Scientists have discovered that dogs can smell the presence of autism in children. ‘Seizure Alert’ dogs can alert their owners up to an hour before the onset of an epileptic seizure. There are dogs that can detect cancer before medical tests can. With these incredible capabilities, it is hard to deny the effect that our own energy can have on our dogs. The idea of sharing “good energy” is not just a “woo-woo” concept reserved for earth mothers and flower children; it is how to effectively communicate with a different species.
The extent to which dogs can “sense” and “smell” things is incredible. This is why it is so important to practice having and sharing “good energy” when you are with your dogs. Dogs communicate with us (and we unknowingly communicate with them) every minute we are with them through our body language, tone of voice and how we are feeling inside. You don’t have to tell your dog you are happy, sad, angry, nervous, tense, frustrated or that you adore them. They know how you feel through the energy they sense from you; and react accordingly. We humans have been taught to mask our feelings, dogs have not. Dogs are our mirrors; the energy we project is the energy they tend to display.
This is why we influence our dog’s behavior so often without realizing it. Unfortunately, we tend to influence their behavior in a negative way instead of positive. When you are holding the end of the leash walking your dog and another person or dog approaches; if you get nervous that something may happen, you are feeding your dog nervous energy and your dog will more likely act fearful or aggressively towards the approaching object. If it is raining outside and you really don’t want to go outside and get wet while your dog goes potty, he will read your feelings and soon, not want to go outside when it is raining, also. If, when you return home, you are angry that your dog has chewed something up, he may seem as though “he knows he did something wrong” when in fact, when you have come home angry in the past, you have yelled at him or shared negative energy and the dog is reacting to your energy or the pattern of energy you have established by being angry when you come home.
The goal is to keep your emotions and energy calm and confident. This takes a lot of practice and sometimes you have to fake it until you make it. Practice with your dog as much as you need in order to convince yourself that you can handle anything that comes your way. Know that when you are with your dog, walking or just hanging around the house, you are his protector, his leader and you have the skills and knowledge to pull it off. Will your dog know that you are faking it? Probably, but the more you fake it, the closer you will come to really having this calm, confident demeanor.
Women typically have a hard time being a confident leader, but with practice, you can become empowered. One trick is to decide on a topic that you want to think about and solve before you go for your walk. While on your walk, keep the leash loose enough that the clasp makes a “J” but the dog is right beside you, start walking and concentrate on the topic at hand (grocery list, solution to a problem that has been weighing on your mind). Notice I said a problem to solve not worry about! Doing this automatically puts you in a calmer and more confident state – you can’t solve problems in an anxious and unsure state. With our busy schedules, multi-tasking is something that we often need to do. Walking your dog in this fashion accomplishes providing exercise and mental stimulation for your dog, aerobic exercise and mental stimulation for you and, solution to a problem and peace of mind for you. Practice this enough and you will become a more calm and confident person and this will begin to show through to everyone who knows you.
Men typically have a hard time with offering calm and confident energy without offering intimidating or dominating behavior. Before your walk, take a few deep breaths, remind yourself that you are dealing with another species that does not respond to domination and intimidation the way another human might. Domination and intimidation will get your dog to respond the way you want him to out of fear –for the moment. You want him to respond to you out of respect – for now and the future. Dogs that repeatedly respond out of fear become unpredictable and at some point will lash out aggressively. When they lash out, it is often not at the intimidator, but at another subject (dog, child, stranger). Practice leading and teaching your dog instead of intimidating or dominating your dog enough and you will start to see him respond to you out of respect instead of fear.
Punishment is a form of “training” that has long been used. I would like for you to try to take the word punishment out of your vocabulary. Think, instead, of consequences or corrections. Your dog needs to know that there is a consequence to every behavior. Sometimes the consequence is benign, such as being ignored and sometimes it is tangible, such as being given affection. Acceptable behavior has consequences such as your happy or contented energy, physical affection, a treat or praise. Unacceptable behavior has consequences such as being ignored, verbal correction (EH-EH), being removed from the room, a loud noise or just the look that says “stop what you are doing” – I call this the Mommy look.
When you are in the right state of mind and your dog behaves in an unacceptable manner, give the appropriate correction – notice I did not say punishment – and move on. If you have questions about what is an appropriate correction or consequence, contact a professional trainer to discuss it.
The bottom line is: BE TEACHERS, NOT DISCIPLINARIANS. Use positive energy and rewards instead of negative energy and punishment and you will gain your dog’s (and possibly the people around you) respect, love, loyalty and obedience.
“In nature, there are neither rewards nor punishments, there are consequences.”
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Using positive vibes to train dogs towards happy, calm behaviour
You must have read those stories – of how a dog’s sense of smell is so sensitive that they can detect all manner of human conditions.They can sense the presence of early cancer.They can tell when they’re with someone who’s autistic.They can even alert an owner with epilepsy, an hour before they suffer a seizure.Scientists are learning more and more about how animals pick up the chemical odours we give off as we express different emotions – joy, pleasure, frustration, nervousness, anger, sadness and fear.And what they’ve learned is that our dogs don’t know how to cope with our emotions – just to let things pass.They simply react by showing the same behaviour patterns.It’s almost as though they mirror our feelings.
Emotional energy and dog training
So, shouldn’t we be thinking more about this amazing gift that our canine friends enjoy?Shouldn’t we be working on including emotional ‘energy’ into our dog training techniques? These behaviours aren’t some whimsy dreamed up by the tree-hugging hippy brigade. As a Dog Behaviourist, specialising in training and rehabilitation for dogs, I increasingly appreciate the importance of incorporating the latest scientific research into dog training programs.
Let’s say we accept the notion that dogs can use a sense of smell to detect our emotions and feelings – some would say, our ‘energies’.What an amazing ability!Shouldn’t we be bearing this in mind, not just when we’re training our dogs, but also, when we’re engaging with them in the course of our everyday lives.And by ‘engage’, we’re not just talking about what we say to them, but also about our all-round communication – our body language, our tone of voice.Perhaps we should even think about being more in control of our emotions.After all, we now know that, like it or not, we’re communicating with them one way or another, the entire time we’re in their presence.
When we’re in the company of our dogs, it’s vital that we enhance this ‘power of positive energy’.To share with them our good vibes.
Feeding your dog with emotions
Isn’t it sad how, so often, we influence our dog’s behaviour without even realising it? Regrettably, it’s all too easy to influence dogs’ behaviour in a negative, rather than positive, way.Think about the last time you were out with your dog on a lead.Another walker approached.Did you suddenly tense up a little?Did you display a little nervousness as the two of you came close?Were you worried that your dog would suddenly ‘have a go’ and embarrass you in some way?Of course, such apprehension might be understandable But, the problem you have, is that, by showing your own emotions in this way, your dog will pick up on them and behave accordingly – pulling at the lead in nervous, sometimes aggressive, anticipation.It’s almost as though you’re feeding them your own emotions.
Think also how you react when you come into the house and find your best hat shredded to ribbons.If you immediately vent your anger the moment you walk in thought he door, how will your dog respond in the future when you come home?It isn’t just the vibe you give off that can have such a negative impact.It’s the pattern of association.Your dog will learn to associate you coming in through the front door with you displaying your negative energy and yelling at them.And, as ever, with almost any dog’s negative behaviour, it will be your fault!
Keep calm and carry on
What can we do harness our emotions and use them to change our dog’s behaviour for the better?Well, firstly, we must do all we can to keep our emotions and our energy confident and calm. This can take time, and diligent practice.As ever, repetition is the best form of reinforcement.We must constantly practice with our dog, being calm and measured in our behaviour patterns – making it part of our day-to-day home dog training routine.Before convincing our dog, we need to convince ourselves, that we can handle anything that comes our way.We must demonstrate that, when we’re with our dog, whatever we’re doing, we are their protector, their leader, their master – essentially that we’re their friend, but a friend who’s in charge.
Love and respect are the key
How often do you see other dog owners berating and shouting at their dogs?They clearly believe that the way to get a dog to be biddable and do what it’s told, is to shout at it and, sometimes even, to hit it.They believe in intimidation and domination.How wrong they are!And how much happier would their life and their dog’s life be, if inly they understood that the key words are ‘love’ and ‘respect’.Yes, it’s true that you can control a dog by intimidating it.But control through fear can result in resentful, occasionally aggressive behaviour.
You might think the process isn’t easy – and you’d be right.But, with practice, you’ll improve.You’ll find yourself empowered.One approach you can try is to choose a topic you want to think about – maybe a challenge that you need to resolve.It could be something as mundane as how to fix your car or perhaps working out a shopping list.Maybe you’ll choose to solve a puzzle.While you’re walking, keep the lead loose, but keep your dog right next to you.Then, start musing over your chosen topic.Just doing this will transport you into a calm zone, into a state of mindfulness.You’ll be treating your body with the exercise and your mind with contemplation.But your dog too, will be benefiting from similar physical and mental stimulation.Just this simple and relaxing way of walking with your dog will be a great first step to getting them into a calmer, less reactive frame of mind.
Say ‘goodbye’ to ‘punishment’ – say ‘hello’ to positive consequences
In dog training, there is no room for the concept of ‘punishment’.Take this word out of your canine lexicon.Always think instead of correcting your dog and getting it to learn the idea of positive consequences – a treat or a cuddle following good behaviour.Find any excuse to reward ordinary, calm behaviour with affection and your dog will love you and respect you.It really will.
The key is this – make your relationship one of teacher/ mentor rather than disciplinarian.Use positive energy and rewards instead of negative energy and punishment and you will gain your dog’s (and possibly the people around you) respect, love, loyalty and obedience.
We owe it to our lovely pets, and to ourselves, to do we all we can to promote Dog Harmony – making their lives (and ours!) as pleasurable as we possibly can.