Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.
Saint Francis de Sales
Calm. It always seems you’re just shy of hitting the right spot, like that itch you can’t quite reach. That elusive place you know exists, but you never can seem to find. Like Comcast’s Customer Service department.
The PAW Method we developed here at Darwin Dogs is very simple. The three steps to working with your dog:
1. Control yourself
2. Control the situation
3. Answer your dog’s question(s)
There’s a reason controlling yourself is at the top of the list: it’s the most important. Your dog may be out of control, the world may seem out of control, but you will be adding calm to the situation. To make sense of chaos, you need a fixed point. That’s going to be you – and you will be feeding calmness to the situation. Sprinkle calm all over the situation like Tinkerbell sprinkling Pixie Dust.
Easy to say, sometimes not so easy to do.
I find many of my clients at their wits’ ends. They have no idea how to even start working with their dogs’ behaviors. What they don’t understand is that those behaviors start with the human. So how do you start? By pulling an Elsa.
Let it go.
- Let go of the tension. A tense situation doesn’t need more tension.
- Let go of the anxiety. Don’t react until you need to answer the question.
- Let go of the anger. You are answering a question, not punishing a dog for asking.
- Let go of perfection. Your dog is a mirror of you. Are you perfect? Of course not, and nobody expects you to be.
So start at the beginning. Calm. It helps you better to work with your dog and guide them in this human world. And I’m not the only one who firmly believes this.
Science Daily wrote this article about the findings of a Duke University study recently published. Specifically of interest in the Science Daily Article:
“In a series of experiments, the researchers challenged dogs to retrieve a meat jerky treat from a person standing behind a clear plastic barrier that was six feet wide and three feet tall. To get it right, the dogs had to resist the impulse to try to take the shortest path to reach the treat — which would only cause them to whack into the barrier and bump their heads against the plastic — and instead walk around the barrier to one of the open sides.
In one set of trials, an experimenter stood behind the barrier holding a treat and called the dog’s name in a calm, flat voice. In another set of trials, the experimenter enthusiastically waved the treat in the air and used an urgent, excited voice.”
You can guess what happened. You know that high-pitched, squeaky, baby-talk voice that makes human’s ears bleed? The flapping of your hands, like a fledgling bird desperate for it’s parent’s attention? Yeah, it doesn’t do much for dogs either. Especially the excitable or nervous ones. Or as Science Daily put it:
“For the dogs that were naturally calm and laid-back — measured by how quickly they tended to wag their tails — increasing the level of excitement and urgency boosted their ability to stay on task and get the treat.
But for excitable dogs the pattern was reversed. Increasing the level of stimulation only made them take longer.
In one high-arousal trial, a two-year-old spaniel named Charlie Brown lost it and shut down, barking and zipping around crazily until she almost ran out of time.”
In other words, some dogs can take pressure and stress, and not only work through those situations, but thrive in them, just like some humans. However, those are not the dogs most of us are typically dealing with. Let’s face it – most of us have some trouble with our dogs. Some of us may have a dog who might nervously and anxiously be asking us a question, and rather than being the voice of calm reason, we’re dousing them with more anxious, nervous (or worse, angry) energy.
So start with yourself. Check your body language – are you tense? Strained? Anxious-looking? Take a deep breath and reboot yourself. Take charge of your inner-calm, and you will be able to Pilot your dog through any storm.
For the full video of the trials see below:
And always remember, there’s a reason we end our blog posts with this motto: