Mirror, mirror on the dog: A training fairy-tail

| Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Observe a master and his dog walking down the street — leash in hand, draping loosely toward the four-legged companion at his side. They both walk proudly, never breaking stride, in perfect balance with each other — an unbreakable team; demonstrating strength, discipline and allegiance to one another.

The leash is a symbol of leadership, trust and structure. It is a tool that can tether two souls for a moment of leisure in an otherwise hectic day.

Once mastered, a walk is the single most gratifying activity you can do with your dog. But how does one make this “fairy tail” a reality?

There is not any one simple answer, but there are a couple of important tips that I know to be true through my own experiences.

1: Relax! A leader is in control of his energy. Take a deep breath, dig deep and practice the three Cs: consistency, composure and confidence. If you let your energy run wild, so will your dog. Your dog reflects your energy right back to you. Imagine he is your mirror. If he is stressed and anxious, it is likely that you are transmitting tense energy. If you feel tense or are going through a stressful day, it is best to avoid doing a lot of training with your dog until you feel more yourself.

Eat some mood-enhancing food. Take a hot shower and a nap. Drink some wine — not the whole bottle — and revisit training. If you don't notice a difference in your dog's behavior, try the second tip.

2: Less talky, more walky. Dogs tend to respond to our actions more than our words. If your dog just plain doesn't listen to you, it is possible you have asked him to understand a language that he just doesn't know.

A dog is a mirror — a mirror of energy, not scholastic aptitude. They are not fluent English speakers. They need a little help.

As much as we see ourselves in them, we must stop personifying our dogs. We must remember they are canines. I don't know about you, but I didn't sign up for a little four-legged human with fur running around my house complaining about the economy and telling me my cooking is iffy. I want a loyal, cuddly, comical, ridiculous, slobbering, biscuit-chomping, toy-squeaking, fun-loving, wet-nosed ball of crazy adoration.

That's why we love them. They are God's gift to man, sent to us to make us stop taking ourselves so seriously and enjoy our lives — and forget about our sketchy cooking skills and our nation's economic status. So let's stop trying to categorize them with humans because they have their own incredible purpose in this world.So how do we break their language barrier? Start with “woofed-on-phonics.” Return to basics, and try this technique. Try doing drills in which you do not say a word. Use your body language and energy to address your dog. Move with intent. Be focused, calm and quiet. You will be amazed at how compelled your dog will be by the silence. Communication through energy, trust and respect is a language that transcends species, cultures, generations. Energy is infectious.

Remember a mirror reflects an image. What you see is up to you.

Andrea J. Lamping trains dogs in the greater airport area, including Sewickley, Moon, Robinson and Hopewell. She can be reached at 724-984-7829 or visit her website at www.moon-walkers.com.

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