Calm: Gives you mental fortitude. If you are not calm, you can’t learn, and training is as much, if not more, founded in learning about your dog as it is teaching him anything. Calmness creates space for observation. Your calmness also helps your dog feel safe.
Neutral: Unattached to outcomes. If you remain emotionally neutral, you can remain present with what’s happening right here, right now. Observe your dog and ask yourself questions. Asking questions is a great way to to train yourself to be responsive to the dog. Just think: if I want my dog to respond to me, I have to also respond to him.
Soft: Dogs will learn when they feel safe (just like children). Conveying a sense of softness makes your dog feel secure. Your softness will help the dog remain soft as well. Softness can attract your dog to you, helping with recall. Softness can neutralize fear in a shy dog, helping him make physical and emotional contact with you.
Now, there are times when you want your dog to show strength, confidence, and maybe even a little sharpness! That is fine, and you should be able to energize your dog and put some pressure on him in order to build his emotional capacity. But this would come after you see that he is confident enough to handle that level of arousal while remaining in a state of drive (not going over threshold).
Being soft should be your “default” or go-to position.
Grounded: If you are rooted into the earth, you have all the strength in the world. There’s no need to be aggressive, sharp, angry, or mean (unless you want to see those same traits in your dog). Being grounded gives you power over your own actions, making you more likely to be active rather than reactive.
With all that being said, you must embody all four of these traits! If, for example, you were calm, soft, and neutral without being grounded, you might end up enabling unhealthy behaviors (aka permisiveness). Clear communication and directness are characteristics that will emerge from your groundedness, giving you a natural form of “leadership” that does not require aggression or dominance.
Remember, your dog is a reflection of you and your energy. Clean up your side of the street, and watch the magic happen!
This post was inspired by the work of Paul Gordon, M.A., Advanced Rolfer.