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Episode 304 - Three Headed Monster

“It’s not the size of the dog that can be a problem — it’s the size of that dog’s energy. The bigger they are, the better the Pack Leader they need.”


Q&A with Cesar

Cesar, can you give me examples of activities for socializing my dog on my own in our day-to-day routine?

The activities depend on your dog’s current level of socialization and general temperament. For example, if you have a fearful dog, you’re going to have to start very slowly, whereas if you have a happy-go-lucky dog you can plunge in right away.
The goal of socialization is to have a dog that gets along with other dogs and people. In order to do that, you have to expose them to both, in different situations. One activity that you should already be doing is the walk, which is a perfect opportunity to socialize your dog.
If she tends to get excited or aggressive when she sees other dogs, correct her calmly and lead her to the side, then make her sit and watch as the other dog passes — the worst thing you can do is try to pull her away or go another direction, because this will tell her that there’s something dangerous about other dogs.
If she’s more nonchalant or curious, ask the other dog walker from a distance if their dog is friendly. If they answer yes, then approach each other, but don’t try to force the two dogs to interact. They either will or they won’t, and will let you know when they’re done by disengaging.
Other great places for socializing your dog are, of course, the dog park, as well as dog-friendly malls, restaurants, and stores. Many of these will not only help your dog become socialized with other dogs, but with people as well.
If your dog is fearful, aggressive, or overprotective, then you will have to engage in the socialization process more gradually. But regardless of your dog’s degree of socialization at the beginning, the key to completing the process successfully is your calm, assertive energy. If you’re a strong Pack Leader, your dog will feel the confidence in you that will allow him to approach strange dogs and people with equal calmness.

Cesar, I don’t get this energy talk. If I can’t control how I feel, how can I control my energy?

When I use the word “energy,” I’m merely referring to the way that animals communicate with each other — energy plus body language. An animal’s energy can be strong or weak; decisive or uncertain, and so on. Its body language can be friendly or aggressive; dominant or submissive, and so on. The combination of the two is how animals “talk” to each other, and this communication works across species. Well, across most species. Humans are the only animals that quickly lose the ability to communicate in this way because we have words instead.
Here are some words that often pop up in the world of psychology: “Fake it ‘til you make it.” In some versions, “make” is replaced by “feel,” but the idea is the same. If you don’t know how to be calm and assertive, pretend that you are and act the way that you think a calm assertive person would act.
This is why I frequently tell people who are having trouble being calm and assertive to imagine someone they think does have that energy — like a world leader, an athlete, or a movie star. Say, for example, you pick Cleopatra. Imagine the way that Cleopatra would walk and move, and how she would regard her subjects, who are all subordinate to her. And remember: assertive does not mean aggressive. Assertive just means creating your own boundaries and then enforcing them.
You mentioned above that you can’t control how you feel so you can’t control your energy, but I think you asked the question backwards. Learn how to control your energy first and you will learn how to be in control of your feelings, too.

We are having our first baby soon, and would love to get Cesar’s tips for having the dog around the baby safely.

The most important thing to remember is every human in the household is a Pack Leader and the dogs are subordinate to all of them, even the baby. Now, I’m not saying that you have to teach a newborn all of my techniques and dog laws right away. Rather, you have to teach the dog to respect the baby’s space before she or he even comes into the household, so you need to start the process immediately.
If you have a room set aside to be the baby’s nursery, start by making it off-limits to the dog; do the same if you’ll be starting with a crib in your bedroom. The dog is not allowed to enter that room or approach that crib without your explicit invitation. These areas belong to the humans now.
But remember: if you make a room off-limits simply by closing the door, you just make it more interesting to your dog. Instead, you have to claim the open doorway and create an invisible boundary there that your dog will not cross without permission.
Another thing to be very aware of is energy. Pregnancy and birth are probably the single biggest lifestyle changes that any couple can go through, and the energy can get pretty unstable along the way. That’s why it’s very important during this time more than ever to keep a regular schedule with your dog, and to concentrate on teaching her to be calm and submissive.
If your dog has not been around children or babies before, now is the time to ask friends for an introduction of your dog to their kids — making sure ahead of time that the kids know to practice “no touch, no talk, no eye contact.” A lot of dogs get along with kids really well, but other dogs just don’t like them — after all, they move a lot more erratically than adults, and they smell different. The goal in the introduction is, first, to gauge how your dog behaves around children and, second, discover any negative reactions now, while there’s still time to work with a professional trainer to eliminate them.
Most of the work in making sure your dog and baby are safe around each other comes in preparing the dog for the new arrival and establishing your baby’s place in the pack as higher. The rest of it begins when your baby comes home, but that’s an entire article in itself.

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