Accepting your dogs energy

It is one thing to have a dog, it is another thing to understand or gel with your dog.

Good work cannot happen if there is a gap in focus, orientation, language, or intention. This is a fact.

And what it comes down to is accepting your dogs energy. In other words it is learning how to work with your dog instead of against your dog.

If you talk to a seasoned surfer they will tell you that you won’t ever really ‘get it’ or be good at surfing until you accept the waves energy. You can pause on that for as long as you like, sometimes people know what this means immediately, and others, well it takes a life time.

This topic is actually a full day workshop that I give, so here is the cliff note version to give you a sampling. And I might add, you have to be honest with yourself, and answer as things are today, good, bad, or indifferent, because if you answer with who you wish you were as your dogs trainer, or who you wish your dog was, you will continue to perpetuate the problems that you are having.

You can do this little check-in with yourself and your dogs about every 6 months or so to see how you are morphing as a Team, growing, regressing, or just changing a little here and there.

NOTE TO TRAINERS – Your results will be different with each dog you work with as you need to adjust your energy and focus. Accepting the energy of each dog you work with takes shifting emotional space, and over time happens without even needing to think about it, because the timid dog will require you to work one way, while the pushy adolescent dog will require you to work another way, and so on. Accepting the energy that stands in front of you.

Let’s get started –


1 – What is your dogs orientation? – person – dog – object
2 – What is your dogs energy level? – low – medium – high
3 – Choose three adjectives to describe your dog. You are not limited to these choices – pushy – timid – shy – happy – joyful – stoic – purposeful – affectionate – curious – inquisitive – biddable – aloof – lazy – compulsive – intense – confused …


1 – What is your focus? – family pet – working dog – competition dog
2 – What is your energy level? – low – medium – high
3 – Choose three adjectives to describe yourself as your dogs trainer. You are not limited to these choices – pushy – permissive – persistent – resilient – kind – stern – static – lazy – curious – inquisitive – fun – corrective – purposeful – forgiving – shy – concerned – apprehensive – go-getter – keen …

So to show you how this works I will use my one dog Rhumb Line and myself.


2 – HIGH

2 – HIGH

Rhumb and I are a perfect fit with focus, purpose, energy, orientation, and who we are as individuals. I accept her energy for who she is, and her energy matches mine. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but it happens to be mine.


Now I will put in my information and a random dog whose name will be ‘ABC’

1 – DOG
2 – LOW

2 – HIGH

This would be the wrong fit for me, unless I choose to accept the energy of this dog, and learn to work with this dog and not against against this dog. Patience, patience, patience.

Because this dog is not people oriented, prefers dogs, has low energy for work, and is not biddable, it would take a giant shift on my part to create an environment for learning that also had structure. I would most likely start with working outdoors, in a more natural environment, that was structured and managed, fresh air and sunshine are helpful. And I would bring HIGH value rewards, like steak, meatballs, cooked fish, etc. NOTE – not a dog park, but rather a fenced in pasture, field, or yard.

I would need to have less expectations to start with, be patient, have purpose and a plan, a tremendous amount of structure, and to build value in me as a trainer with a reward that the dog perceives as rewarding. I wouldn’t go to a dog park, but rather choose a dog to come play at my home so I could be there and part of the occasion. I would make sure that I spent twice as much time working with my dog, slowly but surely, as my dog had with other dogs. I would find the exercise that matched my dogs motivational level, and find the room in the house that my dog enjoyed the most to start working on behaviors that were good for both of us.

There would be A LOT of work in this pairing, but when meeting and accepting energy, it really doesn’t feel like work, but rather a relationship in motion.


Now, I will put in Rhumb Line and a random owner and the name will be ‘XYZ’.

2 – HIGH


This is not a good match, this is a bad match, very bad, and oh so common, I see this nearly every week. A high powered working dog that wants to work and comes with an incredible level of persistence, in a home with an owner that is permissive in training/management, concerned about the dogs behavior, and forgiving of all that goes wrong, a little or a lot.

This is a household that will be hijacked by the dog, and there will be frustration, misunderstanding, tension, bigger and bigger behaviors, and usually an event.

Unless the owner is willing to shift a whole awful lot, change their daily landscape, beef-up structure in the home, manage space and resources, learn how to work their dog, and create a lot more time for appropriate work and outlets for work, nothing good will come from this.

This pairing is what I call a ‘life style’ change relationship, nothing will remain the same if this is to work out. And sometimes people do rise to the occasion, and sometimes they fold, I can never tell who will do what, a bit of a mystery.


So a cliff note version, but hopefully it helps in some way to bring even an inkling of understanding that accepting your dogs energy is the only way for good things to happen. Nancy

15 Comments Add yours

  1. dayphoto says:

    So many low energy people pick out that REALLY CUTE full of energy puppy/dog and then they all go bonkers. Very good post, Nancy!

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      this is very true … ❤

  2. Auntysocial says:

    The best advice / trainer I ever had was a farmer who in one swift sentence shot me down to Earth and said “You’ll never get anywhere unless and until you’re willing to step back, swallow some pride and be willing to let that little dog teach you a thing or two. It knows exactly what it’s doing – you’re the one that needs training”

    That stung like hell for a few moments until I realised maybe he was right and maybe I should try his method if not just to see whether or not I could go back and say he was wrong.

    He wasn’t wrong. Stepping back, laying off and letting a 4-month old ball of fluff teach me what I needed to know was the best thing that ever happened to me and it’s a lesson I’ll never forget and will forever be grateful.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      that is wonderful that you were able to accept the farmers advice, and often times it is the advice that stings that is the ‘right’ advice. And it goes back to, accepting the energy on four legs in front of you …

  3. Casper O' Hane says:

    My gal is a bit laid back as far as BCs go, but still not the best choice for your average Joe dog owner by any means. Unfortunately in my experience, at least where I live, the average Joe dog owner is someone who basically is too busy/not motivated to spend any time training or exercising the dog during the week except letting it out in the yard, plus some exercise on the weekends. Which I suppose would be okay for… a retired racing Greyhound? Or maybe a Tibetan Spaniel?

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      from what I understand with my friends and colleagues in various places in the world, that is an international human issue in todays world, not just your city, county, state, or country …

      1. Casper O' Hane says:

        Hmm, that is what I thought but I didn’t want to assume.

  4. Auntysocial says:

    Oh dear Lord she has energy… We have two of them as well so it’s double the fun and eight legs of energy. Never a dull moment 🙂

    The most interesting thing is my youngest came to us from a farm as a non-worker despite his Dad being the current and four time world champion sheepdog and his Dad and Granddad having both won the International Brace championships twice. He has absolutely no interest whatsoever in sheep but on my life, a few months after he came to us I caught him herding sheep in the field next to where I keep my horses.

    Just goes to show a different approach from a calmer, gentler handler without the pressure can make all the difference and help even a damaged dog slowly emerge from its shell. Physically the dogs are almost identical and many people can barely tell them apart but mentally, emotionally they are worlds apart.

    I’m just glad they’re both happy, outgoing, confident dogs that have fun and enjoy rolling on mushrooms, popcorn and pine cones.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      ps – love that video

  5. Ella-Kate says:

    I remember doing this with you when you were here, but I had forgotten. I’m pretty sure Deja and I are your dog “ABC” example. I’ve been saying for years she came to me to teach me patience. Apparently I was more right than I realized! Thank you for yet another reminder to love who your working with!

  6. Ella-Kate says:

    you’re 🙂

  7. Lisa L says:

    I was just saying to Geoff the other day that Jasper is so mellow for a BC, and he was like, “yeah … that, or he’s mellow because we put in a ton of work with him and structure our lives around he’s needs.” … oh yeah, I almost forgot.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      and there is that … ❤

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