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Interview: Marc Goldberg, Author of ‘Let Dogs Be Dogs’

Note: “5 Question Friday” is a new feature on That Mutt where I interview authors, trainers, veterinarians, bloggers and others who work with dogs. It’s a way to share different opinions and experiences. If you would like to be featured, please email [email protected].

Dog Trainer Marc Goldberg is the author of the new book “Let Dogs Be Dogs: Canine Nature and Mastering the Art of Living with Your Dog.”

He co-authored the book with Brother Christopher from the “Monks of New Skete.”

The “Monks of New Skete” have supported themselves for four decades by breeding and training dogs from their monastery in Cambridge, N.Y. The monks sold over 1.5 million copies of their past books including “The Art of Raising A Puppy.”

Marc owns a dog training company in Chicago and is the former president of the International Association of Canine Professionals, a group dedicated to the education and support of dog training professionals worldwide.

“Let Dogs Be Dogs” is available on Amazon in hardcover and for the Kindle. Order here.

Here were my five questions for Marc:

Marc Goldberg co-author of Let Dogs Be Dogs

Marc Goldberg and Brother Christopher

That Mutt: What can people expect to learn from your new book?

Marc Goldberg: Pack Leader is a term coined decades ago by the Monks of New Skete.

In the last few years it has become a popular way to describe how people should relate to their dogs. The big problem is that nobody has adequately defined how to be a good pack leader in a compassionate, sensible way.

In “Let Dogs Be Dogs,” we lay out a roadmap … a very thorough and detailed pathway to a happy relationship with your dog.

You’ll learn what your dog really wants from you, why, and exactly how to provide it. In short, you’ll learn how to have the relationship of your dreams.

TM: What is something you believe in that other people think is crazy?

Marc: I believe dogs have souls. And I believe we will be reunited with our beloved companions on the other side.

In a real sense we are their guardians on earth. We are responsible for creating their physical and emotional well-being through good and kind leadership and appropriate forms of love with the right balance of exercise and affection and authority.

But, once gone, I believe they wait for us to guide us and make us feel safe on the other side of life. So basically, I believe that one day I will go to the company of my loved ones and dogs.

TM: What does “Pack Leader” mean to you in dog training?

Marc: A good pack leader is very much like the most inspiring teacher you will remember from school.

The “inspiring teacher” was never the impatient or unpredictable one. In fact she or he set high standards for you yet believed in your potential to accomplish great things. She may not have gushed constant praise, but when you got a word of encouragement you took it to heart because it was deeply meaningful.

Similarly, a good pack leader meets all her dog’s physical and psychological needs while inspiring the dog to comply with the rules of safety and good behavior. This actually grants the dog a great deal of physical liberty and freedom from emotional conflict.

A great Pack Leader knows everything a dog wants and needs, and then trades those resources to the dog in return for the basic elements we humans need.

TM: Do your dogs sleep in your bed?

Marc: At night my dogs own the couch and I sleep with a cat who hogs the covers a lot less than my dogs.

TM: Is there anything you’d like to say to That Mutt’s readers?

Marc: Don’t believe the malarkey that being a Pack Leader to your dog has anything to do with trying to dominate or scare him. It has everything to do with granting him the grace of liberty, safety in this confusing human world into which we have brought him and it also allows for the greatest level of relationship.

A dog who actually wants to please you – – and knows how to do it – – is a dog you can take everywhere with you. And after all, isn’t that what dogs really want?

Thank you, Marc!

If any of you have any questions for Marc, please leave them in the comments.

For more from Marc Goldberg:

Marc Goldberg Let Dogs Be Dogs

More about the book:

Marc’s training site:

More about the monks:

If you would like to be featured in an upcoming “5 Question Friday” post, email [email protected]

Related posts:

5 questions with author Laura Koerber

Is Pack Leader a naughty word in dog training?

Common dog training advice I’m glad I ignored

Putting in the work: Any dog can be a good dog


Marnie Mason

Sunday 17th of June 2018

I sent my 5 month old doberman,Zeus, to Marc for 3 weeks of training. He was a perfectly normal 5 month old dog, exhibiting normal behaviours, like counter surfing, jumping up on people, mouthing my kids when he was playing with them and didnt have great leash manners, but he was awesome off leash. Nothing major, I was just trying to get ahead of the 6 month behavioural issues. I paid $3800US upfront.

I thought Marc was "force free" because that's what he calls himself and there was nothing in his book about training with ecollars and pinch collars. When I arrived he pulled out an electronic collar. I was completely surprised. I said "nothing on your website or in your book says you use an electronic collar", to which he replied "it's all over my website and my book is not about that". Up to this point I had only used positive reinforcement on Zeus. Marc and I discussed it and decided he would not use the collar on my dog. He said "I've been doing this for 30 years, I can do it without the ecollar." It still left me feeling uneasy that he had so obviously mislead me.

When I picked up Zeus 3 weeks later, this is what I got...

- An infected acral lick granuloma (caused by stress and boredom, I can only assume because there was no underlying medical condition). The vet was worried the infection may get into his bone and he would have to remove his toe. He went on antibiotics, and we had to keep the wound very clean (no parks, cleaning twice a day)

-he attacked 2 dogs in the first 2 days, unprovoked. One was his good buddy. When I asked Marc about this he said "clearly you did not follow protocol". Meanwhile, Patrick Ferrel, the trainer who trained us said it was fine for him to play with other dogs.

-before he went to training, he loved all strangers and new people. In the first week back, he would randomly bark and growl at strangers.

-he looked like a different dog. He smelt so bad. We took him straight to Petsmart to have him washed before our 9 hour car ride home. But we could get the smell out for 3 days. His fur had totally lost it's shine.

-before he went for training, he happily went in his crate. After he came back he would completely freakout in his crate, barking and pawing.

-pressure sores on all his bony pressure points

- and here is my biggest reason to suspect he neglected my dog by leaving him in the crate for inhumane amounts of time...when I came for my two day training on day 1, I mistakenly arrived 2 hours early. Marc was out of town and I was to meet with his partner Patrick, who I assumed lived on the premise. When I contacted Patrick, he was not planning to come until noon. So when was someone last with Zeus if Marc had left town 2 days before??

When I texted Marc 2 days after i arrived home to tell him what was going with Zeus. I asked him 2 questions. How long would you leave him in the crate for? and, where does it say on your site that you use e-collars or where is the contract you say you sent me saying you use ecollars? Both legitimate questions in my mind...Here was his response...

"We did not train Zeus with an ecollar. He never wore one. Ever. He behaved nicely in the crate for us after the first day or two. We had him near many dogs and he never attacked anyone. Clearly you are not following protocols we suggested or you would be getting the same results as we did - which we have video of. If you want suggestions let me know but I will no longer respond to accusations."

My response: "I wasn't accusing you of using an ecollar, I was accusing you of misleading your clients by calling yourself Force Free. That makes you untrustworthy. My question to you was how long did you leave him in the crate for?"

To which he has NEVER replied. That was 8 days ago.

So after $3800, I received my dog back with way bigger issues than when I dropped him off. Any leash manners he was taught were completely gone within 2 days.


Wednesday 15th of November 2017

I really like Marc's definition of "pack leader." I like that it doesn't emphasize being the boss or being alpha but inspiring your dog to make good choices.


Tuesday 14th of November 2017

I saw that Patricia McConnell reviewed this book fully by reading it and said that it was not appropriate for training. I have included the link for the blog article if you care to see

Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 14th of November 2017

Yes, I thought she did a nice job of sharing her opinion while remaining respectful. I read all her blog posts and books. I recommend her memoir, and I hope to interview her on That Mutt soon.

Julia at Home on 129 Acres

Friday 10th of November 2017

I feel very fortunate that this is very similar to the perspective that our trainer takes with dogs. It's led to an incredibly fulfilling relationship with Bax. I've come to believe that it's important to set dogs up to think for themselves. The result for us has been that our dog desires some of the same things we do and he works to live in harmony with us the same that we work to be in harmony with him. It's rewarding to watch our dog be a dog and also make "smart choices" that are in line with what his humans want. I love Marc's philosophy so much and hope that more trainers come to share it.