Last weekend I had the privilege of attending a workshop with the Monks of New Skete. For those who are unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, the Monks of New Skete are a group of Monks who live in a monastery in Cambridge, NY on a huge piece of property. It was founded in 1966 and they are world renowned for their breeding and training of German Shepards along with the training of all other breeds. They have some of the most famous dog training books ever written including, How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend and the Art of Raising a Puppy.
I wasn’t sure what to expect upon arriving. I had thoughts running through my head like what the hell is a Monk exactly? What religion are they? Is this going to be weird? I pretty much had no idea what to expect. At the welcome dinner, I met many of the Monks, including Brother Christopher who runs the training program at New Skete. I was shocked at not only how normal these guys were but their great sense of humors. I had some great conversations about dogs, training styles, life experiences and also a lot of laughs, surprisingly enough.
The next day we drove up a long tree covered road and arrived at the monastery to the sights of all the Monks in long black robes and German Shepards all over the place. It was quite a sight. All the large adult German Shepards were very friendly with each other and with people. They had obviously been socialized very well. We learned that they have a very involved socialization process for all the puppies that are born there which includes human handling beginning at only 3 days old! They also have socialization events where volunteers come to basically play with the puppies from 4 weeks old and up. Each Monk also has their own German Shepard that they care for and is part of the breeding program. Some have 2 and even 3 dogs.
Throughout the workshop, we had a bunch of lectures from the Brothers that discussed everything from the history of the monastery, how the breeding program works, how elaborate their puppy socialization process is and most importantly, their philosophy on living with dogs.
On the last day, Brother Christopher described something that really hit home. He said the ultimate reward for a dog is inclusion. What he means by this is that the ultimate reward for a dog is including them in your life. So many people in society today do not include their dogs in their life (even though they sometimes think they do). They don’t take the time for training, establishing leadership, setting rules, boundaries and limitations and end up with a dog that is out of balance and can’t be included in their life. Even worse, some people’s lives are actually hindered by their dog because they can’t enjoy a walk in public or even have friends or family over because of an unruly dog.
The goal of this particular blog is to make people aware that a really nice apartment, a ton of toys from Petco, the best food, the best “outfits,” hugs, kisses and baby talk are not the reward your dog wants. He wants to be included in your life. The only way to achieve this is through taking the time and effort to provide your dog with exercise, structure and most importantly leadership so he can enjoy a calm and fulfilling life where he is able to experience all the things that life has to offer with you. The Monks do it right and it shows in their dogs who are full of happiness and joy. If it means the help of a professional, go out there and get one. The dog you have now may just be there for a small part of your life but to the dog, you are his WHOLE life.