Calm comes first

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.

Zen-DogWhat 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.

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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!

 

 

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10 Tips on Beating the Blues

At The Dog Haus we always notice a significant change in the dogs’ behaviour when the weather changes. As it gets colder the dogs seem to have infinite energy and you can tell that maybe some pups haven’t been getting their regular exercise.

This isn’t all that surprising as it is that time of year again when it gets hard to get out of bed and face the day. Motivation is at an all time low and really all you want to do is c5e90352b3cd617b3913450c89fdfce2hibernate. I can relate! Trust me. As someone who has suffered long time S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder) I know all too well about deep dark depression and the misleading comfort it seems to offer. It’s all too easy to slip into that sadness and stay there in a familiar funk. It takes far more energy to be up beat when the days are cold, dark and long and when stress piles high and you just want to give up. But when you have a family or a pet to take care of, it becomes even more imperative to pull yourself up and keep your mood and motivation in check. When other’s rely on us we need to stay positive, focused and moving forward! So I’m here to offer you solace and refuge. Here are my 10 tips on beating the blues so that you can be the best YOU – parent, dog owner, friend, spouse, teacher, nurse, business owner, musician….you get it!

  1. One of the most important pieces of advice I can give you is to make time for the things you love! So often when we become depressed or stressed we are quick to remove the things that bring us the most joy. If you think about it those are the things that ignite passion within us and in turn energize us! If you take that away because you feel like you don’t deserve it you will stay at a low. For instance with me, I know being creative is something that inspires me. It is important for me to express myself whether it is through writing (like this blog), painting, singing, or dancing, even when I am feeling down. When I do any one of these things I instantly feel different. I feel lighter, freer, and more me 🙂 Find out what energizes you and do it daily!!! I cannot stress this enough!
  2. Invest in yourself. What I mean by this is truly take care of yourself. This means eating well, working out,  going to bed early, and working on ways to improve yourself. If you take good care of your mental, physical and emotional well being it will show through and effect your overall mood. Think of how good you feel after a good night’s sleep, or a run, or when you master a new skill. Why not incorporate that into your routine to keep you functioning at a high frequency always? Duh!
  3. Embrace your inner child. Remember when you were young and you did things just for FUN?! Why not do it again. Think of what it was that made you laugh and feel silly and try it as an adult. Just because you’re older doesn’t mean you can’t let loose and giggle now and again. Maybe it was playing board games, tobogganing, finger painting, or jumping rope. Try something you haven’t done in a long time and bring back those good memories.
  4. Listen to uplifting music. When you’re sad or depressed it’s easy to find a soundtrack to your life that keeps you feeling sad and depressed. No offence to Radio Head and ColdPlay, but listening to sad music has a cyclical effect and can often times intensify our sadness. You’re listening to sad music because you’re sad, but you’re also sad because you are listening to sad music, so how is that going to help? Now I’m a huge fan of Bon Iver and other melancholy bands, but I know that in listening to them my depression is not going away any time soon. Conversely, choosing to listen to music that makes you feel good will put you in a happier mood as it actually releases dopamine, the feel good chemical, from your brain (the same affect as chocolate, sex, and some drugs). On days I feel weighed down by stress and sadness I start my morning listening to a favourite song before going to work. Music has such a power over our emotions so use it to help treat your psyche and alter your mood. Try it!
  5. Meditate. In place of anti-depressants and anxiety medication, meditation is increasingly being used to treat depression and anxiety within the medical profession. It was actually my doctor who suggested I try Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) to help deal with my depression and anxiety. And so I began an 8 week course and incorporated it into my daily life often meditating numerous times a day. I encourage you to find time in your life to slow down and live in the now. Simple things like focusing on your breath or sensations in your body help to clear the mind and bring us peace. We live in such a busy world that it seems difficult to take 5-10 minutes to literally do nothing, but it is so important to do so. Consider it like a recharging of your battery. This “time-out” completely alone with yourself with all the distractions gone, will help bring more focus, clarity and harmony to your life. For me, I meditate not just when I’m sitting cross-legged on the floor, but also when I run. When I run I just focus on my breathing and putting one foot infront of the other. I am not concentrating on what I’m doing afterwards or how to solve issues I’m facing at work, I am simply in the moment, running. It is one of the best parts of my day and I feel refreshed afterwards.
  6. Surround yourself with positive people. It is said that you are a combination of the 5 people you hang out with the most…so choose wisely. Take a look at who you spend a lot of time with and what are they like. Are they ambitious? Passionate? Fun? Or maybe they are Debbie Downers and people who like to have pity parties. If you want to be confident, positive, and successful find people who inspire that within you. Remember energy is contagious so if you are hanging out with people who have bad vibes, they will rub off on you. Good vibes only people 🙂
  7. Practice gratitude. If you count your blessings each day it’s pretty hard to feel bummed about life. Do you have a job? A roof over your head? Friends and family who love you? Are you healthy? Are you alive and breathing? I suggest that each day you right down the things you are thankful for. Make a list and appreciate all the little things you have in this world. It’s important to also practice gratitude with others. It feels pretty good to actually say “thank you” to people every once in a while. Think about an employee who works really hard, a family member who is generous towards you, or a neighbour who does kind gestures and take the time to give them the appreciation they deserve.
  8. Do something nice for someone. A random act of kindness is a sure fire way of lifting your spirits. Good deeds really shouldn’t be done just because they make us feel good, but it is an added bonus! You could do something small for a stranger like holding the door open or do something big for a friend, either way it causes a ripple affect of good vibes. Even if the act itself is simple or anonymous it feels good deep down in your soul to make someone else happy. Spread kindness wherever  you go and kindness will reflect back to you.
  9. Repeat daily affirmations. It sounds cheesy but it works! Write them down, say them to yourself out loud in front of a mirror, or repeat them in your head when you get feeling blue. Self talk is a powerful thing so telling yourself things like “I am a kind and positive person” or “I am beautiful inside and out” make a huge difference in how we perceive ourselves. You are what you think so think positive things about yourself and you’ll believe it to be true…because it is!
  10. Lastly, and probably most important, GET OUTSIDE! Sure it may be chilly, but bundle up and brave it! There is nothing better than fresh air in your lungs to make you feel alive. So resist the urge to stay inside all day and binge watch Netflix, because that’s not doing anyone any good. Strap on your boots, leash up your dog and go for a good walk in the great outdoors! It’s exercise for you and your dog and you’ll both feel better because of it, trust me!

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New Year New You!

10623440_928723847182874_3065162442975644778_oFor many of us, January 1st marks a new beginning. A chance to wipe the slate clean and start over. Set new goals and work on bettering oneself.

More often than not, things like lose weight, eat better, quit drinking and travel more top the list of common New Year’s resolutions. But I’d like to challenge the dog owners out there to make spending more time with their dog a priority for 2016.

By this I do not mean sitting at home with your dog and watching TV. I mean getting out there and exploring the world. Maybe it’s taking your dog to a new park once a week or doing a second walk a day. If you’re doing 30 minutes already why not bump it to an hour. Take them along with you on car rides and while you run errands (surprisingly many places are dog friendly). Play with your dog – games like hide and go seek, tug, or fetch make for a great time. Set up play dates for your dog. Start a dog walking group in your neighbourhood. Enrol in a training class – agility, obedience, Dog Haus Training Essentials or come to our Social Circles each week. Even if you have an obedient dog there are still new things you both can learn and training is a fantastic way to improve your bond and enhance your skills as Pack Leader.

Spending time with your dog is fun and rewarding to you both. The benefits are endless, a happier you and a happier dog! Being with our dogs helps us relieve stress and live in the moment. They ignite a childlike playfulness in us, reminding us not to take life so seriously. They lift our spirits by just being themselves unapologetically and that is simply beautiful. They offer us unconditional love and the best friendships we could ask for, don’t you want to be around to enjoy it? Dogs are here for a fun time no not a long time, so if I can offer you any advice it’s to spend as much time as possible with your beloved dog while you can. There are so many things you can do together to live a more fulfilled and balanced life. Get out there and enjoy life together!!!

Happy New Year from me and Carmen 🙂

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Dog Psychology for Humans

12095204_10102397126526601_7060444694680698258_oA moment of clarity struck me as I flew home from another Training Cesar’s Way workshop yesterday. It seems every time I attend one of these sessions I learn some thing new about myself. This time I grew in ways I never thought possible. I realized more about myself in the last 5 days than ever before. I’m slightly ashamed to say it took me 3 visits with Cesar Millan to really get the message but it finally has gotten through to me.

The first time I went out to The Dog Psychology Center I learned about dogs and the power of energy as it relates to animals and came back excited to make major changes in how I ran my doggie daycare. My business became even more successful and friends, family and clients noticed some positive changes in the dogs and also in how I carried myself. It seemed like everything was happening just as it should because I followed my dream of learning from my biggest role model, Cesar Millan, and embraced everything he stood for. I was changed for the better! The second time I went to his workshop I learned even more. I came back and took my business to another level! I pushed myself to do things outside my comfort zone and took a huge leap of faith. I was courageous and I grew as an individual and the pay off was huge. Again I was pumped for my new life and embraced change.

Then, out of nowhere, I crashed. I felt drained, depleted of all my energy. I lacked enthusiasm and creativity. I found it difficult to connect with clients, dogs, staff and loved ones. What happened? I still don’t know. I felt like no matter what I was doing I was failing miserably. I took everything as a reflection of personal failure. I beat myself up…hard. To say my confidence was gone and I was depressed is an understatement. It was hard to go into work. My diet was poor, I was drinking more than I should, and crying in the shower. How could I inspire people and train their dogs when my energy was so weak? I felt like a fraud, preaching about energy when I couldn’t muster the strength to get out of bed never mind admit I needed help.

Then the opportunity to come back to Cesar’s Dog Psychology Center presented itself, like the universe knew I needed support and a helping hand. I got there and tried to be uplifting and felt more alone than ever until I opened up about my suffering and was embraced by people who can relate to exactly what I was experiencing. Being burnt out isn’t something to be ashamed of. And sometimes being stressed or depressed doesn’t equate to not being passionate about what you are doing. Sometimes we need to recharge and get in touch with our inner self. And finally when I put aside the drama of doubting myself and really listened to the universe, I realized I’ve got everything I need to make change and it’s all within my reach. I am fortunate to be surrounded by people who believe in the same philosophy as me. It’s not just about dogs and I understand that now more than ever.

The last day of the Cesar’s workshop we do a Meditation Walk and it’s one of the highlights of the trip for me and how I was first introduced to the power of meditation, the importance of deep breathing and stillness. I have since incorporated it into my life and shared it with clients and anyone else curious about the possibility of opening your mind to channel a connection with what surrounds you. As we prepped for meditation, I sat cross legged on the floor, my eyes closed and concentrated on my breathing for just 10 minutes. I walked away feeling refreshed, calm and content. I said farewell to my Cesar’s Way family and set out to the airport.

Now, let me be clear, I am not a good flier. I’m typically stressed, panicked and generally afraid. This is due to the passing of my father in a plane crash when I was only 3 years old. I have since realized that this fear is subconscious because I correlated travel with death from a very young age. But today with my calm mindset from meditating I was far more relaxed. I strolled through the airport unaffected by the hustle and bustle of others concerned about missing a flight and checking their baggage. I could feel the airport bursting with excited, stressed, and nervous energy and I let it slide off me as if I was wearing a protective layer.

Trying to kill time, I perused a book store and gravitated towards the “self help” section. I picked up and leafed through several books, which all interested me until I picked up one that hit me like a lightening bolt. The title spoke to me. “YOU are a BADASS.” It was as if the author herself pointed me out of the crowd. 12045261_10102401693793761_2648921991961316871_oSlightly embarrassed to be looking at a how to book on self doubt, I put it back and walked away. By the time I reached my gate the little voice inside my head kept telling me to go back and buy that damn book. I thought to myself, “self, you need this book. You need to be a badass. No, you deserve to be a badass.” So I did. I listened to my gut and bought this life changing book, and it was like it was speaking directly to me! I devoured
page after page, nodding in agreement, putting it down at times to let the information absorb in my brain. I let the wisdom wash over me like a warm shower. I was obsessed with every word. And so my moment of clarity came to me and I realized the signs throughout the whole week that were trying to tell me the same thing. My guardian angel pointing me in the direction I needed to be heading in. This little book helped me realize that I am far too hard on myself and I have always been living in fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of putting myself out there. Fear of what other people think. Fear of failure. Fear of not being true to myself. Fear of getting hurt. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of sharing my gift. And in all honesty, fear of success.

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”

– Georgia O’Keefe

This book was a major wake up call, reminding me about Cesar’s message that energy really is everything! How you think about your self and the world around you is your reality. The moment you realize that you not only have the power but ARE the power to overcome that fear and go after exactly what it is that you want is slightly overwhelming yet liberating at the same time. It’s what one of my mentors this week mentioned at the start of the workshop, the power of intention. If you whole heartedly believe in something it will come true. As Albert Einstein said, “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

Again I find myself excited to go home and make change. This time it’s not for the dogs, it’s 100% for ME, because I am a badass!

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The value of a proper leash and collar

I want to share an important lesson with everyone from something I experienced tonight. While walking my dog something incredibly dangerous and completely avoidable happened. While passing by an unfamiliar house a dog came charging down the lawn towards Carmen. The owner’s, who were sitting on their front porch, seemed undisturbed by this behaviour as I noticed, to my relief, the dog was tied up….that was until the collar snapped open and the dog came flying all the way down towards the road!

The all too familiar words “DON’T WORRY! HE’S FRIENDLY!” shortly followed as they rushed down to collect their dog who was hackled and stalking my dog waiting for an opportunity to challenge her – not very “friendly” if you ask me. He circled many times as Carmen stood tall while being calm and motionless. Thankfully Carmen knows exactly what to do in situations like this and will not attack even if she feels threatened.

Once the owners wrangled their mutt and muttered that they would be purchasing a new (and improved) collar, I couldn’t help but think how differently that scenario could have ended. Imagine Carmen was aggressive and went after their dog. Most dogs would not be as tolerant as mine! What if the dog was going after a squirrel or dog across the street.

The collar the dog was wearing was a very commonly used flat collar with a plastic buckle. The buckle snapped wide open when the small dog came full speed ahead at us. Notice I said this was a SMALL dog. This was not a Rottweiler or German Shepherd, but this small dog pulled with enough force to destroy that cheap collar.

I cannot emphasis the importance of a good quality leash and collar. This can mean life or death for your pet. If your dog breaks out of a collar, harness, or leash, they could potentially run into traffic or towards a dangerous dog. Poor quality leash clasps can get jammed and are unreliable. Leather leashes can stretch and loose their strength and eventually snap. Cheap flat collars all too often fail as a safe means to keep your dog under control and free from harm.

I am reminded of a video from Mike Rowe about sh*tty collars. (Due to harsh language viewer discretion is advised.) Enjoy!

At The Dog Haus we only carry one type of collar and that is the Martingale Collar (photoed below). This is because it is the only collar, that when sized appropriately a dog cannot back out of and there is no buckle to break open. Martingale collars are part chain and part nylon. They are not choke collars but do apply pressure and release to communicate to the dog. We also carry slip leads which also tighten as a dog pulls so that they cannot escape. I ALWAYS recommend that even slip leads and Halti’s should be attached to a Martingale collar as a back up safety. We also have strong 6′ leashes with heavy duty clasps that will not falter.

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No dog should get injured or killed from a crappy made product. Do not buy collars because the price is right. Question their durability. You get what you pay for so invest in a high quality tool that works for you and your dog in everyday situations to keep them safe.

Make Walking Your Dog Part of Your Routine

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Yesterday I ran an entire workshop dedicated to helping owners improve their walk with their dog. It was incredible how quickly we saw a transformation with the dogs and humans. Changing how you walk with your dog can dramatically change your relationship with your pet. Most clients expressed frustration, fear, and embarrassment when it came to taking their dog out, resulting in shorter and less frequent walks, which lead to behavioural problems with their dogs. Aggression and leash reactivity was the most common issue in all that attended the class. Whether the dog was big or small it didn’t matter, they were all walking in correctly with the dog in front and their owners not showing any leadership, which made them react to everything on their walk as if it were a threat.
Here’s a video of the before and after. This is already minutes in and much improved from when the dogs first arrived.

The walk is something you cannot skip. It is a crucial time to bond with your dog, gives your furry friend a healthy way to get rid of pent-up energy, and when done properly (you walking in front with your dog beside or behind) affirms your role as Pack Leader. Backyard time is not a substitute. A dog only given backyard time is unfulfilled and bored and guaranteed will find other ways to release their frustrations. It doesn’t seem all that different from solitary confinement in prison, where the prisoner gets 1 hour rain or shine to be by themselves in the yard. Fun right?
All dogs no matter what their age, breed or energy level need daily exercise. Low energy dogs need at least a 45 minute walk, Medium energy 1 hour and High energy dogs require 1.5 – 2 hour walks.
Here are my 10 tips to making a walk a part of your routine:
  1. Wake up an hour early!!! Add time to your day and get the walk done first thing when you are recharged and energized. Walking the correct way with your dog will help you clear your mind, de-stress, and prepare for the day.
  2. Don’t leave the walk until the end of the day when you are tired and unmotivated. More likely than not you’ll just end up sitting down and to have dinner and relax.
  3. Make it a family event – either walk together or divide the walking responsibility (Mom/Monday, Dad/Tues, Kids/Wed, Family/Sat&Sun, etc.)
  4. View it as your workout. Pick up the pace or get some ankle weights to get your heart rate going and it can sub for the gym.
  5. Drive less! Going to the corner store? Dropping the kids at school? Meeting a friend for coffee? Why not walk there with the dog? The perfect way to include the dog while doing something you would ordinarily do.
  6. Make your walks more interesting! It gets boring walking the same route. Switch it up! Go new places! Jump in your car and find a cool place to discover. Have Fun!!!!
  7. Start a walking club. Guaranteed you have friends with dogs or there are dogs in your neighbourhood. This is mutually beneficial because walking with other dogs will help socialize your dog and walking with other people daily will hold you accountable.
  8. Make more out of shorter walks but adding an extra element, like a knapsack, to help tire your dog. This fulfills the dog physically by adding weight but also psychologically because the dog feels she has a job to do.
  9. Avoid the urge to walk at times you won’t encounter other dogs. If you are walking properly your dog’s reactivity will get better. However, if you still practice avoidance your dog will not be able to socialize so the behaviour will stay the same or get worse.
  10. If all else fails hire a dog walker. If you cannot fulfill your dogs exercise needs, you must invest in a service that can provide a walk for your dog. Everyone has a busy schedule but if you really can’t add a walk into your lifestyle you need to ensure your dog gets exercised through another means. Otherwise your dog’s behavioural issues are here to stay.

Now that you’ve read my tips, go walk your dog! 🙂

Always judge a Dog Trainer by their dog

Anyone can be a so called “dog trainer.” You, your grandpa, or the crazy cat lady down the street. The truth is the industry itself is not regulated. This is a scary thought. It translates to there being no standards in how to properly educate humans to have successful relationships with their dogs. It also means any tool or technique can be used, or abused, to condition a dog.

My number one tip I’d like to share with all of you to know whether or not a trainer is actually any good is to look at their own dog. How does it behave? Is it a robot, just acting out commands? Does it know how to be calm? Is it hyper and constantly alert? Does it seem anxious or uneasy? Does it bark nonstop until it gets a reward like a treat or ball toss? Is it friendly with other dogs? Does it pull on leash? Does it actually listen to the trainer? Can the dog be good with a different handler? My point is, does the dog behave in a way that you want your dog to behave? That is the most important question.

Buye10671486_963644933661364_6444139759428768389_nr be ware if the dog shows any problem behaviours, especially those you are trying to fix in your own dog. To me it’s even more suspicious if the dog isn’t even at a training class. As a trainer myself, Carmen (my dog) is my BIGGEST asset and a huge marketing tool. This makes it sound like I pimp my dog out, when in fact I don’t. I do take my dog everywhere with me though, especially to classes I teach, and have people comment on how social, calm and well behaved she is (notice I didn’t use the word “Obedient”). Carmen is my demo dog in showing how to do things properly. She is proof of my own training methods and consistently doing exactly what I instruct clients to do with their dogs. Think of it like this, you wouldn’t hire a fat personal trainer, or a dentist with bad teeth. You’d want someone who is truly good at what they do because they practice what they preach.

Here are 5 more tips to ensure you pick a qualified dog trainer.

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