Sharing “good energy” or training dogs using energy is not a concept for flower children and earth mothers; it is effective communication with a very different species.
Dogs’ Incredible Abilities
The extent of dogs’ ability to “smell” and “sense” things is truly incredible. Scientists have learned that dogs are capable of smelling the potentiality of autism in a child. “Seizure Alert” dogs have been known to alert owners to epileptic seizures up to 60 minutes before the seizures’ onset. Some dogs can detect cancer even before medical exams can.
Considering these truly amazing capabilities, it is extremely difficult to deny our own energy’s effect on our dogs. This is why practising having and, of course, sharing “good energy” whenever you spend time with your dogs is so important.
Sharing “Good Energy”
Every minute you are with your dogs, they communicate with you (and you unwittingly communicate with them) via your body language, through your tone of voice and by how you are feeling inside.
There’s no need to tell your dogs that you love them or that you are happy, sad or angry; frustrated, tense or nervous. They know exactly how you feel by the energy they “get” from you – and they will react accordingly. Humans were taught to mask their feelings, dogs were not. Like mirrors, dogs tend to display the energy we project.
This is how and why we so often influence our dogs’ behaviour without even realising it. Sadly, our influence on their behaviour tends to be negative, rather than positive.
If, for example, you get nervous when you are walking your dog on the leash and another dog or person approaches, you will be feeding your dog nervous energy – making him more likely to act aggressively or fearful towards the person/dog approaching.
Similarly, if it rains outside and you resent going outside and getting soaked while your dog does ‘his business’, he will sense your feelings and before long, he won’t want to go out in the rain.
Another good example is coming home and getting angry when finding that your dog has been chewing on something he shouldn’t have. He may give you the impression that “he knows he’s done something wrong” but the sad truth is, when you have returned home angry before, you shared negative energy and/or yelled at him and he is simply reacting either to your current energy or the energy pattern you established by coming home and being angry.
Your aim is to keep your energy and emotions confident and calm. This takes lots of practice and occasionally, it will be a case of “faking it until making it”. Keep practising with your dog until you are convinced that you can safely handle whatever comes your way.
Know that whenever you spend time with your dog – walking, just lazing around the house, playing or whatever – you are his leader, his protector and you have the knowledge and skills to successfully pull it off. Will your dog know if you fake it? Probably. The thing is, the more you are faking it, the closer to really having that confident, calm demeanour you will come.
Women and Calm, Confident Energy
Women often find being confident leaders quite hard, but practice can empower you. One good trick is to set your mind on something to ponder and solve before you take your dog for a walk. Once you are out, keep the dog’s leash loose enough for the clasp to make a “J” with the dog right beside you and, as you start walking, concentrate on whatever you decided to think about (a shopping list, the solution to that problem that’s been on your mind, etc.) Note that the emphasis here is on solving a problem, not worrying about it!
Doing this puts you automatically in a more confident, calmer state – you cannot solve problems when you are unsure and anxious. Our busy schedules frequently require us to multi-task. Walking your dog like this provides mental stimulation and exercise for your dog while simultaneously providing aerobic exercise, mental stimulation and the peace of mind of having found solutions to problems for you. Multi-tasking at its best, don’t you agree?!
Practising this will make you a more confident, calmer person – and everybody who knows you will start noticing it.
Men and Calm, Confident Energy
Men, on the other hand, often have difficulties offering confident, calm energy without displaying dominating or intimidating behaviour.
To overcome this, take some deep breaths and remind yourself who you are dealing with (i.e. another species that responds very differently to intimidation and domination than another human might) before your go out for a walk.
Domination and intimidation will doubtlessly get your dog to respond how you want him to – but out of fear and only for the moment. What you really want is for your dog to respond out of respect – both for now and in the future.
Dogs repeatedly responding out of fear will eventually become unpredictable – and will at some point lash out with aggression. When this happens, the aggression is frequently directed at another subject (a child, a stranger or another dog), rather than at the intimidator.
Practise teaching and leading your dog instead of dominating or intimidating him enough and you will soon see him responding to you not out of fear but out of respect.
Consequences or Correction vs. Punishment
Punishment has long been utilised as a “form of training”. I suggest trying to remove the word punishment from your vocabulary and thinking corrections or consequences instead.
Your dog must know that every behaviour has a consequence. Sometimes consequences are benign (like being ignored) and sometimes they are tangible (like getting affection). Consequences of acceptable behaviour may be your content or happy energy, praise, a treat or physical affection. Consequences of unacceptable behaviour may consist of being ignored or removed from a room; verbal correction (EH-EH), a loud noise or even just that look saying: “stop what you’re doing” – I like to call this the “Mummy look”.
When your dog displays unacceptable behaviour and you are in the right frame of mind, provide the appropriate correction – please note that I did not use ‘punishment’ here – and then move on. Contact a professional dog trainer to discuss any questions you may have about what an appropriate consequence or correction is.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, it all boils down to this: “BE TEACHERS, NOT DISCIPLINARIANS”. By using rewards and positive energy instead of punishment and negative energy, you will gain the love, respect, loyalty and obedience of your dog (and possibly people around you).
“In nature, there are neither rewards nor punishments, there are consequences.”