When working and interacting with dogs and people, having the right energy is vital. I am talking about the “Reiki” type of energy as opposed to the
“get up and go” type of energy. We, humans, can learn so much from just observing and absorbing the energy and body language of animals, especially humans and dogs.
I like to think of reactive energy in the form of an energy mirror; our energy is reflected in whoever we are interacting with, be it a dog or a human.
If we are calm, our dogs and the people around us will more likely be calm. If we get excited, our dogs and the people around us will more likely get excited. If we get angry and shout, then our
dogs or the people around us could get aggressive and shout (bark) or they could become fearful and scared. Negative energy attracts negative energy, be it in the form of fear or aggression. This
is why we should never get into an argument with another dog owner. Even if we think they are in the wrong, we should stay calm and project positive energy and (where possible) walk away from any
potentially dangerous and/ or negative situations.
We instinctively do things that we may not be aware of when we are reacting to the energy of others. If someone projects or comes at us with negative
energy, we will instinctively react in a negative way and vice versa. If we see someone we know and like from a distance, we will wave to get their attention and say hello in a friendly way. This
positive energy will hopefully attractive positive energy from the other party. If for some reason this other person is upset with us about something, they may react with negative energy which
would probably result in us then having negative energy towards them. If we try and keep our energy positive, even when we are faced with negative energy, then there is a higher chance that the
energy between both parties will become positive and everyone will be much happier. We are human after all, so this is all easier said than done, but if we are conscious of how our energy affects
others, then we will be more likely to make the appropriate changes from negative to positive energy when necessary and in a timely fashion.
In a dog pack, there are different forms of energy amongst the pack members which can change significantly in different situations; it is important to
be aware of this energy:
Calm, assertive energy: This is the ideal energy projected by the pack leaders.
In a world where dogs and human live together, it is essential that all human members of the household take on the role of pack leader over the dogs by projecting a calm, assertive energy at
all times. You must act in a confident, relaxed way with your head up, chest out, shoulders back and your heart rate low.
Calm, submissive energy: This is the energy projected by the non-Alpha members
of the pack who look to the pack leaders for guidance. In a world where dogs and humans live together, it is important that all dogs project this calm, submissive energy towards the humans
who are their pack leaders. A sign of this in dogs is when they lower their bodies slightly and lick the mouths of their pack leaders when they reunite with the pack. These submissive members
of the pack will also respectfully give their pack leaders sufficient personal space and will only enter their pack leader’s personal space when invited to do so through eye contact. When out
with other dogs, these dogs will appear relaxed and approachable. Their tails will be relaxed, they will have a loose stance with their weight evenly distributed on all four paws, their mouth
will be open with their tongue exposed, their head will be high and their ears will be up (but not forward). A dog with this energy is relaxed and reasonably content. Such a dog is
unconcerned and unthreatened by any activities going on in his immediate environment and is usually approachable. It is important to always remember to ask other dog owners if their dogs are
friendly and approachable before going near them and to always stop a short way in front of the dog and call the dog into your space to greet them, not move into the dog’s space uninvited.
Most people get bitten when they go up to a dog and pet them uninvited. Eye contact is key; when a dog looks directly at you and acts in a friendly submissive way then you can hold out the
back of your hand to let them smell you before calmly and slowly petting them.
Dominant, alert energy: This is an energy that the higher ranking dogs (in
multi-dog households) and only dogs (in single dog households) can show when there is a pending possible danger. For example, this could be when the postman arrives at the door or when you
are out walking and you come across other dogs or people. When I dominant alert dog meets another dog, it will give the dog direct eye contact to show dominance and watch how the other dog
reacts. The dog’s tail, head and hackles will be up and stiff, his chest will be puffed out (leaning forward slightly) and his tail will be sticking straight up, moving quickly at short
angles from side to side. The ears will be forward (possible twitching slightly), the mouth will be closed and the eyes will be wide open. He will move around the other dog in quick short
bursts assessing the other dog. He may even let out a low, warning type growl on occasion. This dog is testing the other dog to see how it reacts. If the other dog reacts in a negative way,
then this energy could easily progress to dominant, aggressive energy and a fight could occur. If the other dog walks away or acts submissively then this dog will eventually just walk away.
It is essential that you are able to read your own dogs energy levels and keep them from escalating when necessary.
Dominant, aggressive energy: This is a negative energy that can easily escalate
and which needs correcting as soon as it is noticed. The dog will be giving direct eye contact, its forehead may show vertical wrinkles, it will have its tail, head and hackles up, its ears
up and slightly out to the side in a V shape, its chest puffed out (leaning forwards at a slight angle), stiff legs, it’s tail will be sticking straight up and it’s mouth will be open, its
lip may be curled up showing bare teeth and gums; it will probably be barking or growling aggressively too. When directly interacting with you or another dog, they may also use their body to
lean on you or the other dog or put their paw or head on you or the other dog in a dominating way. This is a very dominant and confidant dog; he is not only expressing his social dominance,
but is also threatening that he will act aggressively if challenged. This type of energy can be shown by a dog when their human is not acting like their pack leader and/ or the human is not
there and there is a potential danger around. It is more prevalent in dogs that are natural Alphas, who have a natural tendency to dominate. It can be seen towards humans and/ or between dogs
who are trying to find their own status in the dog pack below the human members of the pack (i.e. in multiple dog households). There will usually be a Beta dog (who is the highest ranking dog
member of the pack in a human household with multiple dogs), but you must teach all dogs, calm, submissive energy by correcting any negative energy (by diverting their attention and/ or with
time outs) and rewarding any positive energy (this can be in the form of affection, treats or just projecting good, positive energy yourself).
Stressed, distressed energy: This energy is projected when there is social or
environmental stress (lots of kids running around, thunder storms, fireworks etc.). The body will be lowered, the ears will be back, the pupils dilated, the tail will be down, they will be
sweating through their pads and will be breathing/ panting rapidly with the corner of the mouth back. These signals are a general broadcast of the dog’s state of mind and are not addressed to
any specific individual. When this state of mind is caused by environmental stress, it is known as Astrophophia. It is best not to give the dog affection at this time as you can feed the
fear. Just make sure that you act in a calm and assertive way and make sure they have a safe, secure place to hide (if that is what they want) and they are not disturbed or forced to do
anything whilst in this state of mind (unless it is necessary for immediate safety and/ or health reasons at that time).
Submissive, alert energy: This energy is projected from the lower ranking
members of the pack when there is a pending possible danger. The ears will be forward (they may twitch, as if trying to catch a sound), the eyes will be open wide, they will have a smooth
nose and forehead, their mouth will be closed, they will lean slightly forward, their tail will be horizontal (not stiff or bristled) and may move slightly from side to side. The may let out
a low bark in short bursts to warn off any possible dangers. If a dog with this energy has detected something of interest or something unknown, these signals communicate that he is now alert
and paying attention whilst he is assessing the situation to determine if there is any threat or if any action should be taken. The pack leader should step in and acknowledge the dog’s
behaviour at having alerted the pack leader of the possible danger, observe the dog and the possible danger and (if the dog is barking incessantly or his behaviour is escalating to stress or
dominance) give the dog a “time out” until he has calmed down.
Fearful, worried energy: This energy is projected when a dog is somewhat
fearful and is offering signs of submission. The body will be lowered, the ears will be back, the forehead smooth, eye contact will be brief and indirect, the corner of the mouth will be
back, the tail will be down (but may wag slightly), they may leave sweaty paw prints, they may raise a paw and they will lick the face of the dominant dog or the air near them. These signals
are designed to pacify the individual who is of higher social status or whom the dog sees as potentially threatening, in order to avoid any further challenges and prevent conflict.
Fearful, submissive energy: This energy is projected when a dog is in a
situation where it does not have any other option, other than to completely submit in order to avoid any confrontation. In such a case the dogs will normally significantly lower their bodies
down below the height of the other dogs, roll over (exposing their stomach and throat) and avoid any eye contact, their ears will go down and back, their nose and forehead will be smooth,
mouth closed and their tails will go between their legs. They may also urinate a little in fear. This type of energy is commonly seen in Omega dogs (the lowest ranking members of the pack).
In packs that have humans and dogs, you must be careful that this energy does not escalate into fearful aggressive energy.
Fearful, aggressive energy: This is a negative energy that can easily escalate
and which needs correcting as soon as it is noticed. The tail will normally be down between the legs, the ears will be back, pupils dilated, the body will be lowered slightly forward (as if
ready to pounce), their hackles will be up, the nose will be wrinkled, the lip may be curled up showing bare teeth and gums and they may be barking. This dog is frightened but not submissive,
and may attack if pressed. A dog will generally give these signals when he is directly facing the individual who is threatening him. This type of energy can be shown by a nervous dog that is
not a natural Alpha when it is faced with a situation whereby if feels that it needs to fight to survive or act aggressively to scare off any predators or uninvited guests.
Playful, happy energy: This is a positive energy which starts off with the dogs
tail lifting up and wagging from side to side, the ears pick up, the mouth is open in a smiling way with the tongue exposed, the head and front legs are lowered slightly by bent forepaws,
their bottoms are in the air and the dog may let out short, playful barks and run around in random directions to encourage and invite the other dogs and/ or humans to play. It may be
accompanied with excited barking or playful forward movement and retreats. This set of signals may also be sent out to indicate that any previous rough behaviour during playtime was not meant
as a threat or challenge. It is important to channel this energy in a positive way but also to keep it from escalating too much, too quickly, as this can progress to dominant aggressive
energy if not monitored. Saying that, it is also important to let dogs play with each other properly and frequently and give them space to run and around and play. If you take your dog to a
place where there are other dogs who want to play, make sure you ask the other dogs owners first if their dogs are friendly and watch how your dogs react to the other dogs before you unleash
them. If you have more than one dog, then only unleash them one at a time and watch that they are well behaved and calm submissive before you unleash the next dog. A whole new pack unleashed
at once can be very intimidating to the other dogs and people. Always be considerate to others.
When walking dogs, it is important that their energy levels are calm, low and submissive before you leave your home. Many people make the mistake of
heightening the energy of their dogs before a walk and then wonder why their dogs misbehave on the walk. Once their energy is lowered and they are calm, you can attach the leads and lead them
outside, always making sure that you walk through the doorway first. Never take them outside with heightened energy. You must start the walk in a calm, confident way with the dogs close to you,
acting in a calm submissive way and not pulling on the leads. If they try to pull you and control the walk you must stop and silently project a calm assertive energy, which should cause them to
have a calm submissive energy. Once you all have the correct energy, you can start the walk again. If you are not able to get them into a calm, submissive state then you need to abandon the walk,
take them home and calm them down there (where they feel more comfortable). It is important when holding the dog leads to be relaxed and in control, as your energy will be passed down the leads
to the dogs and this will affect their behaviour.
If you are in a situation whereby you cannot project a calm assertive energy (if you are sick or grieving and feeling weak or if you are stressed,
angry or upset about something) then you would need to make sure the dogs are safely and securely at home and remove yourself from the pack (which could mean leaving your home or simply going
into another room) until such time that you can project the correct energy and reassert yourself as the pack leader (please do not leave you dogs alone for more than a few hours at a time
It is important that you allow both yourself and your dogs the opportunity to get the right amount of exercise, nutrition, sleep and relaxation that
your bodies need on a daily basis to be able to stay healthy and to project the right kind of energy. Try to stay away from negative energy (where possible), avoid confrontations and always
remember that a genuine, happy, calm and confident smile can do wonders to project positive energy in both yourself and others.
Dog Behaviourist & Chairman of HKRP