By Cesar Millan

My goal in rehabilitating dogs and training people is to create balanced relationships between humans and canines, but people often ask me, “What is a balanced dog?” A balanced dog is calm and submissive, obedient and well-behaved. A truly balanced dog does not need a leash between him or herself and their human, although you should follow the local leash laws in your community always, no matter how balanced your dog is.

The response to this is usually, “Okay, but what is a balanced dog?” The real question, of course, is “How do I get my dog to be balanced?” It begins with my fulfillment formula, which many of you probably know by heart: “Exercise, Discipline, and then Affection — in that order.”

But, like any formula, there are two sides to the equation. Einstein’s famous “E” is meaningless without “=mc2.” Likewise, in order to turn “Exercise, Discipline, Affection” into balance, you need the rest of the equation.

A balanced dog is one that is fulfilled in all three aspects of its being: body, mind, and heart. Pay too much (or not enough) attention to any one of those areas, and your dog becomes unbalanced. If you don’t provide enough exercise, the dog’s excess energy in its body will override everything else. That dog’s mind will not be focused and its heart (or feelings) will go completely out of control.

If you give your dog nothing but affection, then you’re combining the lack of exercise problem with a lack of discipline and creating a situation in which your dog will take over the pack. Provide exercise and affection with no discipline, and you’ll get a dog that will never listen to anyone.

There’s a reason that I say exercise, discipline, affection in that order. Body, mind, and heart are just another way of saying instinct, intellect, and emotion. For humans, we emphasize emotion and intellect in our behavior and our instincts get pushed aside.

For dogs, it’s the other way around. They live in an instinctual world where their intellect and emotions are secondary. So, if we give too much affection or discipline and not enough exercise, the dog actually loses touch with its own instincts and nature. At the same time, if we approach a dog from an emotional or intellectual point of view, we won’t be able to see our dog’s instinctual behavior and what it’s telling us.

So, filling in the formula, we have:

  • Exercise is for the Body = Fulfilling Instinct
  • Discipline is for the Mind = Fulfilling Intellect
  • Affection is for the Heart = Fulfilling Emotion

Now you should be able to see what you’re doing for your dog when you apply each of those things. But that leaves one unanswered question. If the goal is a balanced dog, how does each of these things fit into it?  

So far, I’ve been talking about methods, but let’s look at goals. How do we really get to a balanced dog? We have to take the next step, and understand why we have to fulfill instinct first, then intellect, then emotion. Let’s add something else to the equation.

  • Giving Exercise = Acknowledging Instinct = Creating Trust
  • Enforcing Discipline = Challenging Intellect = Creating Respect
  • Giving Affection = Fulfilling Emotions = Creating Love

Squash that all down and you get Exercise = Trust, Discipline = Respect, and Affection = Love. But there’s something more important going on here as you create each of these things in your dog.

It is only when you, as a human, stop acting intellectually and emotionally and start acting instinctually that you will start to realize one of the most important things you will ever need to know in order to have a balanced dog. As you work through all of this, your goal is not to make your dog trust, respect, and love you. It is to make yourself trustworthy, respectable, and loveable.

Our dogs are our best reflections of our state of being. It isn’t until we can bring ourselves to where we need to be that we will ever get our dogs to follow. Turn off your mind and heart, listen to your instinct instead, and then you will become the Pack Leader that your dog needs you to be.

Stay calm and balanced, and have a great week!


Got an unbalanced dog? Tell us what is causing your dog’s behavior problem and how you intend to help your pooch.

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