Q: In this episode, we find out that a couple’s relationship problems may be affecting their dog’s behavior. Is this common?
A: Yes. In fact, one of the best ways to figure out whether there are interpersonal problems within a household is to look at the dog. When the pack is unbalanced, so are all of the members in it, and dogs are extremely sensitive to our energy.
And it’s not just relationship issues between partners or spouses that can cause problems. If the kids are arguing with the parents, or somebody is anxious or fearful because of something going on in their life, this will affect the entire pack dynamic, humans and dogs alike.
This can lead to a dog that is constantly skittish, because it doesn’t know which human pack member to follow when there is conflict between them. It can also lead to aggression if the dog winds up taking sides, and I’ve seen a lot of cases of the dog becoming very possessive toward one partner and aggressive or hostile to the other, to the point that, for example, the husband couldn’t even try to sit on the couch with the wife without the dog getting in between and trying to bite him.
This is one of the great things about dogs, though. If your dog is suddenly fearful for no reason or seems to suddenly not like someone in the household, then that’s your signal to start looking at the human relationships and working on them.
Q: At one point, you felt that Aileen and Titan were not a good match. What are the reasons that a dog and human might not be right for each other?
A: The biggest cause of incompatibility is when the humans and dogs don’t have the same energy level, especially when the dog’s energy level is higher than the humans’. In that case, the dog will always be in a state of excitement, and you can’t get a dog to focus and learn unless it’s calm.
Another cause for incompatibility is when the human does not provide leadership, particularly when they give the dog nothing but affection. Time can be another issue. If a person cannot spare the time to properly walk, train, and care for their dog, then no match will be compatible.
Notice that, once again, the cause of the problem isn’t the dog. It’s the human. If the human is willing to change in order to fulfill their dog’s needs, then the incompatibility problem goes away.
Q: You’ve said that humans use emotion and intellect while dogs use instinct, so why would human emotions have such an effect on a dog?
A: It’s because a human’s emotional state affects their energy state, and dogs use their instincts to read people’s energy. Aileen was a perfect example. At one point, she was feeling a lot of anger and didn’t have the patience necessary to work with Titan. As it turned out, all of those negative emotions were coming out of her relationship with her boyfriend Brent, and not her relationship with Titan, but the dog picked up on it and acted out with a nervous habit — biting.
In Marilyn’s case, because of her illness and physical limitations, she was afraid of being able to control her dog Cupid in the dog park. Because she was constantly worried that Cupid was going to attack another dog, she was sending the message through her energy that something bad was going to happen. Cupid picked up on this and reacted by trying to protect Marilyn, so he wound up doing exactly what she feared the most — going after other dogs. In both cases, once we were able to remove the negative emotions we saw positive results with the dogs and the people.
Q: Some people, like Marilyn, have difficulty controlling their dogs because of physical issues. What would you advise people with such issues to do?
A: They should remember that they don’t control the dog with their physical strength. They do it with their energy, presence, and body language. If they are in a calm, confident state of mind, then that’s what travels down the leash and puts the dog into the proper calm, submissive state.
If you watch how dogs negotiate space with each other, they don’t do it like football players by tackling each other or butting heads. A dominant dog, regardless of size or age, can clear a whole pack of dogs out of her space with just a look.
I knew someone once who had an old, small terrier — she was this fourteen year-old, thirty pound mixed breed that wasn’t very imposing physically. They lived in a house with four other dogs that were all young and huge — Rottweiler and Irish wolfhound size — but that didn’t matter. The terrier was the boss, the other dogs knew and respected it, and she never had to show a sign of aggression. She controlled them entirely with her energy, which sent the message, “This is my space.”
Humans can do the same thing. Dogs, and a lot of other animals, will naturally follow a leader. No matter what disabilities or physical limitations a person has, if they can project the proper calm, assertive energy of a leader, then they will be able to control their dog with a minimum of physical effort.
Q: Is there a common theme between Aileen and Titan and Marilyn and Cupid?
A: Trust. Aileen had to earn Titan’s trust in order for him to behave, while Marilyn had to learn to trust herself in order for Cupid to stop being aggressive. In both cases, their issues involved their own larger packs; Aileen and her boyfriend, and Marilyn and all of her friends at the dog park.
Aileen had to figure out what was wrong in her own pack before she could get Titan to trust her, while Marilyn had to trust herself before Cupid was able to relax and rejoin the pack. That was one of the really nice things about this episode. I was able to do more than just help the dogs. I feel like I was able to help people heal themselves, and the relationships around them.