This is the energy you project to show your dog you are the calm and assertive pack leader. Note: assertive does not mean angry or aggressive. Calm-assertive means always compassionate, but quietly in control.
In nature, this is the appropriate energy for a “follower” in a dog pack, and thus the ideal energy for a dog to project when living in a household with humans. Signs of calm-submissive energy include a relaxed posture, ears held back, and a nearly instinctual response to the “pack leader’s” commands.
Exercise, Discipline, and Affection… in That Order
These are the three ingredients for creating a happy, balanced dog. Most dog owners give only affection, or don’t provide these three necessities in the correct order.
- Exercise – walking a dog at least one hour every day, and in the correct way.
- Discipline – giving a dog rules, boundaries, and limitations in a nonabusive manner.
- Affection – a reward we give to our dogs and to ourselves, but only after the dog has achieved calm submission in our “pack”.
Master the Walk
The walk is an extremely important ritual for a dog. It needs to take place a minimum of twice a day, for at least thirty to forty-five minute each time, so that both the dog’s mind and its body are given a workout. This means the dog walks next to the owner or behind him/her – not pulling ahead. If a dog is “walking” a human, the dog perceives itself as pack leader at that moment, and the human is not in control.
Rules, Boundaries, and Limitations
Dogs need to know that their pack leader is clearly setting the rules, boundaries and limitations for their life both inside and outside the house. – Anger, aggression, or abuse toward the dog will not establish you as pack leader; an angry, aggressive leader is not in control. Calm-assertive energy and daily, consistent leadership behavior will make enforcing the rules easier.
If a dog doesn’t trust its owner to be a strong, stable pack leader, it becomes unclear about its correct role within the pack. A dog that is confused about who is in charge is actually concerned about the ability of the pack to survive, so it attempts to fill in the missing leadership elements, often erratically. This can cause aggression, anxiety, fear, obsessions, or phobias – what I call “issues”.
A balanced dog is in the state Mother Nature wants it to be in – as a calm-submissive pack follower, who is fulfilled physically with exercise; psychologically with rules, boundaries, and limitations; and emotionally with affection from its owner.
Conditioning a dog to human commands – sit, stay, come, heel – isn’t what I do.
This is what I do: help a dog with issues to return to a balanced state of calm submission. Sometimes it may appear that I can “fix” a dog instantly, but as I’ve said, “a dog is not an appliance that can be sent out for repairs.” Permanent dog rehabilitation can occur only with a calm, assertive, stable, and consistent owner.
Nose, Eyes, Ears… in That Order!
I remind dog owners that dogs see the world differently from the way we do. We communicate using our ears first, then our eyes, and lastly our nose. Dogs begin with the nose, then the eyes, and lastly the ears. Allowing a dog to experience our scent before we engage it in eye contact or speak to it is one way to establish trust early on.
Humanizing a Dog
Many owners make the well-intentioned mistake of thinking of their dogs as children. I advise people to try to see the world through a dog’s eyes. Cute outfits, fancy dog food, and a millionaire’s mansion will not make for a happy dog. Regular exercise, a strong stable pack leader, and affection that’s earned will result in a dog that’s calm and balanced.
When I am called in on a job, many owners assume it’s their dog that is the problem. I try to help people understand that their own behavior has a powerful affect on their dog, and I offer them suggestions for “retraining” themselves to be calm-assertive pack leaders.