The Colin's Pack Guide to a Happy Life with Your Dog

by Colin West
(Santa Monica, CA United States)

Stay Calm and Assertive

Stay Calm and Assertive

The Colin’s Pack Guide to a Happy Life with Your Dog

This guide shows how to live a functional and happy life with your dog, basically by mimicking the natural behaviors and ways of life that he would have in nature. It all starts with you being the pack leader.

Premise: You want to have a functional and happy relationship with your dog.

Goal: Be a good pack leader.

Introduction: Your relationship with your dog will be most rewarding for both you and your dog if you are the pack leader. Therefore, this guide will provide a blueprint on how to be the pack leader.

By understanding how a pack leader behaves, what their responsibilities are, and by imitating that behavior until it becomes second nature, you can become the pack leader. If you fulfill your responsibilities as the pack leader, eventually, your presence alone will put your dog at ease, because you represent structure, safety, and direction. This is the first section of the guide, and will address energy and exercise.

STEP 1) Calm-Assertive Energy:

If you want to be the pack leader, you have to have the energy of a pack leader, and the energy if a pack leader is calm and assertive.

It’s an energy that is always stable, grounded, and powerful. True personal power doesn’t often get upset, frustrated, fearful, etc.; it simply handles the situation and does what needs to be done. Dogs will absorb and vibrate at the energy level that you share with them, and you want that to be a healthy one. To have a stable dog, you must have a stable and balanced energy in your home. Over time, by practicing a calm and assertive way of being, and applying that energy to certain rituals in your relationship, your dog will come to see you clearly as the pack leader, and you can begin to have a fulfilling relationship with your dog.

A simple example of how problems can be created is this: If you are constantly nervous, your dog will be too, and he will see you as being in a weak state, he will understand that you’re not in a position to lead, and he will take the leadership position. In this case, you would now have a nervous, dominant dog, and this would likely be the beginning of your dog developing issues such as nervous aggression. It’s that simple.

Your dog wants to know that you can control the situation before he will be willing to surrender, and as long as you can, he will usually be happy to give up responsibility. Your dog wants you to be the pack leader; it sets him free.

STEP 2) Exercise:

Exercise is the most important thing that you can give to your dog.

Dogs are descendants of wolves, and distant cousins of African wild dogs, both of which are known for their endurance in hunts and their ability to travel many miles each day. So, it is hardwired into your dog’s DNA to get out there, explore, and hunt every single day; in his mind, his survival depends on it. It’s easy to imagine how a dog could become frustrated or unfulfilled living in a house or apartment while his DNA is screaming for him to get out there and move. Basically, you want to create an exercise routine that is big enough to encompass your dog’s energy; it’s all about creating a life big enough to contain him and fulfill him. Once that is done, you can just fall into a pattern, and it will naturally lead your dog toward balance. Consistency, consistency.. Medium level energy dogs will need at least an hour and a half of moderate exercise or so to be fulfilled each day, but you will have to determine for yourself what routine will fulfill your dog.

Types of Exercise:

Walking: Walking is the best option for medium and low level energy dogs. A walk is enough of a challenge for these dogs to get “in the zone,” or, into a traveling mode.

This is a state of mind where your dog is calm, submissive, and focused on task at hand: moving forward. It allows your dog a sort of meditative break, and will pay you dividends as a dog owner. For medium and low level energy dogs, a long walk might be enough to get them into the zone, but for higher level energy dogs, this might not be enough of a challenge.

Running, Biking, or Rollerblading/Something with wheels: Walking is simply not enough of a challenge for many dogs, especially when they have pent up energy, and this can drive owners crazy when trying to control their dogs on a walk. The solution is biking or rollerblading. This will allow you to spend less energy while your dog spends more, and will ultimately leave you both on the same energy level by the end. (Running is also an option, but you will be spending much more energy than if you were to bike or rollerblade, which is fine if it works for you.) Trotting is a very natural speed for dogs; it is one they use in the wild while traveling, and it is the easiest speed in which most dogs can get into the zone. You will be surprised at how a long bike ride at a trotting pace can bring peace into your home, and it has become the primary way that I exercise my dogs.

Before the Walk: Have your dog in the right state of mind before you leave your home; will make it easier for you to maintain a good state of mind on the walk. It’s easiest to have your dog in the right state of mind if you have been following a consistent exercise routine, and the energy in your home is already balanced. When you decide to go on a walk, run, etc., don’t talk or get your dog overly excited; she will be excited enough once you grab the leash and bags. You can be happy, but don’t add energy to that situation. After grabbing what you need, go to your door and stand with your back to it with a calm and assertive energy, thereby claiming the door. Then wait for your dog(s) to come to you, to calm down, sit and look you in the eyes. This routine will get easier with time and practice. Once the dog is in a calm and submissive state, put the leash on. I recommend a slip lead high on the neck, right behind the ears and underneath the chin, which will allow you more control on the walk. A prong collar is also a good option for some dogs. Once you open the door, make your dog wait one more moment while you claim the space, and then walk out of the door first and close it behind you.

During the Walk: I recommend letting your dog pee/poop right off the bat, so that you can put that aside and start getting them into a traveling mode. From then on, move at a pace that allows you to keep your dog at your side or behind you throughout the activity, taking 1 or 2 breaks to smell when you feel that your dog has earned it. Smelling should not take more than about 5 minutes of your walk. Have your dog beside you or behind you; you can’t lead a walk with your dog in front. If your dog starts to go in front of you, or to pull you to the side, it is best to correct your dog by pulling his neck to the side with the appropriate force, then release the tension and repeat if you need to. If this keeps up for too long, and it’s clear that your dog is just not moving fast enough, I recommend using a bike or rollerblades to allow you to move at a challenging speed.

Read Part 2: Discipline, Socialization, Affection

For more information, visit Colin's Pack.

By Colin West

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