By Cesar Millan
I talk all the time about the importance of calm, assertive energy, so people often ask me why it’s important — but rather than focusing on the process, they want to know the results. “What will happen if I’m calm and assertive?”
People do the same thing with their dogs, focusing on the problem, which is also a result. “My dog pulls on the walk. “My dog barks at other dogs.” “My dog tears up everything in the house.”
My job is to determine the cause and then offer the solution. The causes come out of fundamental dog behavior. The technique is the solution which changes the result — whether it’s through positive or negative reinforcement, exercise, leash training, and so on. So where does calm, assertive energy come into it?
Less is always more, and when you find that place of calm energy, you will also find a place of silence. Dogs do not communicate in words. They communicate with energy through body language. One of the only times that dogs naturally get loud is when they bark to communicate with the entire pack over a distance because there is danger lurking.
And yet I see humans get this backwards all the time. Their dog barks at another dog or pulls on the walk, and their immediate response is to get loud. “No, no, NO!” Now this can work in human situations because we communicate with words, and the person who shouts the loudest can often win out over everyone else.
It doesn’t work with dogs, or with animals in general. Why? Because loudness represents unbalanced energy, and dogs will not follow unbalanced energy. What they will do is become more excited the louder the humans around them get.
To a dog, a human shouting in a loud deep voice is just a bark, and barking is meant to alert the pack to danger. Well, if the pack is in danger, it’s every dog’s job to spread the word and take action to protect the pack, meaning that yelling at a dog will just elevate their energy and their anxiety.
I’ve spent a lot of time around dogs, and I can tell you exactly how one dog dominates another: in silence. The dominant dog will place themselves above the other dog, claiming the space and whatever objects are in it. They don’t growl and they don’t bark, because they don’t have to. Their energy and body language send the message: “This is mine. Go away.”
It’s only when the other dog resists that dominance may escalate to other signs, like a low growl, physical contact, or baring of teeth. And, beyond that, it only turns into a fight if the other dog will not defer to the dominant dog.
It doesn’t get loud until it’s a fight.
So if you’re yelling at your dog to calm it down, you will never have a calm dog. You have to see it from your dog’s point of view, and you have to be the Pack Leader. If you want your dog to be calm, then you have to think like a dog and leave the words behind.
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The secret to calm, assertive energy is this: you have to visualize the positive outcome. If your dog gets very excited when other dogs are around, then you have to stop expecting that behavior. Instead, you have to focus on the result that you want. If your mental state is, “Oh no, another dog, mine is going to go nuts,” then you are going to send that energy right down the leash and make your dog excited.
But when you learn how to see another dog — the cause — and expect a positive result, guess what happens? You send that energy right down the leash and you tell your dog, “Hey, this is no big deal, let’s keep moving.”
Once you learn how to remain calm in the face of situations that used to make you afraid of your dog misbehaving, you’ll see the misbehavior diminish rapidly. And you can do it all without speaking a single word.
This is the power of energy and the secret of communication in the animal world. It isn’t what you say that’s important. It’s how you act. You can say more with just your energy and body language than you ever could with words, and when you find that in-the-moment place of calm energy, you will find that your dogs are calming down as well.
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Like I said, humans focus on results, but we also tend to ignore the idea that we can be the cause. Find stillness in yourself, and your dogs will follow. And why wouldn’t they? We are the Pack Leaders, they are the followers, and the best gift we can give them is calm, assertive energy.
So… stay calm, and quiet.