On July 3, I took my son with me to clean yards in the afternoon. I thought it would be safe enough for him since I had already cleaned Tiger’s yard earlier that day. So he happily agreed to go with me.
When we arrived at Fort Knox, something was different. There was a truck in my customer’s driveway, which suggested to me that he was actually home. And that made sense to me because Fourth of July is a 4 day weekend for the military. Because he was home, I thought, There could be dogs in the backyard. I didn’t say anything that would potentially alarm my son, instead, I gathered my tools and unbuckled him from his car seat. We walked across the street and I opened the gate. At once, we were greeted with a high energy galloping Great Dane. This dog was about twice as tall as Josiah and I could tell it made him uncomfortable.
“It’s okay, Josiah,” I reassured him. “You can go in the yard. He’s not going to hurt you.”
So in we went. Through the gate, I saw a Boxer standing over on the patio. Two big dogs, I thought, Just peachy!.
Maintaining my composure, I relaxed my body held my shoulders tall and back, made no eye contact with the dogs, did not touch them, and did not speak to them according to Cesar Millan’s rules. I allowed the dogs to become comfortable with me on their own accord while projecting a calm assertive energy.
Josiah, on the other hand, was anything but calm or assertive. He was nervous and scared. The more elevated his trepidation, the more excited the dogs became. I told him to calm down. When I saw this obviously was not working, I gave him a job.
“Josiah,” I said. “I need you to do something for me.”
“What?” he asked.
“I need you to walk in front of me and look for dog poop.”
“Okay, Daddy,” he said happily.
“When you find it, stand right there and wait for me to come scoop it.”
Off he went. As soon as I gave him a mission, his mind went from nervous and scared to purpose. Instantly, the dogs calmed down. Soon after, Josiah became aware of the dogs again and his fear came back. He walked closely in front of me.
“Josiah,” I said. “You need to calm down. Are you supposed to be here?”
“Yes,” he said.
“Then act like it,” I said bluntly. What I was basically telling him to do was to take ownership of the yard. Dogs tend to be protective of their territories. They also tend to reflect our energy. So, if Josiah could simply picture in his mind this idea that I belong here. This is what I’m supposed to be doing. then the dogs would sense that and leave him alone.
Overall, it was an amazing training experience. I learned more about dogs and people on this one interaction than in all my previous experience with animals. While some people may think The Dog Whisperer is old school training, it’s actually not. It’s very much what dogs need to be able to relate well with humans.