by Sherry Jones, Owner of Twinkler Bean
in a letter to Linda Rogers of Timshell Farm, 2005.
I specifically wanted your Goldendoodle because I wanted to have a Therapy Dog to work in hospitals with patients. The breed is so beautiful, sweet, loving, touchable, and hypoallergenic. What a combination to help other people. Twinkler is just perfect for the job. Now I have learned how to get him there.
Someone told me about the "Dog Whisperer", Cesar Millan, about 3 months ago. Since that time I have been watching his show faithfully. Cesar can be seen on the National Geographic Channel. Cesar does not train dogs, he trains owners to be GREAT pack leaders. Cesar's "pack leader" information is very common sense and it works for any breed of dog. Cesar also teaches how dog psychology is very different from human psychology. I attended the "Dog Whisperer" seminar last month. I can't wait to share what I found out about Twinkler and about ME!
Dogs are happiest when they have exercise first, discipline second, and affection third.
1. Dogs respect strong pack leaders. They don't respect loving or emotional pack leaders: I couldn't love Twinkler any more than I do. He is so much fun and such a joy. He has learned so many words, is a perfect traveler, is so loving, and has done so well in obedience class. Walking on a loose leash outside has always been difficult for us. He has always been the typical alpha dog, pulling you down the street in any direction he wanted to go. He would lunge at barking dogs behind fences or chase anything that moved. When the loving, gentle, kind method of keeping him by my side didn't work, I would go into the emotional, frustrated mode. Nothing seemed to make a difference. I really didn't think I could get Twinkler to behave while we were on our walks, especially when he saw another dog. Then I saw Cesar's show. He teaches that being a strong pack leader is a "mind set". When you become pack leader, your dog will become calm and submissive. At first I had to concentrate to keep a leadership role while having Twinkler walk by my side. Now it has become second nature and Twinkler has responded in a very positive way. For the most part our walks have become very pleasant. He is improving with every walk. I think the biggest gift Cesar gave me was that I have permission and a responsibility to be the best pack leader I can be. I get compliments every time I take the boy out. People tell me what a beautiful, well behaved dog I have. Wow!
2. Excitement is NOT happiness: This was a real paradigm shift for me. Every dog I have ever had has been so very HAPPY............ I mean, excited. So, not knowing any better, I made Twinkler that way. The more he jumped around and wagged his tail and squealed with delight, the happier I was. Then I wondered why he wouldn't calm down when we had company or met other dogs on the street. A happy dog is calm, submissive, and relaxed. I now am working towards a happy dog, not an excited one.
3. Dogs are not your children: This IS the hardest lesson for me. I have always thought my dogs were my children. Our nature is to nurture our children in a loving and kind way. It would be great if I could turn to Twinkler and try to reason with him. "Twinkler, If you stop pulling on the leash, I will be happy to take you for longer walks." Dogs don't think like people. They respond to strong leadership not reasons or explanations. They need exercise, discipline, then you can give affection.
Since I am working on "my dog is not my child", I have changed my attitude regarding grooming. In the past, I always worried about what a traumatic experience it must be to have the clippers running over Twinkler's face, tail, and legs. I always did those areas by hand using scissors. Since I allowed his body to be clipped, he kind of accepted it. But, I would tell my husband, "Don't go over his face because he will really get upset". Guess what..... he did get upset when we tried to clip his face due to my attitude. With my new found knowledge, I decided Twinkler needed to learn to tolerate being clipped all over. Both my husband and I became calm, relaxed and resolved when it came time to trim his face. He just sat there and let us. No struggling, no fuss, and no discomfort on his part. He was relaxed and calm. We couldn't believe it! Then, when we trimmed his tail with the clippers for the first time, he almost fell asleep. Another thank you goes to Cesar!!
4. Dogs are tuned in to your energy: I think most of us understand this but really don't think about it much. I know when I am tired or distracted, Twinkler will take advantage of me. Perhaps not listen when I give a command the first time. Since dogs live in the moment, I need to live in the moment, keeping the mind set of pack leader all the time. On a trip to Sacramento , a 7 hour trip each way by car, I learned how in tune Twinkler is to me. He would be in the back seat sleeping. If another car cut me off or if I needed to change lanes due to a crazy driver, Twinkler would sense my mood change and immediately sit up to check out the situation. At first I thought it was an accident but each time it happened it was at the very moment my calm mood changed into an agitated mood. Fascinating.
5. Dogs need consistency: We all know how hard that is but Twinkler seems to remember when you break the rule, not the 100 times you obeyed the rule. I am learning how important it is to be consistent. My husband and I are trying to use the same words and the same corrections now. I have started asking my friends to help us out when they visit. They use the same commands, corrections, and know the rules. This is really helping Twinkler to stay calmer and keep both feet on the floor when they visit.
6. Dogs need daily exercise: Cesar says dogs are migration animals. To prevent frustration, they need to walk outside the "crate" everyday. Your backyard and home are considered a crate or prison to your dog. Twinkler now goes on 2 walks every day. My husband takes him out for an hour or longer each morning. Since we live in the desert, he gets his second walk after the sun goes down in the evening. Twinkler has become very calm and satisfied. We are using the Cesar dog walking techniques of having Twinkler stay by our side. He is not to run ahead or sniff anything unless we give him permission. This has really been helping us become pack leaders.
7. Corrections should be the same intensity of the dog's action: This was another eye opener for me. When Twinkler was barking at a fence, I would yell at him or try to pull him away and hope he would ignore the dog on the other side of the fence. If your dog is already out of control, he can't hear you. You need to get his attention and get him in a calm submissive mind before you can continue. We started making Twinkler sit at the fence and ignore the other barking dog. Sometimes a simple down command works, other times a forced down works and sometimes we must use our stiff fingers gently like a mother dog's bite to get Twinkler's attention. Lately, all it takes is a verbal command because we don't let him get over excited as we approach a fence with a barking dog behind it. We just don't let his actions escalate very far in any situation before we get him back into control. Works miracles.
All I can say is........thanks to "The Dog Whisperer", Cesar Millan, knowing a little dog psychology is wonderful and amazing!!