The Monks of New Skete


“…the best image to capture what a monk is can be found in the words of the Russian author Dostoevsky, who remarks in The Brothers Karamazov that a true monk is nothing more than what everyone ought to be… he was pointing to an attitude of heart that he believed was characteristic of monks. The key to human happiness and fulfillment – for monks and nonmonastics alike – lies in a wholesome spiritual understanding that is supremely rooted in reality. Though monks certainly have no exclusive claim to such an understanding, we do attempt to pursue this in a professional way, passionately searching for the truth of who we are and what life is all about… from such a perspective it is hardly surprising that our dogs have taught us much about ourselves, in many subtle ways showing us how we ought to be, and how we ought not to be… A better insight into your dog may suddenly give you a glimpse of your own humanity. Just as important, it often heightens the sense of responsibility we humans have, not just for our fellow creatures but for one another and for all creation.” – How To Be Your Dog’s Best Friend, the Monks of New Skete

A post about puppy training? Yep. That’s what you are getting in this article. I know, not our usual fare, but there is a new puppy in my house.  Not only is he upending our homeschool routines, but we want to understand Samwise Smalls as well as possible so that we can have a rightly ordered relationship with him (and him with us).

When I knew that we would be getting a goldendoodle puppy in June, I turned to our vibrant book club and asked for their favorite book recommendations that would help us to get ready for our new family member. The recommendations for the Monks of New Skete came rolling in from all sides. I was getting private messages, posts on my wall, and many recommendations for the Monks on the book club request thread. Everywhere I turned, friends and strangers were telling me that the Monks of New Skete would be just the right thing. They were not wrong.

Art of Raising A Puppy

In the weeks between putting down a deposit and the day when our puppy would be old enough to leave his mother, we devoured two books: The Art of Raising a Puppy and a breed specific book. Almost right away we noticed that the two books were at odds with each other on many key items: where the puppy should sleep, how to correct biting, how to leash train, and a number of other essentials. We were perplexed. Initially we thought to defer to the breed specific book. We rationalized that the Monks were basing their information on the German Shepherd breed that they love so much and that the breed specific book would be more knowledgeable about the temperament of our particular puppy. We resolved to start with the breed book and see what happened.


Finally the day arrived when Samwise Smalls was to join his new pack, and it was glorious. He was quiet, not terribly timid, and he did not cry at all when crated for the night. The next day he was downright adorable and happy. Very quickly, however, we found that he was apt to get overtired and mischievous due to lack of structure. Already the breed book was failing us. By day three, the puppy was chewing on us (not our furniture) every waking moment. The breed book was useless in addressing the behavior in any meaningful way. Curious, we opened The Art of Raising a Puppy. Much more crate time, a better routine, and holistic corrections were recommended. The Monks were right. Dead right.

In the days that followed, my husband, our ten-year-old, and I were furiously studying the Monks’ book and finding their advice to be loving, effective, and psychologically sound. They helped us understand the nuances of pack mentality. They showed us how a dog’s life needs to be ordered like a monk’s life if the dog is to get the right balance of rest, intellectual stimulation, and relationship building.

On a whim, I googled to see if the Monks had any training videos. I was thrilled to discover that they have a robust training series on dvd and that they have uploaded to Youtube almost a dozen excerpt samples. Truly impressed with what we were seeing, we ordered Raising Your Dog with the Monks of New Skete.

When the videos arrived, we watched small sections as a family every night for a week. In the weeks that followed, we watched certain sections again. Each time we find new things to study in terms of technique or new things to contemplate in terms of understanding Sam’s needs. When Sam entered into the week 12 independent streak where he was confident enough and big enough to start practicing defiance, the Monks were a boon in helping me to maintain my rank in the pack through new layers of obedience training. Using his new-found independence as a prompt to practice new skills helped Sam to understand his role and mine, and helped us to enjoy our relationship with each other even more.

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The puppy book is an excellent starting place. The dvds are invaluable in the friendly and mentoring way in which they not only teach skill training, but also give us excellent ideas to reflect on. I found, however, that the very best way to get the technique was to read  How To Be Your Dog’s Best Friend. If I could only get one of the three resources, I would get that and supplement with the youtube videos. I, however, am thrilled to have all three resources.

Nearly all of my neighbors have really well behaved dogs. Many of them asked me how I was making so much progress with Sam and which obedience classes we had him enrolled in. I am so pleased that we haven’t had to consider classes yet because the Monk books are that good. To be clear: the Monks really do recommend that you enroll in your local obedience classes too. And we will if it is necessary. Right now, however, the Monks are meeting all of our needs more than adequately.


The resolution on these previews are grainy and dark. My dvds are clear and bright.

Building a Relationship
The Down Command
Talking With Your Dog
Dogs and Discipline