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Confident and Assertive. Leadership and Energy. Calm and Submissive.

There are a few of buzz words (buzz phrases?) that a lot of trainers and people use with dogs. One is "Confident and Assertive." One is "Leadership and Energy." And the last is "Calm and Submissive."

Let's look at these! Today let's focus on "Confident and Assertive."

"Confident and Assertive" is what you (the owner) are supposed to be, according to a lot of pop dog training advice. According to this train of thought there's nothing that can't be done as long as you are sufficiently confident and assertive! The owner's like "How do I..." and the pop trainer's like "All you need to do is be confident and assertive." (And then the owner's usually like "Well then how do I be confident and assertive?" and the pop trainer says something to the effect of "You just need to increase your confident and assertive attitude. You're not very confident and assertive. You need to improve your confidence and assertion. Or your dog is going to take over the house!")

My big thing with this is, you can't just tell someone to be confident, and then they naturally become confident! If I'm standing on the Olympic high dive board with no idea how to dive, and some guy's standing there going, "Just be confident and assertive" that is not going to help me! If you don't have the skills to do something, you're never going to have the confidence to do it! On the other hand, if you have great skills with dogs (or diving) then you'll feel fully prepared to take on any dog (or dive.) 

Focus on your skills; the confidence will follow.

"Assertive" is the second part of "Confident and Assertive." Assertive can be really good. Things like asking for attention or recall right when the dog sees the squirrel or other distraction versus long after he's seen it and galloped away. Interrupting a housebreaking error right as it's happening versus stepping into a puddle in the middle of the night and then moaning "Noooooo!" 

Again, the way you develop assertiveness is just through practice and skill development. If you practice walking your leash-reactive dog, you will know when he's in the danger zone and what you need to do long before he goes into a lunging and snarling frenzy. If your puppy is playing too rough with your toddler, you will have intervened in a suitable way long before the little guy (or gal) gets knocked over. The more you work and interact with your dog, the more "dog sense" you'll get, the more you can predict its behaviors,

The magic qualities of confidence and assertiveness with dogs is not something that you can summon to immediately solve all your problems. They are qualities that you learn and earn. You learn them the long way! The hard way! The sweat equity way!

If you really want to work on confidence and assertiveness, here's some good mantras to try:

I am confident that I can learn to succeed.
I am confident that hard work will pay off.
If something isn't working, I will assert myself and figure out how to do it right. 

What do "confidence" and "assertiveness" mean to you?

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