Happy Easter! Although spring has begun, it may not seem like it in parts of the world that are still getting snowed in, like the northern U.S. and southern Canada.
That’s because, while the Sun follows the rules of being in a particular place on a particular day every year and our calendar follows that, the weather doesn’t have the same rules. The Sun’s orbit is orderly and predictable. The weather is chaotic.
For many of you, there’s something else that’s chaotic: your dog’s behavior. And you tell me all the time, “Cesar, I’ve tried everything, but my dog still misbehaves. What do I do?” Well, first of all, stop trying to use the calendar to predict the weather.
When you say you’ve tried everything, that’s your calendar right there. It’s a set number of steps through a particular number of tools or techniques. And when you decide that a particular method is going to be your last resort, what you’re really saying is that you’ve set a deadline to give up on your dog.
The human world is big on deadlines mostly because humans understand them. You can tell a co-worker, “I need those reports by five p.m.,” and you’ll probably get them. You know that you need to pay your rent or file your taxes or put out the trash bins by a certain day or date. You remember anniversaries and birthdays for significant people in your life.
You can’t tell a dog, “If you haven’t learned to behave by Friday, then you’ll be in big trouble.” Your dog doesn’t know “Friday,” or the abstract concept that she will be in trouble — from her point of view, she either is or isn’t in trouble; and you’re either giving her affection, or leading her, or ignoring her. As for the date on her calendar, it happens to be “Right now.”
If you think that this kind of logic would work on a dog, try this experiment. If it’s still cold and snowy in your area right now, walk outside, look up at the sky, and shout, “It’s spring. You need to warm up right now or you’ll be in trouble.”
Other than the neighbors looking at you funny for a while, what real result do you think that this would get?
Exactly. You can’t force Nature to follow your calendar. If spring weather had started at Valentine’s Day, you wouldn’t even notice anything wrong now. If your dog started behaving with the second thing you tried, you never would have reached the point of having tried “everything.”
When your calendar runs out and you still find chaos, remember this: You cannot control chaos or Nature. But you can control yourself and your calendar. No matter when spring actually begins, it’s about renewal and starting over.
So reset your calendar. Today is not the done-teenth of Tried Everything. It’s the first of Try the Right Thing. And the right thing is not getting your dog to behave. The right thing is trying everything that you can to make yourself the Pack Leader.
There are a lot of different approaches to doing this, so you have to find what works for you. Maybe you need to focus on developing calm, assertive energy; or maybe you need to learn how to read your dog’s body language.
But before you do any of this, you need to actually reset the clock, and to do that you need to know the starting date. To find that, look at your dogs. The ways that they’re misbehaving will tell you how you’re not fulfilling their needs.
Does your dog jump on you or not listen? Then you’re not being the leader. Is your dog fearful or anxious? Then you’re not being calm and assertive. Is your dog being aggressive? Then you’re not trusting yourself.
Whatever the reason, the real secret to getting your dog to behave is to look at how you are causing their misbehavior. It’s a lot easier for you to change yourself, step by step, because you can use logic and give yourself deadlines. Meanwhile, your dog will respond to those changes and you’ll start to see results.
And now, instead of giving up after you’ve tried everything, you’ll wind up trying everything and seeing it all work.
Change yourself, change your dog.
Stay calm, and start over!