If you’ve ever watched The Dog Whisperer or Cesar 911, you’ve heard Cesar Millan use the adjective “Calm-assertive” about a million times to describe the energy of a pack leader. But what does he really mean?
Being a trainer and running a daycare, dogs have taught me exactly what it means to be a pack leader over the years. They have shown me it is about patience and understanding. It’s about giving clear direction and setting realistic expectations. It’s about confidence and always following through. Plan and simple, it really comes down to communication.
What it definitely is not about is ego. It’s not about being tough or strong. It’s not about dominance in an aggressive sense. It is far more grounded than that. Working with dogs is humbling and honest. Through them they will teach you more about yourself then you’ve ever thought possible and some things you might be reluctant to learn. A dog will reflect back the energy you are, and sometimes people are not ready for that reality check.
Through observing owners over the years, I’ve seen it all when it comes to how people communicate with their dogs. Pleading, yelling, yanking, using sarcasm, half-assedly asking, or not doing anthing at all, people just can’t seem to properly communicate to their dogs exactly what it is they want. The dogs then simply rebel, shut down, or frightened they begrudgingly comply just to end their handlers charades. If we want to better our relationships with our pets we seriously need to get our sh*t together! Our dogs need us to better communicate what it is we want through our emotions and intentions (aka ENERGY).
This is easier said than done for most people. When trying to understand energy it is best to reflect on yourself in the moment and ask yourself two things: How do I feel and what is it that I want? If you can be honest with yourself and your emotions in the moment you can see whether or not you are truly being calm assertive. Notice Cesar Millan never says Assertive-Calm. There is good reason for this. Most people emphasize the assertive part. They try to puff out their chest, speak louder, and often use their arms in grand gestures while barking out commands to their dog. This however is not calm. This is more pushy and aggressive than calm and confident. Calmness is something our society in general can improve on. We all are pretty darn confident in ourselves if you think about it. And even if we aren’t we certainly fake it. What we most definitely aren’t is calm. We constantly busy ourselves, always in a rush, and typically annoyed when anything slows us down. Rarely do we take a breather, calm our minds and bodies and just relax in the moment. This is where we can take a lesson from our dogs. Simply breath. Be present. Chill out. If we focus on calm before anything else with our dogs that’s half the battle right there. If you’ve got an anxious dog, being overly assertive will not help him relax. You must be calm to teach calm, so relax first and then focus on assertion. If you have an excited dog bouncing off the walls only calm energy will slow him down.
Calm confidence, is still and when it moves it’s deliberate in it’s movement. It’s about patience and taking the time to do things right, never rushing the result. It’s about intention and being quiet rather than loud. Cesar is called the Dog WHISPERER because his energy is understated but his presence is known. He is calm, first and foremost.
I urge you to try emphasizing calmness with your dog. Slow things down. Take a look at how you feel inside and ask yourself are you communicating with your dog in a calm and confident manner. Are you being fair or are you more concerned with being firm? Remember to always be calm assertive and that CALM comes first!