News of Otsego County

Tom Shelby

Dog Charmer by Tom Shelby: Dog is depressed over death of companion

Dog Charmer by Tom Shelby
Dog is depressed over death of companion

Dear Tom,

We have two goldens, Chloe, 6, and Bonnie, 14½. They have been together since Chloe was a puppy.
Sadly, Bonnie died suddenly this past Wednesday. Along with our anguish and moping about, Chloe seems to have picked it up also. She seems very flat.

Is this normal? Can you suggest anything we can do or just wait it out?

Appreciate your comments,


The Dog Charmer by Tom Shelby: How to help an anxious new puppy stay home by itself

The Dog Charmer
by Tom Shelby

How to help an
anxious new puppy
stay home by itself

Dear Tom,

She came to us at 12 weeks at the start of pandemic lockdown. Well, I know it’s my fault for taking her everywhere with me, for putting her in her crate at night and staying until she settles, etc.
With three adults in the household, she focuses on me ALL the time. If I go out without her, she’s a mess till I return.

How can I help her to stay alone for a few hours without losing her mind?

Sadie is an 18-month-old Havanese.

Marty DeLaney

Dear Marty,

You’re so right in referring to Sadie as a pandemic puppy!

You’re not alone. I was writing and telling people at the beginning of the pandemic, “Get out and get the puppy used to being alone.”

My guess is that 40 to 50% of the (hopefully) post-pandemic questions I’ve been getting have to do with separation anxiety.

The first thing I’d suggest is that you start making Sadie less dependent on you by asking the two other adults in the house to help. If they feed her for a couple of weeks instead of you, and take her out for occasional walks it will broaden her worldly view. You’ll always be her sun amongst many stars, but decreasing her neediness for you will make her more confident, which is exactly what you want, and a good start.

It would be great if the other two adults in the house called her from time to time and when she arrived, she got a treat. Sadie will appreciate it, too.

Henceforth, when you leave the house, de-emotionalize leaving and coming! If you appear
sorry to go or overly excited to return you’re emphasizing the separation.

Your goal is to make Sadie happy to see you go because that’s the only time she gets fantastic treats, like a hollow marrow bone with chicken or ham wedged in the middle of the bone. Remove it when you get home! The best toys only happen when you’re not home. Then there’s exercise.

I’ve been saying it for many years, “A tired dog is a well behaved dog.” In my book, “Dog Training Diaries,” aside from my crazy experiences and stories, the dos and don’ts of separation anxiety and aggression are given a great deal of attention.

Good luck,

The Dog Charmer

Cooperstown author Tom Shelby will be answering pet owners’ questions on training
their dogs. E-mail your questions to

Dog Charmer by Tom Shelby: Stories from a working dogs life

Dog Charmer by Tom Shelby
Stories from a working dogs life

My two working dogs were Michelle and Mike, both Dobermans. Michelle found two people alive and some not alive. Mike tracked a woman 11 miles. They were search and rescue dogs.

Readers, as you’re reading this you are dropping about 40 thousand dead skin cells a minute. You and I have about five million olfactory cells in our noses, Michelle had more than 200 million.

The Dog Charmer: Making a crate into a den

The Dog Charmer

Making a crate into a den

Hi Tom,

I have a 15-week-old mini aussie doodle whom I adopted at 13 weeks. The first two weeks were fairly smooth until he developed what seems like a sudden fear of his crate.

He won’t go in at bedtime he cries and screams like it’s the end of the world (he has a soft bed, puppy chew toys, a snuggle puppy in the crate, I’ve added a t-shirt with my scent, covered the crate with a blanket, and tried playing soothing music). Nothing seems to help even though his crate is next to my bed.

Any suggestions to help him get over his fear of what should be one of the happiest places on earth?

Thank you!

Anjali & Pharaoh

The Dog Charmer: May 6, 2021

The Dog Charmer

How To (Leash) Train Your Yorkie

Tom Shelby,
The Dog Charmer
Cooperstown author answers pet owners questions on training their dogs. E-mail your questions to

Dear Tom,

I have a lovely Yorkie that I was given three years ago. She is a great dog. She’s affectionate, athletic, cuddly, curious, smart. There is, however, one little issue that drives me crazy and, angry at times.

We take several walks a day and we live in town so she must be on a leash. When I get myself all suited up for the walk, she gets excited about going out, following me around as I don hat, gloves, mask, etc. But when it is time to put the leash on her, she backs off and doesn’t let me get close enough to her to attach the leash. It takes a while and she just keeps backing up, just out of my reach. I will say, “do you want to go for a walk? You know we have to do the leash, etc.” I have even taken off my things, thinking, maybe she’ll get the message that we don’t go for a walk until she is on the leash. Then she will follow me and eventually I will get the (damn!) thing on her and off we go.

The Dog Charmer: Making Peace With Bubba
The Dog Charmer

Making Peace With Bubba

Tom Shelby,
The Dog Charmer
Cooperstown author answers pet owners questions on training their dogs. E-mail your questions to

Dear Dog Charmer

We got Bubba two years ago. From day one he did not like my adult son. He is fine with children and women but iffy with some men. My son lives with us and every time he walks in the room the dog goes nuts. My son has been nipped a few times. Now we try to keep them apart. How can we get Bubba and my son to live peacefully together. By the way Bubba is a French bulldog/pitty mix.

Dear Kathleen,

The way to get Bubba and your son to harmonize peacefully requires their getting together as opposed to being kept apart, and it’s going to require some effort on your  son’s part.

I suggest that Bubba starts earning tiny people food treats (chicken, baloney, apple, whatever) from your son. The ONLY person who gives him people food treats is your son.

I’d also suggest that your son is the one to feed Bubba. If food is just left down and Bubba free feeds whenever he wants to, it’s Son who fills the food bowl. (Bubba’s nose will tell him who’s feeding him).

THE DOG CHARMER: Finding The Good Breeders


Finding The Good Breeders

Tom Shelby,
The Dog Charmer
Cooperstown author answers pet owners questions on training their dogs. E-mail your questions to

Hi Tom,
Question: How do I really know I’ve found a good breeder? There are a lot of scams out there with slick websites and darling puppy photos.

Dear Eleanor:
This is an important question for those who are intent on acquiring a specific breed, especially in today’s world consumed with artificial intelligence and its ability to be convincing in its dishonesty.

To me the answer revolves around one word, communication. I’m talking about talking, really talking, as opposed to texting or e-mailing. To ensure your suitability as prospective dog owners, the breeder should question you to the point of it feeling like you’ve been interrogated.

Prospective puppy buyers need to do their own interrogating till they’re satisfied that the breeder did all the right stuff raising the pups for the crucial first two months of life.

With plenty of back and forth probing, the breeder and buyers should begin to feel like real friends. Many of my clients have stayed in close contact with their breeders for years, and for generations of their dogs. For first-time buyers not sure of what to ask a breeder, I would suggest they read, So Your Bitch Is Pregnant by E. Winters.

Happy looking.

THE DOG CHARMER: Griff Must Learn To ‘Drop-It’

Griff Must Learn To ‘Drop-It’

Dear Dog Charmer:
We are hoping that you might settle a family dispute. We have a 6-month-old pup who loves to play tug-of-war. Some books advise that tug-of-war is a good game for dogs to play, helping dogs burn energy and gain confidence; this is the side my husband takes. I’ve found that the more our puppy plays tug-of-war, the more she tends to bite; she is very gentle, but uses her teeth more on us, which I find disagreeable, and which causes considerable stress when we have visitors with young children or who are less comfortable with dogs. Any advice?

Curious in Cooperstown

Dear Curious in Coop,


The easiest part of being a dog trainer, is training the dog. The hardest part of being a dog trainer is what I call the “leash transfer”, getting the owners to do what I tell them to do, to get their dog cooperating. Having had over 800 training appointments a year I quickly realized that in addition to training the dog and training the owners, a third skill was needed, that being the tactful expertise of a mediator. The first line of the question above is asking me to settle a family dispute. I’ve lost count of all the “how to” quarrels and disagreements I stepped into the middle of when it came to parenting the dog. As for the tug-of-war dispute, you are all correct, or will be with a little bit of training.

With repetitive consistency your dog (based on the picture I’ll call her Grif) can easily attain a large vocabulary. Tug-of-war is a great game, as long as you initiate, and control the game. She needs to be taught, “drop it!”. (The “Drop It” command can save her life if she picks up gum with xylitol in it). Offer her the tug toy saying, “Grif, wanna play tug?” as you hold it out for her to grab. In your other hand is a treat, and after a bit of happy growling tug play put the treat under her nose as you say
“drop it!”.

In the great majority of cases the treat will be more attractive than the toy and she’ll immediately drop the toy for the treat.

SHELBY: Act Now To Relieve Dogs’ Separation Anxiety

The Dog Charmer

Act Now To Relieve

Dogs’ Separation Anxiety

To the Editor:

Because of the pandemic too many dogs are getting used to having their owners around 24/7. In many cases this will result in possible severe separation anxiety (panic attacks from being left alone which
can result in lots of unwanted behaviors: barking, peeing and pooping, destructive chewing, etc).


The separation anxiety section in my book, “Dog Training Diaries,” details how to leave your dog alone and return creating the least possible stress for your four-legged significant other.

The Dog Charmer

Adopt SSPCA Dog? Nationally Known Expert Will Train It

Trainer To The Stars’ Dogs

Adopt SSPCA Dog?

Nationally Known

Expert Will Train It

Tom Shelby, a nationally known dog-training expert,  has just moved from Martha’s Vineyard to Cooperstown, and has offered to train all dogs adopted from the Susquehanna Animal Shelter. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Shelby walks his own dog and a frisky friend at his new home on Pioneer Street.

COOPERSTOWN – No matter how badly she wants the treat, Paula Jean, Tom Shelby’s standard poodle, knows that if she hears the word “leave it” to do just that.

Shelby recently published “Dog Training Diaries.”

“’Leave it’ is such an important command,” said Shelby. “You can use it for pizza crusts on the street, a person who’s afraid of dogs or if they see a porcupine.”

Shelby, who has trained dogs for nearly 40 years, recently moved to Pioneer Street from Martha’s Vineyard, where he had a column in the local paper, answering questions about dog behavior.

Shelby began his dog-training career after he saw an advertisement in a newspaper. “They said ‘experience needed,’ so I lied,” he said. “When I got in, the owner handed me a list of 30 names and told me to call them to make appointments!”

But he quickly got the hang of it, and soon was being mentored by Matthew Margolis and Brian Kilcommons, both nationally known dog trainers.

He has trained dogs for Joan Rivers, John McEnroe, Eddie Murphy and even a few star dogs themselves.

“I trained a dog for the off-Broadway play ‘Jasper in the Park,’” he said, “It was a terrible dog, this huge white shepherd, very aggressive. They were going to do some filming with it and the director told me they didn’t need me, and then she called me the next day to say they couldn’t get a single thing done because the dog wouldn’t listen!”

Part of training a dog is figuring out what kind of aggression a dog is struggling with, including predatory aggression – protecting his owner – fear aggression, pain aggression, redirected aggression – such as biting someone when he can’t chase a squirrel – or territorial aggression, where a dog will guard food or its owner.

“I used to train as many as 800 dogs a year,” he said. “When people would bring the dogs to the shelters in Manhattan, they would say: ‘Don’t euthanize that dog, call Shelby’.”

In addition to training the dogs of the rich and famous, he also volunteered to do search and rescue for local law enforcement.

“My first dog, Michelle, found two people alive,” he said. “And several people who were not. We were sent to look for body parts along the Garden State Parkway because they thought a serial killer had thrown them there.”
He once tracked a woman 11 miles after her husband reported her missing following a fight. “The dog is on a 40-foot leash, but I’m at the end of that leash!”

And he had some fun with his searches too. “My daughter Carrie was told she couldn’t go to a party,” he said. “My son came to me and said she has gone out the window. I took Michelle to the ground under her window, pointed and said, ‘Track Carrie.’ She went to the state park across the street and caught Carrie getting into the car!”

But he used his training for fun too. “My daughter’s friends would love to come over and hide in the woods for the dogs to find,” he said.

He wrote a book, “Dog Training Diaries,” in 2018, for Skyhorse Publishing, detailing his tricks and tales.

Upon his arrival in Cooperstown, he reached out to the Susquehanna SPCA with an offer – he will offer training, free of charge, to anyone who adopts their dog from the shelter.

“I want to make sure that adoption sticks,” he said. “I’m lucky enough to be able to afford to be generous – the more I give, the more I get. When someone adopts a dog, they save a life.”

“I get paid to play intelligently with dogs,” he said. “Dog training has made my life spectacular.”

Posts navigation

21 Railroad Ave. Cooperstown, New York 13326 • (607) 547-6103