I recently learned in the 21st Century Dog class taught by Kim Brophey, APDT outstanding trainer of the year, that dogs don’t learn if they are in a fearful state. The fight or flight state is a primitive, all-consuming response to fear, whether it comes from a person or a predator. In any training situation, it’s important that you stay calm so that you don’t frighten your dog. A relaxed dog can more effectively learn what you want them to do. If you find yourself getting frustrated, it might be a good time to take a break. A word about Cesar Millan’s approach: I like his emphasis on exercise, his “calm and assertive vs. reactive and emotional response to dogs”, and his discussion of embodying the energy of a leader. When he says, “Calm, assertive leader,” I translate that to mean: You need to know what you want your dog to do, you need to communicate it clearly, and you need to remain patient as they learn what you’re asking for. I wish he had said, “exercise, direction, and affection” rather than “exercise, discipline, and affection”. It seems people can be confused about his definition of discipline and interpret it to mean punishment.

What your dog really needs is clear direction.

Remembering that your words create pictures be sure to describe the behavior you want instead of the behavior you don’t want (“Quiet.” instead of “No barking!”).