Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The importance of calm assertiveness

A guest post from

When you welcome a dog into your home, you're not simply gaining a pet, but a new state of mind.

This fact quickly became clear to me when my husband and I got two lab mix puppies. The oldest, Shammy, is about 5 months old, while Dozer is 10 weeks. In hindsight it probably wasn't the best idea to get puppies so close in age simply because of the time requirement, but since I'm a housewife, I have the time to make it work.

When you bring a dog in, you go from an individual, or a house full of individuals, to a pack. To understand how a pack works, think about a time when you were around someone who was feeling a certain way -- whether sad, angry or even happy -- and how it started to affect your mood. Multiply that by the number of animals and people in your household and you get an idea of how a pack works. When you bring a dog into your house, you are bringing an animal who is literally hardwired to be your lifelong companion. Dogs are empathetic to their humans in a way no other animal, including other people, can be. Because of this, owning a dog means you have to be more in touch with your feelings, and through that, the feelings of your household.

My pack consists of myself, my husband, two cats and our two aforementioned puppies. We act as one symbiotic entity. If one of us is sad, angry or frustrated, it carries through to the rest of the household. If I wake up in a bad mood, the dogs are unmanageable and hyper, the cats are racing around the house and even my husband is grousing. But I find that if I can find that center, the calm assertiveness that is the foundation of a good working relationship with animals, then it's like night and day. By taking a few moments in the morning to breathe, to relax, to envision the day that I want to happen, I find that it helps stop a majority of the craziness. Add in exercise, training and a set routine and the battle for a peaceful, animal-loving household is already won.

As dog owners, we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of giving in to our anger and frustration. Will we feel these things at times? Yes. But much like a conscientious parent, we have to have the wherewithal to rein it in quick before it disrupts the pack.

So what is calm assertiveness? Simple. Think of someone in your past, whether it's a relative, teacher or other influential person in your life. Was this person someone you obeyed out of fear, obligation or respect? If the answer is respect, then that's the assertiveness. Next, picture how you felt around them. What kind of "aura" surrounded them? Hectic and worried or peaceful and tranquil? It's pretty obvious where the calm is there.

For some people, simply imagining how that person would react in a given situation is enough, but for me it isn't. Instead, I try to think of times before where I myself felt calm assertiveness. I think of writing, editing and publishing, which are all areas in which I feel very confident. I call forth that same strength in hectic times to ground myself.

Calm assertiveness is a must for dog training, but it is also useful in life in general. The next time you find yourself getting annoyed at a situation, find that center and try facing it with calm assertiveness. You will be amazed at how much easier even the toughest obstacles can become.


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