Understanding the Nature of
By: Cesar Millan
Pack leaders don’t project nervousness. They don’t project panic. They
don’t project tension.
the same about a dog, an elephant and a horse? These animals all organize behind a leader.
People make a mistake when they treat dogs like humans. Every species
has its own psychology. If we understand its psychology, we can control the behavior, because we know how to relate to them.
Newborn puppies need to find a place or status
within the pack. They don’t get a name like we do, because personality is something humans create and only exists in
our world. In the animal world, there are two positions: the leader and the follower. Dogs are simple; we make their lives
complicated by misunderstanding what they need as a species.
Dogs communicate through constant energy. The pack leader always
projects a calm-assertive energy. Energy is what I call beingness: who and what you are being at every moment. (If you don’t
know what I mean by calm-assertive energy, think about Oprah Winfrey. She is calm and assertive in the human world.) Pack
leaders don’t project nervousness. They don’t project panic. They don’t project tension.
Simply put: the pack leader is a calm-assertive
presence that provides balance to the pack. It’s also not about gender; a female or a male can become pack leader. Pack
leaders control everything; nothing is open to debate.
Two Worlds Collide
When dogs come into our homes, they meet emotional energy
for the first time. We shower them with affection, and they see us as excited energy. This is why dogs don’t listen
to humans. Their mothers never acted this way. Where did the calm-assertive leadership go?
We often develop a different agenda for our dogs.
We want to make puppies our babies. When people see a nervous or shy dog, they console her like they would another human.
In the animal world, this nurtures instability,
something a pack would never do. From day one, the human fulfills himself and forgets about what’s important to the
In the absence
of a one hundred percent leader, the dog, even a submissive one, will seek to fill what they see as a vacant role. The dog
will ignore the owner or act out in other ways. This is the beginning of giving control to the dog.
One of the most important things you can remember
is that dogs are animals. If we don’t fulfill them as a species, they won’t live a balanced, centered life. Understanding
and projecting a pack leader’s calm-assertive energy will create a positive and lasting connection with your dog.
Interaction Without Words
Dogs do not speak using words; they interact
through constant energy. Barking is one way, but not the only way, dogs communicate.
Think of a newborn puppy: First the nose starts to work; then the
eyes; then the ears. The nose is the most powerful thing they use to relate and connect with their surroundings.
Humans often rely on verbal communication when
they interact with dogs: “Come on, Johnny, please, please stop eating the flowers!” The pack leader doesn’t
negotiate or cajole to get what she wants. No wonder the dog is ignoring you!
When you meet a dog for the first time, share the same energy that
they would receive from their pack leader. This calm-assertive state will let them understand who you are and really see you.
Crouching down to their level while smiling and cooing tells a dog absolutely nothing; you might as well be speaking Martian.
The dog will respond to your calm-assertive energy
by balancing it with a calm-submissive state. Once she achieves this state, you can share affection and love.
The mom or pack leader also
uses calm-assertive energy to set rules, boundaries and limitations for how the dog interacts with his surroundings. The pack
leader enforces these laws in a quiet way; maybe the mom picks up the puppy if he strays outside the den.
The pack leader doesn’t project emotional
or nervous energy and neither should you. If you don’t set rules, boundaries and limitations in calm-assertive ways,
your dog will not respect you.
is another way that pack leaders assert their position. Puppies wait to eat; dogs wait until the pack leader wants them to
travel. Waiting is a form of psychological work for the dog. Domestication means dogs don’t need to hunt for food, but
they can still work for food.
your position as pack leader by asking your dog to work. Take him on a walk before you feed him. And just as you don’t
give affection without your dog being in a calm-submissive state, don’t give food until your dog acts calm and submissive.
(Exercise will help the dog, especially a high-energy one, to achieve this state.)
Try this: To further achieve a calm and submissive state before feeding,
ask your dog to sit and wait a moment while you place his meal in his bowl. When he has sat patiently, give him the okay to
Interact as canine
parents interact with their puppies. Begin your day with calm-assertive energy before you share emotions or excitement. Establish
rules, limitations and boundaries to create a healthy state of mind in the dog. Finally, enjoy a simple walk - a primal activity
for dogs accustomed to following pack leaders over hundreds of miles. It will say more than any word ever could.
How to Claim Leadership Over
don’t follow emotional leaders; they follow calm-assertive leaders.
The first step in assuming the role of pack leader is to understand
dog psychology. We must recognize dogs as animals and remember what is important to them as a species.
Dogs don’t know your name, your race or
your achievements. You could be the president of the United States; dogs don’t know. What they do know is the energy
you share and the activities you participate in with them.
Dogs don’t follow emotional or lovable leaders; they follow calm-assertive leaders.
The mother is calm and assertive when she’s giving birth, and that’s the first energy that they experience.
You must project calm-assertive energy before
you share love with your dog. Love is a human gift; we’re the only pack leader who will love them. Their canine pack
leader won’t throw a birthday party for them or reward good behavior.
Most dogs that live in this country have shelter, food, and lots of
love. These are the dogs that often become unstable because they’re not working for food and water. Dogs need a pack
leader to feel balanced and connected. They need to be told every day what to do.
Leadership is forever, and love is forever. But sometimes we get lazy
and only share love and no leadership. Once you share calm-assertive energy and the dog goes into a submissive state, then
you can share love and affection.
Dogs also look to the pack leader to set rules, boundaries and limitations. People often
ask me at what age they should start training their puppy. The answer is immediately!
The dog’s mother begins training her puppies from birth. She
makes them wait for food; she controls when they play and how far they travel. Adult dogs need these same rules, boundaries
and limitations from their pack leader.
Another important necessity for dogs is the walk. In their natural habitat, they earn food and water
while traveling, and they get to experience the world. Walking also stimulates their minds.
Position matters; walking in front of a dog allows you to be seen
as the pack leader. Conversely, if your dog controls you on the walk, he’s the pack leader. Master the walk, and your
dog will relate to you as a pack leader.
During the walk, you will feel the highest level of connection with your dog. My clients are often surprised
by this, because they think dogs only crave love and affection. This is not so. Dogs crave rules, boundaries and limitations
from their pack leader. This allows them to relax and accept their role within the pack.
Teaching Humans to Relate to Their Dogs Without Words
The key to earning your dog’s respect as
the pack leader is to understand the nature of the pack.
One thing I have learned from dogs is to live in the moment. They don’t live in the future or the
past like humans do.
someone brings me a dog that has destroyed the living room, I don’t see the dog as that action. I see her as a dog that
needs help. She didn’t premeditate the action.
This doesn’t mean that dogs are less than humans or more than humans. They’re just a different
species. If we don’t fulfill them as a species, dogs won’t live a balanced, centered or happy life.
Dogs as Animals
Dogs don’t follow
emotional leaders or lovable leaders; they follow calm-assertive leaders. This is the same for all animals in the animal kingdom.
Humans are the only animals that follow unstable, emotional leaders around the world.
The pack leader, often the mom or a male, controls everything: when
the pack eats, when they play and how far they can walk. The key to earning your dog’s respect as the pack leader is
to understand the nature of the pack and to duplicate the action and attitude of the pack leader. The pack instinct is the
dog’s strongest natural motivator.
The biggest mistake people make is seeing their dogs as humans or babies. This allows them to miss out
on what the dog needs as an animal. The sad thing is people do this out of well-intentioned love, but what they’re doing
only nurtures unstable behavior and deprives the dog of what he needs most: leadership.
Dogs as Breeds
A dog is an animal first and a breed second.
For example, people think all German Shepherds act a certain way. German Shepherd is just the breed, like a cultural background
in the dog world.
mutt can develop the same negative side effects as a German Shepherd. Do not focus on the breed; instead, focus on the behavior.
The breed is just the skills or the outfit the dog wears. Underneath, they are all just dogs.
Yes, there are physical differences between breeds. A Siberian Husky
can travel for dozens of miles a day and is not suited to live in an urban apartment. If you have a frustrated Siberian Husky,
their physical energy will only intensify unbalanced behavior.
This is why it’s important to allow
every dog the opportunity to work out physical energy. Take her for a walk or bike ride every day to exercise her body and
Most dogs are born submissive because there can only be so many pack leaders. When dogs become unstable,
they exhibit fearful, nervous or other unwanted behaviors. Our goal is to provide the dog with the same calm-assertive leadership
that they would experience in a pack.
This natural balance, calm-assertive leadership with calm-submissive behavior, nurtures stability and
creates a balanced, centered and happy dog.
Nonverbal Signals Every Dog Owner Should
your dog recognizes you as the pack leader, you will enjoy the connection that you have sought all along.
Dogs communicate first through their nose,
then their eyes, and finally their ears. Humans need to understand how the dog interacts on a primal level with her pack leader
in order to connect with their own dogs.
Project calm-assertive energy. This is the key to connecting with your dog. The mom or the pack leader
always projects calm-assertive energy. Dogs in the pack balance that energy with a calm- submissive way of being.
Humans often project excited energy when they
interact with their dogs. They shower their dog with affection, which feels foreign to the dog.
Always begin your day with calm-assertive energy
before you share affection. This fulfills your dog’s needs as an animal before your own.
Set rules, boundaries and limitations. This is
the hardest thing for people to do. They even wait to introduce any rules or training until the puppy is at least six months
mom sets these rules from day one: where they can sleep, how far they can walk, and when they can eat. These rules, boundaries
and limitations nurture a healthy state of mind.
As adults, dogs look to their pack leader to set these rules. They don’t question the pack leader’s
position, and the pack leader doesn’t look to the dogs to affirm his position. This is the natural balance of the pack.
Without rules, boundaries and limitations, your
dog will not respect you as the pack leader.
Make feeding a ritual. When puppies are little, they wait to be fed by their mother. This waiting is
a form of work. When feeding, we ask the pack to work for food and water. This is why we walk the pack before they eat.
Dogs don’t get fed when their mind is excited,
nervous, tense or aggressive. They get fed when their mind is calm and submissive.
Walk the walk. If we study dogs in their natural habitat, walking
is how they earn food and water and experience the world. Dogs would rather walk than do anything else, because they get to
work their body and their mind.
big back yard is no substitute for a primal activity like a walk. A dog with a big back yard can still develop frustration
because the physical energy needs to go somewhere. That is why daily walks are so important.
When walking, make sure that you are in front of your dog. This allows
you to be seen as the pack leader. Remember, dogs always follow the pack leader.
When your dog recognizes you as the pack leader, you will enjoy the
connection that you have sought all along.