Because humans are intellectual beings, we communicate mostly with words. This makes it easy for us to fall into the trap of thinking that dogs also communicate with spoken language.
While it may seem like our dogs understand specific words and associate them with specific actions, they’re mostly responding to the intent that we have associated with the word. If you tell your dog to sit without intention behind it, your dog won’t sit. Conversely, you can approach your dog with the intent to get her to sit and say the word ‘toaster’ or ‘lamp’ ‘ or nothing at all ‘ and she will sit.
Dogs pay less attention to our words because they are really focusing on our energy, expressed through our intention and emotions, the latter through our tone of voice and body language. Energy is how dogs communicate with each other, and you can see it in any dog park. A dog will indicate submission by lowering parts of its body, particularly its head and ears; show dominance by raising its head, ears, or tail; and show aggression by pinning its ears back and stiffening its body.
The word energy can sometimes be confusing. Cesar explains it this way: ‘Energy is how any being presents itself to the world. Think of it as your personality, disposition, temperament, or whatever word makes sense to you.’ For humans, energy is what we get when our intentions meet our emotions. Cesar expresses it as a formula:
Intention × Emotion = Energy.
This formula explains why calm and assertive energy works so well with dogs. When we are calm and assertive, our emotions are balanced and our intent is clear. Dogs understand this. On the other hand, negative emotions and lack of firm intent presents weak energy and confuses our dogs.
This is why you can’t stop a barking dog by angrily yelling. The dog doesn’t hear you commanding it ‘No!’ He hears you joining in the barking, so his excitement increases. That’s also why baby talk confuses dogs ‘ they read it as submissive and weak energy. Depending on their natural position in the pack, they may become anxious or very dominant in response.
Dogs follow balanced energy because it’s what their instincts tell them to do. It’s up to us to provide that calm, assertive balance.