I have always said to my clients, “The energy you project is the energy you will receive.” But what does this really mean and how can we use it to train our dogs? That’s what I hope to explain in this blog.
Emotional energy is a force we all emit to one another. It is the force that allows us to determine someone’s mood and mindset. Energy is the reason we can walk into a room and feel tension, sadness, or great joy. It is multiplied significantly when multiple people are sharing the same energy which makes it even easier to read or pick up on. In essence, emotional energy is our emotions projected into the world around us.
All living creatures can read and give off energy. From humans, fish and reptiles, to cats and dogs, and as some would argue, even plants. Why is this? Because knowing how another living thing feels can save our lives. It’s partially a defense mechanism, but it is also helpful in social situations. It can help build bonds that last a life time, but also create enemies. Emotional energy is a very powerful and useful force that is often over-looked.
Body language is another big part of understanding how another living creature is feeling. That is why it is so important to learn what your dog’s body language means. But that is a different blog all together. Let’s stay focused on energy.
The basic meaning of this saying is simple. If you project anger at someone, you are likely to get anger back. If you project joy, you are likely to get joy back. The same is true with dogs. If you project frustration and anger at your dog, your dog is likely to return it to you instead of respect. Dogs won’t obey unstable energy. To them, this kind of energy is dangerous. So when they encounter it, confident dogs will challenge it. They will let you know in their own doggy way that your energy is not fit for leadership and you shouldn’t be dishing out rules. Sometimes they achieve this through playful behavior to tell you they mean no harm, but they still cannot follow you. Other times, they may down right come at you by biting and lunging because you are acting like a threat to them. For many dogs, biting is a last resort. But some dogs have been conditioned that biting gets things done and so it becomes their go to move. How does that happen? Someone wasn’t projecting the right energy and they let their dog get away with it.
Puppies, on the other hand, are still learning what is acceptable and what is not. Between the ages of about 2 months to 1 year old, it is very important to establish yourself as a stable leader. Projecting assertive but calm energy when enforcing rules is the best and fastest way to go about this. You want to earn your dog’s respect as quickly as possible so they either do not feel the need to try and challenge you, or at least submit more easily after misbehaving. If its the latter, this behavior will improve over time if you are consistent about enforcing your rules as well as the energy your project. The pup will eventually learn that yes, you are going to enforce your rules every single time in a very calm and assertive way, and no harm will come to them. Hence they do not need to run from you.
So lets say your puppy gets in the trash and takes off with a piece in their mouth. You are assertive and calm and say, “Aht! Emily, drop it.” in a deep voice. You walk towards her but then she starts using the coffee table to block you. What do you do? Should you follow her in circles around the coffee table? No. Of course not. Find a way to block her. Move the coffee table closer to the couch, or put something on one side so she can’t run in circles. Then, when she’s cornered, ask her to drop it again. 7 out of 10 times, she probably will understand she’s been defeated and will drop it. You might also notice an immediate change in the energy she projects; going from energetic and somewhat playful to submissive and somewhat insecure. The energy you are projecting throughout this scenario will impact the outcome significantly. Stay calm, pick up the object, and simply walk away. You have won and nothing more needs to be done. Continue this pattern every time she steals something and she will learn fast. You should notice her energy return to a playful/happy nature after you walk away if she is emotionally stable and healthy. On the other hand, if you get frustrated, mad, upset, cry, scream and yell, etc.. you are more likely to lose the battle. Your dog will learn that you are not in control of your own energy and emotions, so there is no way you can lead her.
But lets say your dog doesn’t drop it when you get close. Then what? If her energy seems off, she is growling, or you sense danger.. promptly call a behaviorist in your area for assistance. This is not the type of energy you can safely change without professional experience and knowledge. There may be an underlying issue causing the dog to project this kind of energy that needs to be addressed by a professional. Its important to stay calm to prevent injury to yourself, and do not attempt to challenger her.
Ever hear that old saying, “I’m rubber, you’re glue. Whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you”? Energy is the same way. When we project it to our dogs, they read it and react. Since dogs do not really contemplate how to behave by nature, they simply bounce the energy we give them back to us. Of course there are some exceptions. Some dogs learn to behave a certain way due to conditioning. They may have learned not to trust people at all, for example. But at their very core, they want to project the energy we give them back to us. Breaking through the conditioned responses is something that we behaviorists have to master in order to be successful at what we do. So don’t get discouraged if you have a troubled dog. He simply has been conditioned to be the glue and not the rubber, and he’s got way too much bad energy stuck to him.
In conclusion, energy is a force that helps us decide how to react in certain situations. It is second nature and often over-looked. If you learn to master your emotional energy, you will have a lot more success with your dog. Dogs respect stable, calm, and assertive energy and will challenge unstable, static, and frustrated energy. To learn more about the different types of energy related to dogs specifically, please read Understanding Energy.
**Keep in mind that there can be and usually are several variables that dictate how each individual situation should be handled. The examples above merely provide very general advice. Your solution may differ.**