Episode 23: Tamar Geller, celebrity dog trainer

She was discovered by Oprah, and now trains the dogs of Ellen DeGeneres, Ben Affleck, Reese Witherspoon and others.

If you ever watched Oprah, you know she's a dog lover. And one of the reasons Oprah loves her dogs so much? They're well behaved. And she has Tamar Geller to thank for it. Oprah calls Tamar a life coach for dogs and their people. The talk show icon convinced Tamar to write a book about her dog training techniques and it instantly shot up the New York Times bestseller list and was translated into multiple languages.

Once she appeared on Oprah, Tamar was everywhere – even becoming the resident dog expert for the Today Show. Tamar has since become a dog trainer to the stars. Her list of celebrity clients reads like a who's who of Hollywood: There's Ellen DeGeneres, Ben Affleck, Charlize Theron, Natalie Portman, Jennifer Aniston, Ryan Seacrest, Kelly Ripa, Owen Wilson, and Reese Witherspoon. Drive by her Los Angeles home and you might see Kyle MacLachlan picking up his Jack Russell-poodle mix or Pat Sajak dropping off his Australian sheepdog.

In addition to her hourly training, pet owners can also send their dogs to her Hollywood home for a doggie vacation. In her free time, she also gives back – with non-profit initiatives that help juvenile prisoners and those with PTSD overcome their challenges through dog training. In today's episode, you'll hear how studying wolves in Israel led Tamar to become a dog behavior expert, how the relationship with our dogs can help us become better humans, and how a desperate housewife introduced Tamar to Oprah. All that, plus find out how Tamar can train your dog over Skype.

Further reading:

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Tamar Geller has trained the dogs of Oprah, Ben Affleck and Ellen DeGeneres. Tamar Geller has trained the dogs of Oprah, Ben Affleck and Ellen DeGeneres. (Photo: Courtesy photo)

Tamar Geller, pictured here, says the onus for training is on the human.

Tamar Geller, pictured here, says the onus for training is on the human. (Photo: Courtesy photo)



Benyamin: On this episode of Our Friend From Israel.

Oprah Winfrey: I am a woman who loves dogs.

Benyamin: That's Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah Winfrey: To date, I think I've had ... I was just counting up before the show. I think I've had 21 dogs. At one time, I had 11 dogs all at one time. Nothing makes me happier than being with my dogs.

Benyamin: One of the reasons Oprah loves her dogs so much? They're well-behaved, and she has Tamar Geller to thank for it. Oprah calls Tamar a life coach for dogs and their people.

Oprah Winfrey: My personal dog coach and your breakthrough method for bad behaving dogs.

Oprah Winfrey: I'm sharing her with you. She's giving up the goods on a new method of training. I've been testing this out for over a year and a half now. It really works, her method.

Benyamin: Oprah convinced Tamar to write a book about her dog training techniques. It instantly shot up the New York Times Bestseller list and was translated into multiple languages.

Oprah Winfrey: Tamar's new book is called The Loved Dog: The Playful, Non-Aggressive Way to Teach Your Dog Good Behavior.

Benyamin: Once she appeared on Oprah, Tamar was everywhere, even becoming the resident dog expert for the Today Show.

Speaker 3: Enter Tamar Geller.

Speaker 4: Tamar Geller-

Speaker 5: Tamar Geller.

Speaker 6: Tamar Geller-

Speaker 7: Tamar Geller.

Speaker 8: Tamar Geller.

Speaker 9: Thank you so much for coming in and saving me.

Benyamin: Tamar has since become a dog trainer to the stars. Her list of celebrity clients reads like a who's who of Hollywood. There's Ellen DeGeneres, Ben Affleck, Charlize Theron, Natalie Portman. Not to mention Jennifer Aniston, Ryan Seacrest, Kelly Ripa, Owen Wilson and Reese Witherspoon. Drive by her Las Angeles home and you might see Kyle MacLachlan picking up his Jack Russel-poodle mix, or Pat Sajak dropping off his Australian sheepdog.

Benyamin: In addition to her hourly training, pet owners can also send their dogs to her Hollywood home for a doggie vacation. In her free time, she also gives back with non-profit initiatives that help juvenile prisoners or those with PTSD overcome their challenges through dog training. In today's episode, you'll hear how studying wolves in Israel led Tamar to become a dog behavior expert, how the relationship with our dogs can help us become better humans, and how a Desperate Housewife introduced Tamar to Oprah.

Benyamin: All that, plus find out how Tamar can train your dog over Skype. Stay tuned.

Benyamin: Welcome to Our Friend from Israel, a podcast brought to you by fromthegrapevine.com. I'm your host, Benyamin Cohen, and each week we'll have a conversation with an intriguing Israeli. They'll come from all walks of life: actors, artists, athletes, academics, archeologists, and other news makers.

Benyamin: On today's show, we chat with celebrity dog trainer Tamar Geller.

Benyamin: Test the microphone for a second. Tell me, what did you have for breakfast this morning.

Tamar: I had chavitah.

Benyamin: Chavitah? What's chavitah?

Tamar: Oh my god, you don't know what chavitah is?

Benyamin: No!

Tamar: This is like the Israeli fried flat egg that we eat for breakfast, all of us. The whole country eats the same food every morning.

Benyamin: So it's not shakshouka, it's different than shakshouka.

Tamar: No, no, no. Shakshouka is fancy.

Benyamin: So what's in chavitah?

Tamar: Just eggs.

Benyamin: Just eggs.

Tamar: Eggs. You beat them, and then you put them on a big pan, tiny bit of oil, and you flatten them, so they are like a crepe. And then you eat it with olives and cheese and whatever else you do. But this is like the ... kind of like falafel is the national Israeli food, chavita is kind of like, if I'm with Israel, there's never a question, with Israelis, what is for breakfast. We all eat for breakfast the same thing. It's chavita with cheeses and olives, cucumber, tomatoes and onions, usually on the side, like an Israeli salad but chopped. Not made into a salad.

Benyamin: Unbelievable. All the Israelis I know, they eat so healthy. It's so frustrating for us Americans.

Tamar: Well, you know what, I never got why Americans eat cakes for breakfast.

Benyamin: Because it tastes good.

Tamar: But it's not giving you fuel! You need protein for breakfast.

Benyamin: Yeah.

Tamar: It's so weird. But it's very Mediterranean. Mediterraneans, we don't eat ... you know, I guess French do eat croissant for breakfast. But Israelis don't. They eat, really, proteins.

Benyamin: Yeah. So when do you have cakes, in the middle of the day? In the evening?

Tamar: I never do. Have you seen me? I never do. I eat chocolate, lots of dark chocolate, but no cakes, no.

Benyamin: Okay. I'll have to start doing your diet.

Tamar: Oh my god, yeah. It works.

Benyamin: Hello everybody, and welcome to today's show. Today we are joined, I'm super excited about this interview, we are joined by Tamar Geller. Welcome to the show.

Tamar: Thank you, thank you. It's my pleasure to be here.

Benyamin: I know you're extremely busy. You probably are juggling ... how many dogs are you juggling today?

Tamar: My god, I have so many dogs come to me to have like ... it's equivalent to going to a therapist. You come here and we have session, and it's all about playing, and it's fun. But it's with me and with other dogs, so I have to match the personality of the dogs, all dogs with issue that can help each other. So right now I have about eight dogs here that are waiting. I took a break in our session so I can talk to you.

Benyamin: Well, I appreciate that.

Tamar: My pleasure. It's my pleasure.

Benyamin: Now, if we hear some dogs in the background, they're waiting-

Tamar: Yes, you might, because a dog that was supposed to arrive earlier is running late. So please forgive the barking if there going to be any, it's part of my life.

Benyamin: That's so funny. So I know when humans go to psychologists, sometimes they call ahead and they say they're running late. But you're saying dogs also can run late to appointments?

Tamar: You know what, the dogs would never run late. It's the people. The dogs, oh my god, will be here early, drooling with excitement. It's the owners who need to get their act together.

Benyamin: And maybe that's why the dogs have problems in the first place.

Tamar: Now, now we're talking. You got it. Yes.

Benyamin: I know. It's funny, I grew up afraid of dogs. I'm not sure why, but I grew up afraid of dogs.

Tamar: Aw.

Benyamin: But when I was in college, I knew it was an irrational fear and I wanted to get over my fear of dogs, so when my friend went out of town I asked if I could dog-sit for him.

Tamar: Oh my god.

Benyamin: I went, and it was Thanksgiving, and I sat on the couch and I watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, and the dog jumped on the couch and watched the parade with me, and that was it. I was sold. After that, I was like, this is great. I have a little buddy to sit and watch TV with. This was great. So ever since then I have not been afraid of dogs, and now I've owned lots of dogs since then.

Tamar: But you see, what was really beautiful was there was an intention. An intention of you not to be stuck in a limiting belief. Most people are stuck in limiting beliefs and they don't know how to go out of that. What you have done, Benyamin, is so rare, to say, 'this is an unreasonable, un-rational fear of dogs. I'm not going to be a slave to that.' And the moment your heart, your soul, you know, made that intention, the universe conspired to give you the answer, and you were healed.

Tamar: Oftentimes I find that dogs can heal us in a lot of aspects of our lives. Aspects of fear and aspects in relationships, and limiting beliefs, in a way. So it's beautiful that you said that. It's really, really beautiful. I see dogs have healing power, and are here on earth, in my mind, as angels to help us people. I love that that's how our conversation with us is starting, that you just set the intention. This is so rare, and I applaud you for having the awareness to see that and not to be a slave to that limiting belief.

Benyamin: Well, thank you, thank you. That means a lot. You know, it's funny, 'cause now I've gone the opposite extreme. My wife makes fun of me. We'll be driving and I'll see a dog, a loose dog, and I will turn around, I will stop everything I'm doing to go and rescue the dog.

Tamar: How beautiful. How beautiful, how beautiful! But you see, that is a miracle. People think about miracles about, you know, major thing happen. This is a miracle, that instead of fear, you're now all about love. Isn't that what life is about?

Benyamin: Yeah.

Tamar: You know, this is beautiful, that you are now serving dogs where you were before afraid of dogs. That's magnificent. Magnificent.

Benyamin: Thank you. So listen, I want to talk to you about all of your dog training and all of that, but before we jump into the deep end with the dog training, I want to learn a little bit about you, and about your life before you became a dog trainer. Where did you grow up?

Tamar: I grew up in the city, and then my family moved to a moshav when I was a teenager. When we moved to the Moshav, that's when my life really, really kind of like ... I was in alignment with my heart. Because in the city, I never fit in. I was always the cool, you know, I was very cool and popular and everything, but in my heart of hearts I never cared about shopping and being a girly girl and all of that stuff, you know, the city type.

Benyamin: Was this Tel Aviv?

Tamar: It was Ramat Gan.

Benyamin: Okay, near Tel Aviv.

Tamar: Yes, near Tel Aviv. And when we moved to the Moshav, it was all about nature and connecting with nature and hiking with nature, and that where I really, really ... my heart opened up. It was almost like, you know, I was like a potential, but I didn't have the good soil, and when we moved to the country, to the Moshav, I was planted in the proper soil and everything just fell into place. And here I am now, 700 years later, working with animals and really contributing to the world through life, to our world, through my connection to animals.

Tamar: It's just, you know. It's kind of like those things that happen that changes the trajectory of our lives. City to the village. Yes.

Benyamin: Did you have any pets growing up?

Tamar: Yes. I had a dachshund and I had a German shepherd. But they were not mine, they were my family's, and the German shepherd, I still ask for forgiveness, was tied up in the yard all his life, completely, completely ... obviously, it's beyond abusive to take a social animal and tie them up. The dachshund was living with us in the house, was also not treated properly.

Tamar: But my parents didn't know. Nobody knew back then what we know now, that dogs are very much like a human toddler, cognitively and emotionally, and we would not do it to a human toddler, we certainly would not do it with a dog.

Tamar: But back then, nobody knew, and I was a kid. I mean, I didn't know to question those things.

Benyamin: It's funny, because now Tel Aviv and Israel is considered such a dog-friendly place.

Tamar: They are amazing. The Israelis are magnificent in the way they treat animals. They are magnificent. I'm so blown away. But again, back then, a lot of people, even in America, had their dogs in the backyard, like a dog should be outside. When I hear today somebody tell me, "he's not an inside dog," I'm like, "What do you mean he's not an inside dog?" What else ... I mean, what, are you saying, "He's not an inside wife." What do you mean? Your wife is like, in the garage? That dog is part of the family! You know?

Tamar: But back then, you know, consciousness was at a different place, and people treated dogs as less than, as animals, and not the way we see them now. Israel is obviously beyond unbelievable with the way they treat animals.

Benyamin: Who benefits more out of a relationship, the human or the dog?

Tamar: I think it's a mutual benefit. Look, it's all about the intention. If you get a dog or you get a child because you want to get something out of it, you think your life will be fulfilled if they're going to love you, then chances are the relationship is not going to be as good as it can be. But if you get a dog because ... or a child ... where you say, "God, I have so much to give, I have so much that I want to share," then the benefit is, you get so much by giving.

Tamar: I think all of us, as much as we love receiving, we get so much more when we give love and we're being received. The beauty about dogs is not even that they give us the love, is that they receive our love and we can shop up with the love without the fear of being rejected. And that is such a rare thing, because most people are afraid to show up with love fully. Like making fool of ourselves, silly, with baby talk and all of that, because we feel somebody going to judge us. Where, with a dog, the more we love, the more they receive us, and the more our ability to share our love grows, and we become happier. So who benefits? At the end of the day, I really believe dogs are in our life for us to learn how to love fully, give love and receive love.

Benyamin: Wow, that's beautiful.

Tamar: Yeah.

Benyamin: So, I know we kind of jumped away for a second there, but you grew up with dogs and some sort of appreciation for dogs, what happened next in your life? How did you decide to devote your life to dogs?

Tamar: You know, I was a dog liker, I wasn't a dog lover. I think a lot of people think of themselves as dog lovers, but ultimately they are only dog likers, meaning they would love a dog only as long as the dog fit their life and their needs. That's a dog liker. When you're a dog lover? The dog needs are pretty high up there, probably even above yours. This is like, those of us who are really dog lovers, it's the way most people would look at their children, or at least the conscious one, conscious parents going to look at their children.

Tamar: So I was a dog liker. And then life happens, and I became an intelligence officer with the elite special forces in Israel and I got to understand more and more about behavior, and I realized more and more this is something that I would want to do the rest of my life. I thought that I will go to university and learn to be a therapist, but I had some time and I needed time away after being in the military, longer than the basic time. I needed time away from people. I went down to the desert, the Arava desert in Israel, to help with the behavior studies of birds, social birds. When I was there there was a guy who was doing behavioral studies on wolves, Asian wolves that we have there, and I just tagged along. I start watching the wolves, and then I got awakened one time with a dream that said, extremely clear, I have zero doubt in my mind, it said, a voice said, "You must work with dogs."

Tamar: It was kind of like, I had really nothing going with dogs at the time. I had completely on a different trajectory. But that dream was so soul-shaking that I couldn't ignore it.

Benyamin: When we return, Tamar reveals how a fateful Pink Floyd concert led her to a job as a celebrity dog trainer. Plus, what's it like working with Oprah Winfrey and Ben Affleck?

Tamar: And one of the thing that I do is teach them to remain calm, even if there's chaos around them. So, I ask Ben to start like running around and jumping and acting different thing, and he just reenacted a scene from a movie that he did. I'm not sure which movie it is, but it was like some kind of a war movie, because he was dodging bombs, rolling on the ground, you know, doing everything. It was unbelievably cute, absolutely sweet, to see how involved he was wanting to help his dog.

Benyamin: All that and much more, after the break.

Benyamin: You may remember a recent episode we had with From the Grapevine's resident chef, Sarah Berkowitz.

Sarah Berkowitz: You know, I had an interest in psychology since I was very little. I love the idea of nurturing people and helping them fix their problems, and I've really discovered that food has a way of doing that. The act of eating, and cooking for someone is very intimate, and I find that it creates a strong bond. It's the kind of gift ... when you give someone homemade food or you cook a meal for someone, it really strengthens their mind.

Benyamin: She's made more than 400 recipes for our site.

Sarah Berkowitz: It's more than just food.

Benyamin: And now, we're offering something special. Sarah will send one lucky listener her famous cranberry pistachio biscotti and chocolate truffle biscotti. If you want that scrumptious deliciousness sent to your mailbox, here's all you need to do. As you've heard me say on this show before, the more reviews a podcast has on the iTunes store, the easier it is for new listeners to discover the show. So we're asking you, our loyal listeners, to help us out. Head on over to the iTunes store, search for the Our Friend from Israel podcast, and write us a review. We'll be looking at those reviews over the next few weeks, and for the person that writes us the best review, Sarah will mail a dozen biscotti for you to enjoy.

Benyamin: So pull up the iTunes store on your phone or on your computer, and show your creativity. Help out the show and a box of biscotti could be on its way to your door. We'll name the winner on an upcoming episode of the podcast. Thanks for your help.

Benyamin: And now, back to today's conversation with celebrity dog trainer, Tamar Geller.

Tamar: One thing led to another, and I came after a year in Southeast Asia, I came to United States, just for a visit. I thought, "Oh, I'm just going to see if I can be a seeing eye dog trainer here in the United States and bring it to Israel," 'cause I was never planning not to live in Israel. When they told me it's going to be two years, I said, "Ah, I can't be two years away from Israel, so, not going to happen."

Tamar: So let me volunteer for dog training for a minute while I was waiting for Pink Floyd who were going to have a concert. This is how crazy our life works, okay? John Lennon said, "Life happens when you're busy making other plans."

Tamar: So, while I was waiting I volunteered for a dog trainer and he got a call from someone in a fancy neighborhood in town, and he didn't want to go to that fancy neighborhood, he didn't want to deal with that person. It was a cocker spaniel who was stealing socks. He said, "You go." I'm like, "I'm not a dog trainer," and he says, "You go."

Tamar: I said, "But I don't know what I'm doing." He said, "What you've done with wolves is more than most people do with dogs, dog trainers. You go." So I went and with my broken English, I started working with that guy. And basically I showed him that the only reason his cocker spaniel was stealing socks is because that's the only time that he gets attention. And that man was telling me, "But I'm home. I'm working from home." And I said, "Yes, you're physically there, but you're not present to your dog." All of a sudden the light bulb went up in his head and he was like, "Oh my god," and you know, Benyamin, it's a lot of relationships. You can physically be there for your spouse, for your children, for everybody, but if you are not emotionally there, there's no relationship, and they're going to misbehave in order to get their needs met.

Tamar: So when I showed him how to meet his dog's needs, the six needs at the highest level, not where the dog needs to meet them according to his menu of dogs, dog options, everything changed. Within two days, the dog behavior changed. Turns out that guy was Kenny G, the saxophone player. Yeah, it's really funny! Goldie Hawn called me, Whoopie Goldberg, Nicolette Sheridan. Nicolette Sheridan, years later, introduced me to Oprah Winfrey when they were both on the set of Desperate Housewives, and by then I was already, through, again, just people that I knew kept saying to other people, "Look, she's different, her method is different." And I didn't even see myself as a dog trainer or dog behaviorist.

Tamar: Animal planet called, and they wanted to do a TV show, so I was with them for a while. They talked about me to other network, and I became the resident dog expert for the Today Show. And then from there, Simon & Schuster came calling, and I said, "I'm not a writer! I can't write a book." They chased me and they convinced me, thank god. I wrote it, and Oprah called the CEO of Simon & Schuster and said, "I want to launch Tamar's book." So Oprah launched my book which became an international bestseller.

Tamar: It's kind of like, this is just all in the past, because now I'm about to do stuff that is even more amazing and more exciting and more applicable to everybody's other relationship, where the dog is your teacher. You dog is your life coach. You know? Yeah, in the process your dog will become the best dog ever, but if you know how to get your dog to be your devoted friend, not obedient to you but devoted to you, in love with you, then you probably can use those same things that you have learned with your spouse, with your children, with your coworkers, with everybody. And that's how I believe we're going to make the world a better place. Like, creating a culture of appreciation versus a culture of obedience and servitude, and the dog is to be submissive and you are the master. All that nonsense doesn't resonate with people anymore. Thank god.

Benyamin: So it's all thanks to a Pink Floyd concert.

Tamar: It's all thanks to a lot of things that completely seem random, and not connected. See, I love ... there's a saying that we live life looking forward but we understand life looking backwards. When things that seem that they didn't work out, and things that don't make sense, at the end when we connect the dots we see how brilliant that intelligence, that divine intelligence, is. And I'm very, very, as you can tell, very spiritual, because I'm just blown away by that energy that we all have, and I think the most pure form of that is in dogs.

Tamar: We're lucky to have dogs live with us. We have access to that.

Benyamin: So tell me about ... your method of dog training is called "The Loved Dog." Basically it's where dogs can be trained with kindness, is that correct?

Tamar: It's way beyond that, it's way beyond that. When Oprah launched my book 13 years ago, it's after she was testing it with me for a few years, so this is something that I've done for a few decades. Where I'm at now is not even kindness, it's the next level. It's mindfulness. Because the way we used to teach children is give them the answer and they had to repeat it and memorize it. We now know that that's not the best way of teaching. Now the way we teach children in school is asking good quality questions so the kids will come up with the answers on their own. Because when we work through a problem and come to the answer on our own, we own it. We own that answer. But also what happened, we created new neural pathways in the brain that later on we can use into other areas. We learn how to think. We learn how to process information.

Tamar: So what I'm doing with dogs is, I teach them how to be mindful, how to think, how to ignore being triggered instead of being impulsive. This is exactly the same thing that conscious parents do with their children. They teach the children how not to be impulsive, how to control the emotional state and actually be a better communicator when they need something. That is what parenting, the conscious parenting movement, is doing. And that's what I'm doing with dogs.

Tamar: So I do not give commands. All dogs that I'm working with come when I'm asking them, and they sit and they do a lot more, but what happen is they offer me the behavior. I don't have to tell them. And that's the beauty, you know? That's the beauty, when they want to offer. They are like above and beyond. I have people come here and I'm running out of tissues basically, I should have shares in the tissues company. Because people are like crying with joy when they never thought that the dog is that incredible. What it is is, we are showing how incredible and how sophisticated and how mindful dogs are, and that is what the method that I'm using right now. I can't say too much, but you'll be able to see it in a TV show pretty soon.

Benyamin: Hmm. So you never say no to a dog? It's like, most people-

Tamar: I never say no.

Benyamin: Yeah.

Tamar: When people talk to a dog and they tell the dog "no," teach them what it is that is proper, then, in your human culture. Do you see what I'm saying? "No" does not give enough information. It's up to us to teach what it is that we would like them to be in a kind way, in a way that we keep them wanting to learn from us, in a way that gonna enhance the dog's relationship with his paw-rents, not break down the relationship because there's fear and distrust.

Benyamin: You know, I've had my share of problem dogs. I had a dog once that always jumped on people and I couldn't take him to public places and it was hard having people come to the house. Are all dogs fixable? Or is it the owner? What's your thoughts on that?

Tamar: So, if you're going to go to my website, "The Loved Dog," you will see testimonials. There was one woman who was like, I was the 11th dog trainer, alright? Because I'm a behaviorist, but lets say dog trainer. 11th! And the dog was so aggressive nobody could touch him, and after one session, we can touch him even in his jewels area, you know?

Tamar: So, are all dogs fixable? The answer is no, however, I have seen again and again and again that using the method that I've created, the method is based on trust and safety and fun and the dogs coming to their own conclusion, miracles happen. So I've worked time and again with dogs who nobody thought there would be any hope, and time and again I would say, 9.9 out of 10, we see immeasurable ... or actually, measurable progress. Measurable progress. Unbelievable.

Tamar: So yes, I do think most dogs are fixable. The issue is, it's about the people.

Benyamin: Right, that was my next question.

Tamar: Yeah, I create a partnership. It's kind of like ... it's a triad. It's the dog, it's the paw-rent, and it's me. You know? I can do it with the dog, but if the paw-rent is undoing everything that we are doing then it's not going to work. So I'm actually very easy on the dog and I'm much more demanding on the paw-rent. You know? And there are going to be no excuses that the dog is such if you do not do what I'm asking you to do. And what I'm asking you to do is very simple, but it's difficult.

Benyamin: What I've noticed is that, whatever the parent is feeling, we'll call it the parent, whatever the parent is feeling, that transfers to the dog. So if you have a nervous ... you know, if you're in a dog park and you're afraid your dog is gonna pull you, you're going to hold the leash tighter and you're going to make the dog more fearful and more scared.

Tamar: You're 100% right, but it's even more than that. How many times people call the dog in the dog park and the dog was playing, having fun, stops, you know, look at them, and then goes, "Oh, they're calling me, I'll go." And they go to their paw-rent and what happens? They put him on a leash and take him out of the park. The next time they're calling the dog, the dog goes, "Oh, I remember what happened last time. The moment I came to them the fun was over. I'm not going back." Meaning, how many times we are sabotaging our dog, unbeknownst to us?

Tamar: How many people say "Good dog," to their dog? Everything that the dog is doing, they're saying, "Good dog." The dog goes potty, "Good dog!" The dog sit, "Good dog!" The dog comes to them, "Good dog!" That is sabotaging the dog. Because you're not teaching. Then you say to the dog, "Come," the dog didn't come. When did the dog hear the word come? You said come one time and 12 times good dog. You never taught your dog English. So what are you doing? Are you being as good teacher as you think you are? Are you as a good communicator as good you are? We're not communicating properly.

Tamar: So the dog is a great opportunity to learn to communicate better, because the dog going to give us a true answer. If you are calling your dog and your dog is not coming, you have one option, blaming the dog, that is the low vibration option, or to say, "Hmm, what have I done, unbeknownst to me, to make the dog not want to come to me?" And to look at ourselves and to say, what can I do to get it better? To change things?

Tamar: When we do that, it almost like, it transforms so many other relationships in our life and we become happier and more fulfilled with other relationships, not just with a dog. And that is the beauty, because dog is not polite. Dogs give us the true answer. So instead of blaming them, let's look, let's learn, and let's change ourself so we can be better and we can be happier.

Benyamin: If you're enjoying this episode, you'll also want to check out our interview with celebrity chef, Ron Ben-Israel. He told us what it was like being discovered by Martha Stewart.

Benyamin: What was it like getting a call from Martha Stewart?

Ron Ben-Israel: Actually I thought it was a joke. I thought somebody's pulling my leg. And then when I arrived there will be nothing.

Benyamin: You can find that interview and our entire archive of episodes at ourfriendfromisrael.com.

Benyamin: And now, back to today's conversation with celebrity dog trainer, Tamar Geller.

Benyamin: So I know you work with a lot of celebrities. You told us about Kenny G and Oprah. The question I had was, does a celebrity dog know that they're a celebrity dog? Do they act like a diva or something?

Tamar: That is so cute. The answer is, absolutely not, and that is what is so incredible about dogs. They truly don't care about the outside. They don't care about our bank accounts, they don't care about our curating how famous we are or not, if the TV show is doing great or tanking. All they do is they care about our hearts. That's what's so incredible about dogs, that they are just so sincere and so pure and so honest.

Tamar: I remember one time I was sitting with my beloved Oprah, and I told her, "You know, your dogs don't know you're Oprah." And she looked at me and she goes, "That's why I love them." You know? That's the one place ... you know? 'Cause obviously Oprah is not ego-driven. Oprah is heart-driven, you know. It's the one place where all of us get to be ourselves with no judgment, whether your parents are billionaires, whether your parents are homeless. The dog loves you the same if you show up. All the dog cares is, how do you show up.

Tamar: Now, the one challenge that I have with people who are very famous or people who are very wealthy, is that they have a team around them. Quite honestly, it's easier to work, for me, with a regular person, because it's them, if they have family, and the dog. When you're dealing with famous people or with very wealthy people, they have a whole team around them and so many times they don't have the time to be involved with the dog.

Tamar: That's one thing I loved about Oprah, by the way. She was completely involved with the dog. During the housebreaking time period she would take them out on her own. She was so involved. And a lot of the time the celebrities don't have the time to be involved, and the assistants are really not into taking the extra work on. And that's the challenge to dealing with celebrities. Not everybody. There are a lot of celebrities who are super, super involved. Truly involved, truly caring.

Tamar: Charlize Theron, she rescued a dog that was so abused that they had to amputate his penis. And she was hands-on, Charlize, so involved with this dog, so incredible. I mean, Halle Berry is magnificent, Ben Affleck. I can give you ... so amazing. I mean, Jon Stewart and his wife. Oh my god, magnificent, magnificent.

Benyamin: They're big into animals, Jon Stewart and his wife.

Tamar: Yes, yes. They're absolutely angels. I mean truly unbelievable. And it's not that I'm not mentioning someone that they're not, I just can't remember the list.

Benyamin: So you're not going to give us any gossip about a bad celebrity dog owner.

Tamar: No, no. I'm not going to give anything bad. But honestly, it's just the challenge of the schedule. That is truly ... it's not for the love or that they don't care. It's just that the schedule is that they have a lot of people picking up the slack, and oftentimes because dogs needs, just like babies, just like toddlers, dog needs consistency, then they rely on their staff to offer that consistency, and it's very difficult for me to deal with. Because everybody have their own idea. And it's very difficult to create a cohesive plan when there are so many chefs in the kitchen.

Benyamin: Yeah.

Tamar: Am I making sense?

Benyamin: No, it makes a lot of sense.

Tamar: Yeah.

Benyamin: A lot of the dog training that I have done with my own dogs or I have read about, you know, it's more training, like you're saying, it's more training the owner than the dogs.

Tamar: Here's what the issue is. Think about, you have a toddler and I'm teaching your child how to communicate by speaking Hebrew.

Benyamin: Okay.

Tamar: But you're not around to learn how to speak Hebrew. So now, your child is communicating in Hebrew, but you only know English. How can you communicate? So what it is, is, I can teach the dog and the dog will be phenomenal with me. Will be phenomenal with others who learn how to speak the dog's language. But if you want me to teach the dog, and I am teaching the dog, mainly what I'm teaching the dog is how to move from impulse-based behavior to being mindful ...

Benyamin: There's one right now.

Tamar: How would you be able to communicate with your dog if you don't speak the same language? I need you around because ... you see, it's so funny. I was just thinking about the whole idea. Some of these people come to me at the end and they say, "Give me a list of the words that the dog knows." And the equivalent, I was thinking how to explain it, is somebody going to the Dalai Lama and saying, "Okay, give me a mantra." As if the Dalai Lama, someone who is really good at what they are doing, can give you a mantra and that's it, as if you would not have to sit and meditate for hours. For really to change the nervous system, your nervous system, so the mantra will start permeating your body. And that's the same way.

Tamar: People ask me, "Give me the words that the dog know." It's not about the words. It's about, do you know how to connect with the dog? Do you know how to get the dog's nervous system to be relaxed when he's with you because he knows, he or she knows, that you got it?

Benyamin: Right.

Tamar: That you will take care of them. Do you see what I'm saying? It's not about the words. It's about the relationship.

Benyamin: The communication.

Tamar: Yes.

Benyamin: Did I read, when you were helping Oprah train her dogs, you actually stayed at her house and you worked with her really intensely.

Tamar: Yes. Over the years I worked with six of her dogs. So I was very fortunate to be able to travel with her and stay with her in Chicago and stay with her on her magnificent place in Monticello, Santa Barbara, and work with her and work with her team. It's been incredible. She's the most generous of spirit human being. I cannot tell you how much I love her. You know how they say, like not to get close to the people you admire, 'cause you're going to get disappointed?

Benyamin: Yeah.

Tamar: That is not the case. She is ... I mean, there was one time where she was busy and I was busy and I ended up, she was somewhere else and I didn't have dinner. And in the morning, she was horrified that I didn't have dinner. You could see, she was like, "I can't believe, why didn't you order...?" I was like, "I wasn't thinking." She is so empathetic. She is so caring, she is so involved. She knew that I loved a certain salad, so she would take her time when she had the time to make me that salad. I mean, you know. She is just such a giving, loving, caring ... walking her spirituality. I cannot say high enough about Oprah Winfrey. She is absolutely, was, and even more now, my hero. She's magnificent.

Benyamin: Is there a funny celebrity story that you have of a pet belonging to a celebrity?

Tamar: It was cute, like when I taught Ben Affleck's dogs how to stay. Then, I have to teach the dog how to remain laying down in the same position no matter what. One of the thing that I do is teach them to remain calm even if there's chaos around them. So I asked Ben to start like running around and jumping and acting different thing. He just reenacted a scene from a movie that he did. I'm not sure which movie it is, but it was like some kind of a war movie, because he was dodging bombs, rolling on the ground, you know, doing everything, and it was unbelievably cute, absolutely sweet, to see how involved he was wanting to help his dog to control themselves when he was like on the ground doing all of that. It was just cute. But it's not, you know, it was endearing. It was endearing more than funny.

Benyamin: So, I know you give back and you're involved with some non-profit work. You want to tell us about Operation Heroes and Hounds?

Tamar: Yes, so I have a non-profit foundation called The Loved World, my company is The Loved Dog and my non-profit is The Loved World. A few years ago General Patraeus asked me, him and his wife contacted me, to create a program, because I was doing a program with juvenile prisoners called Another Chance for Love, where I would take shelter dogs and work with the juvenile prisoners on how to change their lives by changing the dogs lives. And oftentimes, what we give when we give is, that's when we receive the most. So he heard about it, General Patraeus and his wife, and they reached out, and they opened the doors for me in Camp Pendleton for the marines.

Tamar: I was going twice a week, I sponsored it myself, so time and money, and I worked with amazing people who came back with traumatic brain injury, TBI, and post-traumatic stress disorder. And I worked with shelters and I would take dogs from there, and I worked, taught, through the mindful play training, my method, taught the marines how to train the dogs. I think it's still on my website. It's unbelievable the change that was happening through the angels the dogs are. And when you work with dogs with no leashes and no choke chains, none of that nonsense, when you work with them through showing up with love, showing up with clarity, showing up consistently, what happen is, your own nervous system changes. And that's what happened to the marines. And from there, I expanded the program to the VA and then I also expanded it afterwards to the DAV, the Disabled American Veterans.

Tamar: So the program was with all these organizations for many years, and it's now on hold for different reasons. Nothing to do with the program. We will do it again at one point. But it was phenomenal. Absolutely phenomenal.

Benyamin: So, speaking of the future, if you and I were to have a conversation in five years from now or ten years from now, what do you hope to be doing then? What are your goals?

Tamar: My goal is to create a paradigm shift in the way people train their dogs. I really, really would like to show people that there's a better way. I'm about to start filming a TV show, knock on wood, God's willing, it gonna happen. The show, the plan is for it to be distributed all over the world, because I really want ... I believe if people knew, if dog paw-rents knew, that there's a better way, no shock collars, no pronged collars, no choke chains and the dog would actually will be better and would love them better, and the dog will be devoted to them, I think people would want to do that. So that is my biggest goal, is to create the paradigm shift that through the way that people interact with their dogs, that they will have the tools that will allow them to interact with fellow human being. And through that, that we will have a better, more loving world.

Benyamin: So you're saying, people can learn from their human-dog relationships to better their human-human relationships.

Tamar: That is the best training wheels. Dogs are angels. That's the purpose they came to earth, in my mind. The biggest purpose dogs are serving is opening our hearts. Absolutely, that's their number one purpose on this earth, they are angels. I think we all know the story about the curmudgeon person who didn't like anybody, didn't like people, and they brought him a dog and all of a sudden you see how the person literally changing. Something in him softening up, there's love there. Dogs are the most divine energy in a physical manifestation on earth, in my mind. Working with dogs for over three decades, they are God's right hand as far as I am concerned. And that's why I'm honoring them and I'm serving them, and I believe that they are the best way for people to learn how to be humans.

Benyamin: Is there any question that I didn't ask you that I should have asked you?

Tamar: What a great question.

Benyamin: I know you're interviewed a lot, so I want to make sure.

Tamar: Yeah, yeah. No, I think you're doing great job. I really do.

Benyamin: So let me ask you, so if people ... I know you're based in Los Angeles, but if people want to hire you, you also do online dog training, right? Like on Skype or online?

Tamar: Yes, yes. Number one, people fly me all over the world to be with their dogs, but this can be expensive. But I'm available on Skype, I'm available for phone calls. Soon there's gonna be, I'm in the process of opening a center that people will be able to come with their dogs and learn. Just, I really, you know ... I want people to reach out, because so often they're not getting the answers from conventional dog training, even from the positive reinforcement.

Tamar: One of the biggest issues that I'm dealing with is that dogs have a problem, and dog trainers, even those who mean well, still only have the obedience, the sit, stay, come, down and heel, as an answer. And oftentimes it's got nothing to do with that. There's a completely different reason of why the dog is doing the behavior that they are doing, and it's almost like it reminds me where you lost your keys in the alley, but you're going to go to the street to look for them because that's where you have the light, the post light. It's like, no, no. We have to go where you lost your keys. So if a dog have a problem, let's not deal with sit, stay, and all of that stuff, because that's not where the problem is. Let's go to where the problem is, and that's what I'm hoping I'll be able to offer, more and more help in that area. And for people who are working with dogs to have more tools to help the dog paw-rents.

Tamar: Meanwhile the dog parents who have question, I'm available, they can hire me on Skype, phone calls, privates. People fly to see me and the dog can stay with me for training vacation while they're staying nearby. We have many different ways to work with the dog. There's always ways. And we can fit most budgets in.

Benyamin: And if people want to find you, they can go to theloveddog.com?

Tamar: Theloveddog.com, yes. And on Instagram, on Facebook, my website, twitter. Theloveddog.com. Yes.

Benyamin: Cool. Well this has been phenomenal, I really, I'm a dog lover so this has been especially enjoyable for me.

Tamar: Yes.

Benyamin: I really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us today.

Tamar: Thank you for inviting me. I'm so grateful for every opportunity to share the knowledge and hopefully create a major, major paradigm shift in the way dogs are being seen and trained. So thank you, Benyamin.

Benyamin: Alright Tamar. Thank you so much, I really appreciate you taking the time.

Tamar: Absolutely, thank you.

Benyamin: Our Friend from Israel is a production of fromthegrapevine.com. Extra notes and a transcript of today's episode can be found at ourfriendfromisrael.com.

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Benyamin: Our show is produced by Paul Kasko, editorial help from Jamie Bender. Our head engineer is Everett Adams. Our theme music is by Haim Mazar, a Hollywood film composer who grew up in Israel. You can visit our website at ourfriendfromisrael.com to find more episodes of the show. And if you have an idea for a future guest that we should interview, send me an email at [email protected]

Benyamin: This is the last episode of season one of our show. We'll be taking a break over the holidays and hope to be back with season two and more friends from Israel in 2019.

Benyamin: I'm your host, Benyamin Cohen, and until next time, we hope you have a great week.


Photos and SlideshowsPhotos and Slideshows

Related Topics: Animals, TV

Episode 23: Tamar Geller, celebrity dog trainer
She was discovered by Oprah, and now trains the dogs of Ellen DeGeneres, Ben Affleck, Reese Witherspoon and others.