But then he was accused of abandoning his beloved canine companion, Captain, before heading down to a sister’s house in Westchester County, a suburb of New York City, ahead of his resignation – a claim Cuomo denied.
Captain, who reportedly has had behavior issues for some time, nipping and intimidating aides and urinating indoors, should have been better trained and properly transported off the property in advance, according to Warrior Dog Foundation founder Mike Ritland, a former Navy SEAL and well-known dog trainer and public speaker.
“It’s a reflection of his leadership really across the board, I think, in that, it’s substandard,” Ritland said Wednesday. “And I’m not really surprised that he left his dog hanging out to dry because he did that with half the state.”
Cuomo was knocked over the weekend after the Albany Times Union newspaper cited two state police sources who alleged that he left his dog, Captain, behind at the Executive Mansion and was trying to give the pooch away.
But Cuomo pushed back on that reporting.
“Some people just can’t get the facts straight. Yes, I was downstate monitoring storm response for a few days, but Captain and I are a man and his dog,” he tweeted Monday. “He is part of our family and that’s the way it will always be.”
However the photo Cuomo shared showing himself, Captain and his three daughters, is at least a year old. It also appeared in a June 2020 People article. So it couldn’t have been taken as Hurricane Henri roared up the Atlantic coast.
The report alleged that Cuomo staffers were asking around for someone to take Captain in, but the outgoing governor’s office disputed that too, saying he just needed someone to watch the dog temporarily.
Rich Azzopardi, who has been described as “Andrew Cuomo’s bulldog spokesman,” barked back at the Times Union for its reporting, telling the paper, “Captain is part of the governor’s family and for your nameless ill-informed source to imply they’ve been trying to give him away is untrue.”
“Someone offered to watch him for a few days while the transition was ongoing but for that to be weaponized and morph from a game of telephone into the pages of your paper is absurd — now excuse us we’re preparing for a major storm,” he added.
However, the paper’s unnamed source doubled down on Tuesday: “He planned on keeping that dog as much as he planned on living over his big sister’s garage at 63.”
And New York Times reporter Shane Goldmacher summed it up on Twitter Monday:
“The problem for the Cuomo team with this dog story — on his last day as governor — is that the fervent denials from his office follow other past denials of things that were true,” he wrote.
Not the kind of behavior becoming of a leader, according to Ritland, and the lack of self-discipline could have rubbed off on the dog.
With Thursday being National Dog Day in the U.S., however, Ritland has some advice for new dog owners on how to properly train and care for their canine companions.
Throughout the course of the pandemic, pet ownership soared and animal rescues saw a surge in adoptions, but then reports followed of large numbers of people trying to return animals.
Training should begin immediately, Ritland said, and if an owner is trying but failing to get results for several weeks, they can seek help from a professional.
“Any behavior that you reinforce is likely to occur again,” he explained. “On the transverse, some that they do that’s not rewarded is gonna be extinguished. So if it’s something that you want, you’ve gotta pay them and reinforce it…If it’s something that you want to extinguish, there has to be a consequence.”
In general, the breed doesn’t matter, Ritland said, and even dogs with a predisposition for bad behavior have hope.
“Not every single dog on the planet has the ability to be rehabilitated to the point where they can be in the environment and be depended upon from an obedience standpoint,” he said. “Having said that, almost every dog can. A lot of dogs get the short end of the stick and are deemed either dangerous or untrainable or whatever when they really [aren’t].”
For some dogs, it takes more time and a dedicated owner, he said, but it can be done.
And when an owner consistently fails to train their dog, that says more about them than the animal, he said.
“Ultimately, it always falls on the owner’s lap in terms of who’s responsible for the dog and how they behave,” he said.
Ritland also has an online training program available at his website.