How many times have you been told “Calm down” or “Keep your cool” or something like that? In most cases, someone may be telling you that because you are in an emotional state and either the other person can’t handle it, or they want to help you through your stressful situation so you can make logical rather than emotional choices.
The same idea can be applied to our animal companions.
Remember.. our animals are thinking, feeling, sentient beings with a full range of emotions and their own opinions about the world around them. A key component when working with them (especially in training) is to always keep your cool: remain calm and level headed. When you stay calm,they will intuitively know that you can guide them, and be their “leader”.
Think about the difference between a supervisor who is respected and trusted by his/her employees and the one who is not: the defining factor is often that they are level-headed individuals who not only support and respect their team – but also do not become overly emotional during times of stress or chaos.
This is a hallmark of leadership when it comes to our animal companions. Animals and children are amazing at detecting the difference between when you are truly being calm and focused, and when you are not.
So how does one become calm, focused and the leader that our animals need us to be?
Step 1. Take A Deep Breath! This is a critical step in all things! Take a moment to let the emotional outburst (or knee jerk reaction) pass through and regain your composure. You can also count down from 20 before you react verbally or physically towards your pet.
Step 2. Be Genuine and Focused. What you are thinking and what you are feeling must match! If you are giving your animal a command (let’s say a dog in this case), and you want them to sit, your tone of voice needs to be direct and matter of fact. Your thought must also focus on your dog performing a successful sit. If you don’t think your dog can do it – or if you have no confidence in your dog to successfully sit – neither of you will get very far in the training.
Step 3. Be Consistent! How many of you have ever had that work supervisor who wasn’t consistent? They would essentially, not follow through with their promises or action steps. And you knew you could get away with not fully completing a task. In our example with the dog, – sit must always mean sit. They must always listen to you when you are out for a walk or anywhere else.
It’s important to also remember that your emotional state travels down the leash (or lead rope if you have a horse). If you are the calm presence your dog needs in any situation, then your dog will be more likely to listen and obey commands, and you both will be more happy with these clear boundaries!