A common behavioral issue that is addressed during my sessions is the lack of following commands or direction. Particularly, the person is frustrated because the dog is not behaving in the way they desire. The dog often is confused because what is desired is not clearly communicated to them, whereas what is not desired is being communicated. The command is then delivered with a lot of frustration and fear and both of these energies add extra fuel to what the dogs receive and they will act accordingly.
In the following examples, I will bold the words that the dogs hear due to the energy and the delivery method.
When someone is desiring Quiet they yell “No barking”. The dog hears barking and follows the direction beautifully. Or if someone wants their dog to calmly let a bike pass but in the heat of the moment, they yell, “No chasing bikes” then the dog will hear “Chasing bikes” amplified by the fear and the frustration their person is delivering the command. “Fear” to dogs means intruder and they look for what is creating the fear and go into protection mode. The dogs get really confused because more explosive energy is directed their way from their people.
During one session, a client was frustrated with the dog constantly pulling on the leash and during a walk, the person repeated like a broken record, “No pulling.”
When we explored the issue the dog was proud of his following the direction of pulling and was surprised to hear that is not what was desired. I invited the client to visualize exactly what she wanted it to feel like when walking the dog on the leash. Some of her words were “relaxed”, “shoulder-to-shoulder”, “slack in the leash”. Then I had her visualize the slack in the leash. When she did this, both the dog and I could sense the ease in the walk, the contentment in walking together, the energy coming down the leash was joyful, curious, attentive and grateful. The dog responded with “Oh that’s what you want.” Weeks later my client happily reported that their walks are just like she requested with a lot of slack in the leash.
When faced with a repeated behavioral problem, consider it as an opportunity to visualize what you want or how you want to feel and as often as you said, “no pulling” instead say your new intention such as “slack leash.” When your intent is clear and you can visualize what you want, your dog also gets the picture and will start to respond to the new communication. Consider a repeated behavioral problem as an opportunity to hone your intention.