dogs' success; not me. I am a team member, part of our working partnership, but ultimately it is the owner whose work is the vital piece.

I have also learned that this is an emotional burden I can no longer carry. I love the dogs I work with. I care very much about their owners being successful with their dogs and happy. Because of how deeply I feel all of this, when owners don't do what they have promised me they will do, I cry a lot and worry a lot and struggle with how in the world can I say if differently, or do something differently, so that they understand what I know to be true:

Owners need to learn more than their dogs do!

I have developed a very successful training business. I wear a lot of hats these days and have great demands on my time. Rescues and shelters are overrun with LGDs; most of the dogs that end up in those places are euthanized because of the sheer numbers of them and the lack of homes that can be found. This is so, so heartbreaking and frustrating for the brave and compassionate staff and volunteers there. I see a disproportionate number of challenging situations, rather than hearing the success stories, because of the business I am in. I feel so pushed, and absolutely driven, to share what I have learned to do with LGDs just as far as I can because I know my efforts save lives and heal the hearts of owners. I must invest my time and heart wisely in order to serve the greater good, the greater needs of LGDs in this country.

This is what brings me to my difficult decision and blog post writing this morning. I hate (not too strong a word) being in this position, but it is not my place, or right, to push my beliefs on anyone. I am here to teach people who want to learn at the pace that is right for them. If I teach with open arms, rather than needing something back as is true with owners of dogs trained here, less tears for me will happen and the greater good will be better served.

Thank you!!!!!

Over the years, most of my training journey with dogs trained here and their owners has been fascinating, joyful, and productive. The list of success stories, from my perspective as well as from owners' perspectives, is overwhelming longer than the recent trend toward heartbreak. Kristen Buchanan and her dog Atlas is one such story. She is the course designer for my Novice to Expert online course, and Atlas is the star of several videos there. Maybe the piece that has changed is me. I just do know that making this change is necessary for my mental health and quality of life.

Thank you to all of you who are here reading this because you are the people who give me hope. Please spread the word about the trustworthy educational opportunities available in support of LGDs and their owners now, finally. Please let me know what I can do to help. Keep in mind the dangerous work LGDs do for us every day of their lives 24/7 and remember what is owed to them from us.

I will leave you with this. This is me with my beloved Cameo. She is part of my legacy as a breeder and I cherish every moment I have with her. She stayed with me - and she has always been safe. Every LGD deserves to be safe.

This is the link to my online courses:

2,222 views4 comments


Why did Reye have to be euthanized? Was her abuse so severe that she would forever be in pain? Was she traumatized so bad that mentally she had become unbalanced and could not be helped? How old was she? It just breaks my heart. And we all know there are tens of thousands around the world like her. Humans are despicable…

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She was only four years old.... It was harrowing. One of the dogs had to be lifted by sling into the already low bed of my horse trailer when we brought him home. Reya, used to be Zing, was a heart dog for me just like her mother. I was so glad to have her home with me. But her learned aggression with livestock was extreme, which makes a lot of sense to me given the level of pain she had been in extensively, and she could get out of just about anywhere. When she got out, she was very fence line aggressive to other dogs. She got out because she wanted to be working with livestock, but I couldn't…


Well stated Cindy. And I agree whole heartedly- it is the connection between the human with their dogs that make the difference. I am grateful for your support and the confidence I have gained working with puppies. PUPPIES! = Babies! They need to develop trust and communication skills 'their humans' to be successful- maybe especially on smaller places (like mine) where neighbors and roads factor into their safety and well-being. I want my dogs to know their boundaries and be meaningfully engaged with their herd. If they are they will not seek curiosities else where. Yes! These dogs work hard for us and they deserve respectful treatment and understanding. Happy Allison, Ursa and Cosmo!

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Thank you!

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