Three large dogs have made life interesting, to say the least. There is always one in the pack (Lucy) that has a tendency to be the life of the party and ramps up the energy in a heartbeat. We had visitors the other day and I ended up throwing her famous blue ball in the yard to sap some of that nervous energy so she would calm down! I can’t say it was a proud ‘trainer’ moment, but hey, sometimes you do what has to be done.
Dog ‘energy’ is more than activity; it is actually a mysterious force. My understanding is growing in this area, but because none of us are dogs, we will never fully ‘get it’. Dogs size each other’s energy up very quickly and establish pecking order. My goal for group training situations is to find the dog or dogs with the unbalanced energy. Like magic, remove them and the rest will immediately resort to a calm, orderly and submissive pack.
So the question is…what do you do with a dog with unbalanced, nervous, disruptive energy? As challenging as Lucy can be at times, I have had success with being consistent and offering leadership and discipline. (Remember ‘discipline’ is NOT punishment, it is being consistent with what you expect from your dog.)
After her usual frenetic outbursts, I will simply stand over her, snap my finger, and point to a dog bed behind a chair in a corner. She will quickly go there and lie down. It is a sign to her that I have had enough of her tomfoolery and now I am offering her a place to calm down and get under control. To her, it is leadership and offers security.
I also do this shortly after all dogs come in from the outside; I let them greet us, but after that, I snap my fingers and say, ‘All dogs lie down’. And they do. And when they don’t, it is usually due to INCONSISTENCY. And from a very practical standpoint, my own laziness causes this inconsistency. (You know, ‘hard tasks’ like getting out of your recliner if need be.)
Am I unaffectionate when it comes to dogs? Are you kidding me? With Golden Retrievers? There is plenty of time for that! But I can just tell you from experience, dogs crave leadership from their humans. In fact, leadership is a great way to show dogs affection. Good energy happens when they are secure— and security is achieved through consistent, positive leadership. And I seem to have to remind myself of this constantly, as Lucy was put in my life to keep me humble! Until next time…