How to Be Calm and Assertive With Your Dog

being calm and assertive with a dog | Cesar’s Way

Most dog owners want a calm and assertive dog. But how do you get to that point? It is not something that happens overnight.

The key is to keep the right energy with your dog and have them respect you as their leader. In this post, we will discuss how to be calm and assertive with your dog so that training goes more smoothly!


Dogs use constant energy to communicate.

Energy is what I call beingness; it is who and what you are in every moment. Dogs don’t know each other by name, but by the energy they project and the activities they share.

They know humans in the same way.

As humans, we too are communicating with energy – whether we realize it or not. And, though we may attempt to persuade, explain, and rationalize all day long, these energy signals are the only messages getting across to our dogs.

The Importance of the Pack and Energy

The first energy that a puppy experiences after birth is mom’s calm, assertive energy. Later, the puppy will follow a pack leader who projects the same calm, assertive energy out of association. As pack followers, dogs return a calm, submissive energy that completes the pack balance. It is important to understand that most dogs are born to be submissive, because there can only be so many pack leaders.

When a naturally submissive dog lives with a human that does not lead, he or she will attempt to right the pack balance by filling what they see as a vacant pack leader role. This is how behavior problems develop.

Become the Pack Leader

To establish yourself as the pack leader, you must always project a calm, assertive energy. This natural balance (calm, assertive leadership with calm, submissive behavior) nurtures stability and creates a balanced, centered, and happy dog.

Without a pack leader, a dog’s energy becomes unbalanced, and they will start to exhibit behaviors that stem from this imbalance. 

To be assertive without being aggressive or dominating, you need to understand your dog. Communicate with him so he knows what is expected of him – such as not jumping up on people when greeting them – then praise him for complying.”

Puppy Energy

You might be asking, “How do I project calm and assertive energy?” When dealing with a puppy or an overly excited dog, keep your own energy in check. Stay focused, and make sure you don’t match theirs. Give your dog a job to do, like going for a walk. Directing their energy into something productive will help both of you.

Training is never easy with a puppy, but take things slow and reward their maturity and progress as their training continues.

Dogs are Picky Followers

It is essential that you maintain a calm and assertive energy when interacting with your dog as this is the most balanced. Sometimes, even too much excitement can throw a dog for a loop when trying to obey and follow a pack leader.

Not only does the type of energy you project affect your dog’s behavior, but it can also change how they perceive their environment.

When communicating with humans, dogs are looking for balance; if a human is too fearful or in an angry state of mind, this unbalanced communication can have adverse effects on them and even cause aggression.

How to Keep Calm and Assertive Energy

Like anything, maintaining your calm and assertive self can be challenging and takes practice in order to be good at it. Don’t give up when you feel those unbalanced emotions; keep cool, calm, and collected.

In order to keep your calm and assertive energy you can do one of the following:

-Slow down – give yourself time to think before reacting or responding (you might need to practice this on an empty stomach)

-Take deep breaths in and out

-Breath with your dog by breathing slowly after them

Take a Break

If the atmosphere is tense with either one or both of you getting angry, it’s only going to cause more issues to arise! Try to take a break for five to ten minutes.

It’s good to have some time on your own and not under the pressure of another person or dog before you come back together with them again. This will help you both cool off.

Giving Yourself an Out

This is going to be a difficult one for some people, but it might help you if you give yourself an out.

If things are getting too intense with your dog or someone else who’s in the room (especially children) and they’re not understanding what you want them to do then sometimes it can just come down to taking a break.

Imagination Technique

Of course, many people ask me, “How do I learn to project calm, assertive energy?”

This is where a very powerful human ability comes in handy:

Imagination. Imagine someone who inspires confidence in you – a parental figure or mentor; a famous leader or hero; even a fictional character. How do they carry themselves, and what in them inspires confidence in you?

Now, imagine that you are this character, real or fictional. Stand like they would stand. Move like they would move.

Take long, deep breaths. Relax your body, but keep your head up, shoulders back and chest out.


When I was appearing on “Dog Whisperer,” I used this technique with a woman who could not control her dog on the walk. She chose Cleopatra as her inspiration. Once she began carrying herself as she imagined an Egyptian queen would, her dog started to pay attention and show calm, submissive energy in return.

When you become comfortable with the feeling of being calm and assertive, communicate with your dog with your energy and body language only. Don’t be surprised, once you’re projecting the right energy, if your dog spontaneously sits next to or follows behind you wherever you go.

Now you’re ready to continue the conversation in a balanced way.

Cesar Millan's Mission

Through all of my interactions with people and dogs, one thing I know for certain. The world is an animal-loving, dog-loving place. The balance is what’s thrown off.

So I have made it my mission to continue spreading this message of balance around the world.

If we can do this with one dog, and one human at a time, maybe we can eventually bring that into entire communities and countries, so we can all live as my greatest teachers (dogs) do – mindfully aware, and emotionally in tune.

If you need more tips and assistance training your dog or puppy, please visit our training page.

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