Welcome to the new year! Let’s start this year by going back to basics: calm energy for you and your dog. Many times, people inadvertently create the problems that cause people to need “training for their dogs”. The reality is that the training needs to take place for the humans, and while many of my clients do realize this in advance they don’t truly understand that the dog can change rather quickly when its environment – meaning the human equation – changes. But how do you achieve that “calm” state of mind?
Calm is the foundational aspect of true leadership. Many people have extremely stressful jobs and they are phenomenal in that job as leaders yet somehow that doesn’t translate when they return home to their furry family. I believe that it’s also a human need to not be totally committed to leadership ALL of the time, especially when we are in our “relaxation place”. Our dogs provide unconditional love, at least as we sometimes view their behavior, and we can just sit back and bathe in the glory of dogs.
But they NEED what we MUST provide to them: structured lives, control of the state of mind, living in the moment instead of living in the past, and both mental and physical challenges to nurture their animal/dog/breed requirement. Without this, dogs will view their pack as weak and requiring leadership. Just like humans, when being thrust into a position and environment or job that is uncomfortable or beyond the ability of the person, dogs will also begin to exhibit behaviors which are anti-social and virtually unproductive for the rest of the pack. Those behaviors will be nervous or anxious, too much energy all the way to the other end of the spectrum at aggression, resource guarding, and biting or snapping at humans including the owner.
It is at this point where humans begin to sense that they are not in control and frankly they are wrong: they actually lost control WAY before they begin to realize it because they make excuses and anthropomorphize their dogs by putting human emotions into what they THINK their dog(s) are thinking. Once again, this is weakness in the canine world and creates more of an uncomfortable environment for the dog. And the cycle continues.
You love your dog… but do you love your dog in the way that THEY need to be loved? If you are not providing calm leadership, you are not loving your dog the best way that you can. Being calm is easy when things are going right but how do you stay calm when things are going wrong?
Take a “combat breath”: in for a 4 count, hold it for a second, let it all out. Clear your mind, move forward.
Think of a leader that you admire and role model their outlook and behavior pattern (don’t imitate, use it as a MODEL for your behavior).
A dog’s reality is their senses: ENERGY, nose, eyes, ears. That’s it. Have that become YOUR reality, not emotional, intellectual or spiritual.
Concentrate on the positives for you AND the dog. I once had a client who told me their dog was a 30%’er one day. I asked what happened and they said that he had gotten excited at the sight of another dog and that they had corrected it and everything was fine afterwards. I remarked that I would have said 95% at the lowest and probably higher. Don’t concentrate on the negatives.
Take time for you, and enjoy the time you do have with your dog. There ARE people who would love to have a dog but can’t for one reason or another. Remember this when you are with your dog.
Challenge yourself as well as the dog. The more often you and the dog complete a challenge together as a team, the tighter a bond you will have with your dog. Go places you haven’t gone before, do things you haven’t done. When they were renourishing the beaches years ago, Koa and I would jump onto the large pipe that extended out into the ocean from the sand and Koa would not only hurdle it, but he would also “tightrope it” all the way to the water and back.
Spend time in nature. Beaches, rivers, waterfalls, mountains, trails, fields: all are within a few miles of wherever you are reading this. Go, clear your mind, breath, experience where you are. Pause to reflect on nothing and the more you do this the better you will get at it, perhaps to the point where you can do this even while overseeing and managing your environment. When you do this, you are being calm & assertive!
Until the next time, be a calm, assertive, and be the positive role model for someone else!