Today I want to write a little about ways that we can create mindset. We talk about mindset a lot because it’s the first step to achieving the correct behavior. When your mindset is right, behaving well is laughably easy. But most people struggle to get their dog’s mindset in the right place. They might be trying to get their dog to sit down or stop being aggressive, but the dog is so amped up with adrenaline that they can’t properly focus on the command.
Anyone can get a calm dog to sit, lie down, or heel, and creating the correct mindset that can get you to that point. Most owners, however, try to start one or two steps into the process. They want their dog to obey, but they haven’t done the work of creating the right mindset.
I was reminded of this truth in a session at a client’s house recently. As soon as I walked in, I saw that the dog was extremely hyper: she was barking, jumping, and generally going crazy. It was only our second session and the owner admitted to not having done her homework from the first one, so I knew that the dog wasn’t in a very good state of mind. The owner was rightfully frustrated, and just wanted her dog to calm down and go lie on her bed.
All we did to solve this issue was to correct the dog a few times while she was jumping around and barking. We used the e-collar for two or three tiny corrections—just enough to create a pattern, like touching someone on the shoulder to get their attention or tapping your kid to get them back to doing their homework. And suddenly, she wasn’t barking anymore. After two or three corrections on a very low level, she calmed down enough to just sit there. She wandered around for a bit, walked over to her bed, and got a drink. The owner was shocked. She wanted to know how to achieve this result every time visitors came over.
Calmness is a learned skill. Oftentimes, calmness is simply the absence of craziness. When I came into that room, craziness was already there. This dog was all over the place. I took away that manifestation of craziness and told the dog “You can’t jump or bark. What are you going to do now?” That got her attention.
Dogs aren’t stupid, so they choose whether to adapt or not. To not adapt would be to continue to bark and run around, but we didn’t let that occur. In reality, when the correction is present, the only thing left for the dog to do is to adapt. When you take away the crazy mindset, adaptation almost always brings calmness.
If you take away the ability to act foolish, the only available choice is to act sane. (There might be lesser degrees of “foolishness,” but we shouldn’t allow any of those either.) This creates a good state of mind, which is what we want for every dog. In order to create that mindset, I had to attack this dog’s hyper mindset. I had to say to the dog: “Here’s the mindset you have right now. It’s creating this bad physical behavior. You can’t do this, this, or that.” What do we have after giving those restrictions? Calmness.
I like this concept because it requires so little correction. All we had to provide was a small flick with the e-collar, and we suddenly had a dog who was ready to learn and in a position to do so. It’s not always that easy. Sometimes the distractions are bigger, and sometimes you’ll need to put in some harder work. But the concept is always that easy to grasp: if you take away your dog’s ability to act like a goofball, you’ll discover a calmer and happier dog.