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By Cesar Millan

This Monday is Earth Day, an event originally started in 1970 by a U.S. senator to be a teaching event at schools and colleges, occurring every ten years. In 1990, it became an annual event and is now celebrated around the world.

The senator’s intention was for people to educate each other about the environment, but he seems to have forgotten to include the best teacher of all.

People always ask me how I learned so much about dogs, and I tell them that my first teacher was my grandfather. But he had a teacher before he taught me, and that was Nature itself. While I also learned about dogs and animals from my grandfather, what I really learned was that you have to listen to Nature — and work with her — if you want to be successful at what you do.

If you plant a rose bush in Antarctica, it will wither in the cold and not survive, unless of course you build a greenhouse to protect it. Humans are very good at that sort of thing. If a natural environment isn’t quite suitable for us, we change it with things like air conditioning or heating and we put buildings everywhere.

But we often forget the reverse of that idea.

If your artificial environment isn’t working for you, then you need to ask yourself, “What is missing here from Nature, and how can I bring it back in?” I’ve seen this in Seattle, where there’s not a lot of sunlight, so it’s not uncommon for people to have UV lamps in their homes and offices.

Likewise, if you’re having trouble with your dog, this is the first question you should ask yourself. “What is missing here from Nature, and how can I bring it back in?”

Notice that the question isn’t “Is something missing?” If your dog is misbehaving, she’s already told you that there is. It’s your job, as Pack Leader, to listen and figure out what you need to bring inside from Nature to achieve balance.

One of the most common dog misbehaviors I’m asked about is excessive barking. There are various causes for it, but they all come down to the same thing. A dog that barks excessively is trying to tell you that her needs are not being met. The barking may be due to boredom, excess energy, or separation anxiety, but obviously your dog cannot tell you in words which one it is.

She can tell you in action, though, and her energy and body language are Nature’s way of explaining the problem. It’s your job to listen to that message, then provide what’s lacking — mental stimulation if your dog is bored, exercise if she’s overly energetic, and clear rules, boundaries, and limitations if she’s showing separation anxiety.

As we celebrate Earth Day this year and learn about the environment and how to maintain and sustain it, we should also take the opportunity to learn about Nature at home. What is your dog trying to tell you? If something is missing, what is it?

And don’t worry. If nothing is missing, your dog will tell you that, too, with calm, submissive energy, good behavior, and balanced contentment just living in the moment, being part of Nature.

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