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Power Series Part I: Low or High Power?

When I go to do assessments or to meet with new clients, they (the humans) generally fall into one of two camps:

Some are the "High Power" handlers. These are strong, confident, assertive handlers. They know exactly what they want out of the dog and will not accept anything else. They are very much the boss, and the dog very much subservient. They tend to be more directive to the dog, telling it what to do in each situation and circumstance. Power handlers usually have excellent timing and tremendous focus on the dog and are in control at all times.

Other handlers are the "Low Power" handlers. Low power handlers tend to be a little more laid-back, or a little less confident in dealing with their dog. Low power handlers tend to be more reactive to their dogs -- see what the dog does, then supply consequence. As a general rule they tend to consider the dogs emotion and comfort level as part and parcel of their obedience work, and are usually well aware of the dogs internal state.

Both high power and low power handlers have their strengths, but they also have their weaknesses.

High power handlers run the risk of too-heavy handling, especially with a slower or more docile dog. Some dogs are truly working hard and trying, but if a high power handler does not recognize that then they risk intimidating the dog, or the dog simply giving up on them. In the worst-case scenario, these dogs show active avoidance for the handler ("I can never please her, she makes me anxious, I give up.")

Low power handlers run the risk of the dog scaling up and out of control. They are often too lenient and let the dog continue behaviors which should be interrupted or stopped. They can also struggle with requiring high-quality behaviors, and the dog becoming lazy or not trying very hard.

What's best? High power, low power, or a mix? It actually depends on your dog!  This is going to be a short series of blog posts, and in the next one you'll read about the power styles of dogs, who have their own version of power. Finally, you'll read about how to use either raise or lower your own power in order to give your dog most what it needs at any given time.

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