By Cesar Millan
Greetings from Australia! During my tour in the Aussieland, I had the opportunity to sit down with the Herald Sun, Australia’s most popular newspaper, to participate in a live chat where readers put me to the test with their toughest dog problems:
Adrian: Cesar, I have tried to be calm and assertive with my dog (Staffie cross Ridgeback) however when she sees another dog all she wants to do is attack it, we live with two cats also and she is fine with them and with other humans she is fine also. Any ideas how to get this “attack” mentality out of her system?
Cesar: Hi Adrian, This is for everybody—before we ask a dog to do anything for us we have to be aware of the energy we project. We have to be aware and emotionally in tune. Let’s remember the animals don’t listen to instability, so never focus on technique. First always focus on principles. That’s one thing we don’t know about your relationship with your staffy. The funny part is that people always tell me what’s wrong with their dogs, that’s why I always want to know what is wrong with their humans. I know I haven’t given you direction on what to do because no technique will work without the presence of calm assertive energy.
Erinna: Hi Cesar, I have a problem with my beautiful kelpie x mastiff dog, Mish, who we adopted from a shelter. He loves to rip clothes off the line. Even if he’s JUST got back from a big walk/run, if I leave the house for less than an hour he still finds time to rip all the clothes down. He puts holes all through everything and tramples them in mud. He is one year old (just). Will he grow out of this bad habit or is there something we can do to stop the urge, apart from not hanging clothes out when we need to leave the house? Apart from this one problem he is very polite and well trained. He gets a good walk most days on and off the lead.
Cesar: Hi Erinna, you came out with one option, which is not hanging up clothes outside, but does that really solve the problem? In my experience, I help people with their dogs to adapt themselves to their human style of living. Your other comment as to whether he will grow out of it—there is a very small chance that he will stop this playful behavior and not redirect it somewhere else. It’s more common that they stop chewing or playing with certain objects and redirecting it somewhere else. A dog is finding pleasure taking things that you put up because they see humans put objects on a wire and they are helping by “retrieving them.” Obviously we don’t see it that way, so what we need to do now is make it a dog training moment for your dog, where you teach him to help you by practicing “sit” and “stay” or “down” and “stay” while you are hanging up the clothes. What you are going to do is condition his brain so that he remains calm while you are hanging up the clothes.
Sam: We have a one year-old border collie x poodle. How do we stop her from jumping up on us all the time?
Cesar: Hi Sam. This is the something I talk about in my upcoming tour. Basically, this is a perfect reason I suggest no touch, no talk, and no eye contact when you meet a dog for the first time, or when you reunite with your own dog (such as when you come home from work). What your dog will learn from this ritual is that every time you reunite as a pack or a family, what you want from him is to greet you with distance in a calm way.
Dianne: I have a 10 year old doberman that goes crazy when there is a storm or fireworks go off. He tries to get under furniture or into cupboards how can I make it less stressful for him.
Cesar: This is a very common question, especially in the Midwest of the United States. We have been very successful with our suggestions and we are going to begin by reminding people who have this kind of scenarios to think of yourself as a paramedic. In this moment you are not a dog owner. This way you remove emotions. People feel bad when their dogs feel bad, which doesn’t help because there are too many negative energies in the room. Instead, be calm and rub some lavender oil in your hands. This calms you and eventually you can start giving direction to your dog. You can redirect its energy and help the mind move forward by putting the dog on a treadmill, putting a backpack on the dog, or putting the dog in water in the bathtub.
Ben: My boston terrier loves to dig in the garden, how can we make him stop. Also he is a big dog but scared of everything. How can we make him more assertive?
Cesar: Digging comes from two possible reasons: 1) curiosity, and the smells and sounds underground that we don’t ourselves see or hear, and 2) being bored.
The first reason can be redirected by practicing search and rescue activities such as hiding objects that he likes, hiding humans that he trusts (hide-and-seek).
The second reason can be addressed by increasing physical challenges.
Kerryn: Hi Cesar – I have a three year-old male American Staffy who is great at home. He is very friendly and playful but when I take him for walks and he sees another dog, he goes into some sort of zone and doesn’t respond to anything I say. I am stern with him but all he is interested in is getting to the other dog. He will growl at the other dog. How do I get him to focus on me and not worry about the other dogs? I walk him with a correction collar and apply the correction to get his attention but it doesn’t work. Thank you.
Cesar: Hi Kerryn. If you can, use bikes or roller blades next time you take your dog out. This gives him the opportunity to release his explosive energy created by the description that you are sharing. Friendly and playful usually equals excitement, so when they see another dog in front of them they want to practice exactly that. The leash holds them back and that’s what creates that explosive energy. You will see after you drain this explosive energy that he is no longer interested in pulling you towards the dog. Never work against Mother Nature.
Kyle: Hi Cesar, do you believe that there are certain breeds that make better family pets than others? If so what breeds do you recommend around young children?
Cesar: My kids were raised around every breed you can think of, They learned to crawl, walk, ride bikes and eat food with no problems at all. As you know, their father (me) works with dogs who have developmental issues. My kids have never been hurt by dogs who have these issues. So, the most important thing as a parent is compatibility. Remember, there are four levels of energy: very high, high, medium and low. For my family I always choose medium-level energy dogs. My dogs Daddy, Junior, Coco, Apollo, and our new greyhound, Argos—they all have that in common. Our style of life does not allow us to have high-energy dogs as family members even though we have the knowledge on how to look after them. It’s just that we don’t have the time cause we are always looking after other people’s. Breed is cultural—Labrador vs border collie. That’s the only difference. One loves water, one loves sheep. At the end of the day it is the energy that matters, because to me they are all dogs.