I was in Lithonia last Thursday working with a new Home Dog Training Client and his one-year-old Goldendoodle named Manny.  Manny’s biggest problem was that he doesn’t listen and is rather big.  Goldendoodles can range anywhere from 35 pounds to over 90 pounds.  Manny was pushing 85 pounds and still had “some growing” to go.  He would jump on furniture, my clients, their kids, and anyone else that would come in the house. He would steal food from the breakfast table as well as keys, wallets, and the mail.  The more my clients tried to correct him and stop him, the more he would do all those really annoying and inappropriate things. 

Stay calm and still to get your dog's focus

Although fixing the issues seemed like an impossible task to my clients, they were amazed at how well Manny began to behave as we progressed through the lesson.  All the jumping, ignoring, stealing, and disrespecting quickly vanished into calm focus and complete respect.  They were highly grateful at how we were able to give them the tools to transform Manny into the great dog they always wanted.  I would like to share the little secret that made Manny, and possibly your dog, into a great, lifelong companion.

The secret of having a great dog is really no secret at all.  The difficulty of training a great dog is not that it is difficult.  The answer is really the exact opposite.  The secret of training a dog to be great is that it is exceedingly easy and simple to master.  The problem that all dog owners have when trying to train their dog is that we are humans and not dogs.  All our lives we have been taught that life is complicated and success is often difficult to achieve. 

When we aren’t having success in training our dog, we apply this “life is hard” rule and assume that we need to look for more complicated and elongated solutions.  The more we try these options, the less success we normally achieve. This makes us frustrated and angry.  When we are frustrated and angry, it decreases our ability for rational thought and the “solutions” we try next will always make the situation worse.

This is the moment when I tell my clients to stop, sit down, clear their heads, take a deep breath, “think happy thoughts”, and listen to me.  I find that invoking similarities between common experiences is an excellent method of teaching and directing, That is what I often use with my clients. Since the current situation has arisen because they can’t teach their dog what to do, I help them recall a time when they experienced a successful teaching experience.

I ask my clients to think back in time to their school days.  I am sure that they had good times and bad times while in school.  We all did.  But, there was always that one, really great teacher that we had during those times.  It doesn’t matter what grade they were in or what subject was being taught.  There was that one teacher that had the ability to get our focus and and teach us.  Most of us have that one teacher that we always remember. Today, we may not use a thing that teacher taught us (i.e. calculus).  

It really doesn’t matter.  For a moment in time, that teacher “had us”.  We always wanted to be in the classroom and we always focused on what they had to say.  That teacher made us feel safe and secure in their care. 

Now that I got my client to recall that moment and that teacher, I ask them the question “Why did you feel that way? What was it about that particular teacher and that particular moment in time?”  Most of my clients can’t give me an answer. They can’t give me an answer because they were trying to think of a complicated, psychological, inter-personal, “graduate level” response. They thought the answer was hard.

The answer is really quite simple. Before I make the “big reveal”, I ask my clients a few more questions.  Did this great teacher always yell and scream at you?  Did he run around the room like a crazy person? Did he get mad for no understandable reason and never listen to you?  The single answer I always receive in response to these questions is “no”.

Exactly.  The teacher we always respected was calm and still. That specific demeanor attracted our attention and respectful focus.  It gave them full control to steadily impart the “lesson of the day”. 

The “calm and still” happened before they even began to talk.  This is because the “calm and still”  is part of our communication process otherwise known as “body language”.  It is our demeanor, “how we carry ourselves”.  Since it is not verbal and associated with a language such as English, French, Spanish, German, etc.; it is universal.

When we (humans) communicate, we overwhelmingly use verbal language as the main driver of expression. Over 80% of our communication is transmitted through verbal language.  Only about 15% of our communication is communicated over body language.

Here comes the amazing thing. Even though body language is only 15% of our communication process, our teacher’s calm and still demeanor captivated us, gained our focus, and elicited respect. He “had us” before he ever opened his mouth.

Now, let’s move on to our dog.  Our dog uses the same communication processes that we use.  As I mentioned above, they include verbal language and body language.  The critical difference is that where we use verbal language as our main form of communication, our dog uses body language as their main form of communication.  Where we are 80% verbal and 15% body, our dog is 80% body and 15% verbal.

Body language is over five times more important in the communication process to our dog than it is to us.  When we are calm and still in addressing our dog, it sends an enormous message that we are the boss and the one that will protect and nurture him.

Think of how you feel when someone yells and screams at you. You feel mad, normally “turn off”, ignore them, and look away.  Imagine that exact feeling, but only five times more powerful. That is what your dog is experiencing when you are yelling “No” at him and flailing your arms.

So here’s the deal:  When you need to correct and teach your dog, you must always stay calm and still. No matter what is happening, stay calm and still. This will allow you to determine what to do next while deescalating the situation with your dog.

Body language is the most important part of canine communication and staying calm and still is the most important aspect of canine body language. This is a key factor you must use if you want your dog to obey.

Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 or (770) 718-7716 if you need any dog training help.  We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over sixteen years.  We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.