By Cesar Millan
One of the most important things I teach people to do is always exhibit calm, assertive energy around their dogs — and it’s a good way to approach life in general. But I’m frequently asked, “How do I do that?”
The good news is that once you’ve figured out how to achieve that state of calm, it becomes more instinctual and easier to do. The better news is that anyone can learn how to emit calm, assertive energy. Here are five tips to help you achieve it.
- Relax. Your dog is not misbehaving on purpose
No matter what it seems like, your dog is not peeing on the floor or tearing up your favorite shoes to get back at you. When dogs do things like this, it is because you are not fulfilling their needs — but they don’t know that.
Bored dogs can become destructive and insecure dogs may urinate if they become fearful. It’s your job, as the pack leader, to make sure that their excess energy is drained through exercise, that their lives have structure through rules, boundaries, and limitations, and that you leave them with something intellectually stimulating — like a toy stuffed with treats — at those times when you have to leave them alone.
Remember, unlike children, you can’t rationalize with dogs and you cannot explain why something they did when you weren’t there is wrong. Don’t take their behavior personally and don’t get upset about it. Take it as their way of telling you what’s missing in their life.
- Your dog’s energy is a reflection of your own
The quickest way to figure out what energy you’re projecting to the world is to look at your dog, especially on the walk. If your dog is not calm and happy-go-lucky, then neither are you.
Does your dog go crazy at the sight of any other dog? Then you’re probably nervous or tense about a possible dog encounter as well.
Is your dog hesitant about going on the walk, refusing to follow you and trying to pull you back home? Ask yourself how you’re feeling in that moment. You may be angry or insecure.
How does your dog act at home? Is she bouncing off the walls or is she resting calmly? Again, this is all a reflection of the energy you’re exhibiting to your dog. What’s great about it is that you can use your dog as an emotional thermostat to check and adjust your own emotional “temperature.”
- Try living in the moment
There’s a saying (incorrectly attributed to Lao Tzu) that goes, “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
So many of our negative emotions and unstable energy states come from not living in the present moment. The past gives us regret over things that we did or did not do, while the future gives us worries over things that may or may not happen.
We can’t change the past and we can’t live in the future until it becomes the present. Focusing on what’s happening right now will help us find that place of calmness. It’s what our dogs do naturally, and it’s one of the greatest lessons we can learn from them.
- Reconnect with nature
Take the time regularly to go someplace where nature surrounds you. It can be a park, the beach, the mountains, or the desert — whatever appeals to you. Leave your cell phone behind (or turn it off), take a walk with your dog, and just observe and enjoy what’s around you.
Learn to listen to nature and observe the interactions of the land, plants, and animals — wild birds have fascinating conversations with each other all the time. Stop thinking about what’s going on in your day-to-day human world and focus on the sensations; what you see, hear, smell, and feel. Breathe deeply and maybe even meditate.
This is the world that your dog lives in. It’s also the world that all humans were born into. It’s just very easy for us to lose sight of that.
- Rehabilitating your dog is a process
It’s the rare dog that seems to be born perfect — housebroken instantly, never destroys things that aren’t hers, and obeys automatically. If you have one of those dogs, congratulations.
If you don’t, then you’re like most dog owners. And, sometimes, it may seem like you’ll never be able to fix the problem. However, this attitude can become a trap. Remember what I said about living in the future? Well, worrying that you’ll never be able to rehabilitate your dog is living in the future, and if you’re anxious about not getting results, then you won’t get them.
Focus on the small successes on the way, as they happen. Pretty soon, the small successes will become more constant until you’re having medium successes and then big ones. At the same time, you’ll stop worrying about what’s going to happen and learn to enjoy what is happening.
Learning to exhibit calm, assertive energy is not a huge mystery. Humans even know how to do it as babies, sometimes. It isn’t a new skill to be learned. It’s a natural trait to be remembered, and mastering it will bring your relationship with your dog to a whole new level.
How would you describe your own energy? Are you mostly calm and assertive, nervous, unsure, excited, other? Share it with us in the comments below.