Anybody who has read or seen at least one interview with me, or has read or watched at least one of my books, shows, or DVDs, knows at least this: I am constantly pointing out the importance of energy when it comes to communicating with our dogs.
To a dog, energy is everything. A dog doesn’t care whether you’re a pope, a prince, or a peasant. A dog primarily knows you by two things: your scent and your energy. Now, the scent part is obvious and requires no explanation. However, one of the questions I get asked the most is, “What do you mean by energy?”
Well, here’s the answer.
The short version is that “energy” is how any being presents itself to the world. I know that some people can get hung up on this word for different reasons. Ask people what the word “energy” means to them and their answers will be different, depending upon whether they’re a scientist, a psychologist, or a mystic. So, if you have your own idea of what “energy” means, try thinking of it this way instead: Energy is the impression you make upon the world.
In other words, your energy is how you are perceived by living beings who are not you. Think of it as your personality, disposition, temperament, or whatever word makes sense to you.
Okay. That’s what we’ll call “energy.”
Now, what creates the energy that we project to the world? Simple. Energy is what we get when our intentions meet our emotions. Or, to put it mathematically:
Intention × Emotion = Energy
Intention is defined as “Determination to do a specified thing or act in a specified manner; to be motivated in thoughts or acts; anything intended or planned.”
Emotions are the states of mind that color our interactions, and they can be physical (like shaking in fear), behavioral (like approaching or avoiding certain things), or subjective (biases based on personal experiences and perceptions).
To show you how this works in humans, let’s look at the same words, delivered with the same emotion but entirely different intention. The line is, “Here’s Johnny!”
This was how Ed McMahon used to introduce Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show,” and he delivered the line with enthusiasm, which is one of the primary happy human emotions. This same line was also said by Jack Nicholson in the movie “The Shining,” and with the same emotion, enthusiasm.
However, the intention behind the two deliveries is entirely different. McMahon’s intention was to generate excitement in the audience. Nicholson’s character’s intention was to terrify his wife and son. The same words, delivered with the same emotion, have an entirely different energy because of the intention.
Dogs are acutely aware of both our emotion and intention, which is why it can be so difficult to fool a dog. You’ve probably experienced this firsthand whenever your dog seems to magically know that it’s time for a bath or to go to the vet no matter how positive or cheerful you try to be in luring her to you. The emotions are happy, but the intention completely alters your energy.
This is why being calm and assertive is so important. I often speak of it as an energy state, but it’s actually an emotion — the only balanced human emotion, which is why it is so powerful when combined with intention. The calm, assertive part will override just about any intention, and project energy that will encourage your dog to be calm, submissive, and balanced.
Dogs will avoid unbalanced energy, and many human emotions are unbalanced: anger, anxiety, fear, and hopelessness, for example. You can have the best of intentions, but combine them with unbalanced emotion, and the result is energy that will make your dog run away from you.
But if you remain balanced — calm and assertive — then this will allow your dog to trust you, and when your dog trusts you, she will also trust your intentions. This is what leadership is all about.
Stay calm, and be balanced.