A dog shakes her owner's hand.

By Cesar Millan

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! When you hear that phrase, the first thing you probably think of is people dressed in green, drinking green beer, and celebrating their Irish heritage — or becoming “Irish” for a day.

The other thing you probably think of is the most famous legend about St. Patrick: He is said to have banished snakes from Ireland, so there are no snakes on that island today. There probably never really were any snakes there, but don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.

While St. Patrick did not literally banish snakes from Ireland, he may have done it metaphorically, and this is something that I teach people how to do all the time.

The snakes in this story are the things that hold us back from accomplishing our goals. When it comes to our dogs, those things are fear, self-doubt, and negative expectations. I can’t tell you how many times people have said to me something like, “I understand what you’re telling me to do, but I could never do that.”

My answer to that is: “Why not?”

If you believe that you cannot have a balanced relationship with your dog, then you never will. If you doubt that you can project calm, assertive energy, then you won’t. If you’re afraid that your dog is going to exhibit undesirable behavior, like aggression, then you will make your dog aggressive.

The other thing people ask me all the time is, “How can I be calm and assertive?” Although it sounds like a non-answer, my response is, “You have to figure out what works for you.”

What I mean is this: humans operate in four states of being: Spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and instinctual. For most people, though, one or two of those states is dominant. In order to achieve a calm assertive state, you need to figure out which one is your preferred way of being, and then use what works for that type.

For a spiritual person, prayer or meditation might be the best way to achieve calm assertiveness, while an intellectual person would need to understand how breathing and posture affect energy. An emotional person might have to examine their feelings and what causes them in order to change them. An instinctual person just knows the energy they’re projecting without thinking about it.

The challenge is this: Dogs operate on an instinctual level, while humans tend not to. I was lucky because I had a great teacher — my grandfather, who was a farmer. He had the greatest teacher of all: Nature. He worked directly with the land and animals, and he just understood them. He passed his knowledge on to me, so I am very instinctual.

If you want to banish those snakes of fear, doubt, and negativity you can do it. The first step is to figure out what your weapon of choice will be: Reason, feeling, or faith. The second step is to trust yourself. It will take practice, but the end result will be a place free of weak energy, and a calm, assertive way of being that will eventually come instinctually.

Enjoy the day and the arrival of spring this week. Now go banish those snakes!

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