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Episode 310 - The Biggest Loser


“One mistake that people easily make is adopting a dog for the lifestyle they want to have, not for the one that they do have, and one of the biggest causes of misbehavior is a dog whose energy level is too much for the humans to handle.”
 

 
 

Q&A with Cesar

What if you can’t physically keep up with your own dog to fulfill their energy needs?

This is why I always tell people from the beginning to find a dog with the same or lower energy level as their own. If you’re more energetic than your dog, you’ll be able to wear them out with exercise and keep them calm — but if your dog is an Olympic class sprinter and you’re a couch potato, you’re going to have a dog that’s bouncing off the walls.
 
Of course, circumstances can change, but you owe it to your dog to find a way to work around them. In the case of Krystal and Anthony, they had to decide to make some lifestyle changes and become more active. If this is your decision, don’t worry. You don’t have to know Jillian Michaels or join a gym to make it happen. You have the perfect workout tool right at the end of the leash. Gradually extend your walks so that you don’t stop when you’re tired, you stop when your dog is.
 
I know that sometimes even this isn’t possible. Things can happen to us as we age or we can suffer a physical injury. If you develop bad arthritis in your knees or have to have a hip replacement, for example, then it’s totally understandable if you have to slow down. But there are still ways to accommodate your dog’s energy level. You can take her to agility or search and rescue classes, or even to the doggie gymnasium. If that’s beyond your budget, then a treadmill is a good way to make up for the distance you can’t walk, or you can hire a dog walker. And if the dog walker is too pricey for you, you probably have a relative or neighbor who loves your dog, doesn’t have one of their own, and would love to walk yours for free. Just ask around.
 
As Jillian showed Krystal and Anthony in the episode, where there’s a will, there’s a way. It may seem impossible to keep up with your dog, but with a little bit of creativity and a lot of determination, it is quite doable.
 

Like Tic Tac, my dog is very well-behaved inside but goes crazy outside. Why the difference?

Most of the time, it’s because your dog is following your energy, and you’ve taught him that outside is a place where you’re anxious or excited. Combine this with most dogs getting excited about going for a walk anyway, and you’ve got the recipe for a hyper dog that barks or jumps at everything.
 
What I see all the time is a dog owner who has had that one bad experience — their dog tries to snap at another dog or person, or is attacked by another dog — and it changes everything about the energy on the walk. If you’re walking your dog while worrying about bad things that could happen, you’re telling your dog to be on alert and protect you from danger. It can become a vicious cycle, and sometimes people even stop walking their dog altogether instead of solving the problem.
 
It can be easy to be calm and assertive at home because you’re inside and protected and you don’t have to worry about strange dogs approaching. But you have to be very consciously aware of your energy when you go out with your dog, and focus on being very calm and assertive on the walk. Imagining positive outcomes instead of worrying about negative ones will help give you the right energy to be a Pack Leader.
 

In the episode, Krystal and Anthony were working at least six weeks together in order to fix Tic Tac’s behavior, but with Evan and his friends, you seemed to rehabilitate the dog immediately. Why is there such a difference?

Rehabilitating a dog depends on two things. First is what misbehavior the dog is exhibiting. Timid or fearful dogs can take the longest because it’s a matter of first breaking through their fear and then building up their trust and self-esteem. Hyperactive, over-excited dogs can take a while because their pack has to get into a new routine that’s enough to drain their energy.
 
Second is how well the humans do at understanding what I teach them, then applying those teachings and following through. I can show someone how to do a correction and they can start applying it properly in two minutes — but if they don’t continue to do it or don’t do it consistently, then it’s not going to help their dog.
 
The most difficult situation is a timid dog with an owner that doesn’t understand how they’re contributing to the problem and doesn’t change their energy and behaviors in order to help. That dog is never going to be rehabilitated. The best situation is an owner who gets it immediately and develops a new understanding of and relationship with their dog.
 
Krystal and Anthony got what I was teaching them, but they also had to make a pretty big lifestyle change and bring their own energy and activity levels up in order to be able to tire out their dog and teach him to be calm and submissive.
 
On the other hand, Evan and his friends immediately understood how they were not reading Amigo’s signals properly and how they were actually helping to trigger his behavior by not being calm and assertive. Once Adam bonded with Amigo on the walk, his fear around the dog diminished and he was no longer giving off weak energy that triggered Amigo’s protective instincts. Although it took a little bit longer, Robo eventually got it too, and he stopped being Amigo’s “lamb chop.”
 
Every dog and human combination is unique in that they respond to my techniques and tools at a different pace. What’s important to remember is that just because you don’t see immediate results it doesn’t mean you’re never going to rehabilitate your dog. Persistence and consistency are the key. Dogs learn through repetition and reinforcement until the rules, boundaries, and limitations you’ve given to them become second nature.
 

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