Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Cesar writes that dogs view all interactions from the point of view of a member of a pack. A pack leader sets rules and boundaries, which is the job of a dog owner in a good relationship. Without clear rules, boundaries and leadership, a dog becomes stressed and unsure of how to act, often acting inappropriately.

I find element to be helpful when communicating with other people. That it is important to look at events and activities from the other person’s perspective rather than one’s own perspective. I also know that I often get so consumed with my perspective that I forget that there are others.

Cesar mentions the importance of the owner projecting a calm, assertive energy to convey to the dog that the owner is in charge, is in control, and is the leader. This aura of confidence radiates between people as well as from people to dogs. People are drawn to follow others who are able to project this calm assertive energy. It is simply quite a challenge for me to maintain this perspective at all times.

Finally, Cesar talks about affection – but only as the third element of an owner-dog relationship, after exercise and discipline. Cesar contends that humans often project their desires onto their dogs, in the belief that if one needs a lot of affection and attention from one’s dog, then the dog must need and desire the same level of affection as well. While certainly affection is good and appropriate, it makes for a happy dog only in the context of exercise and discipline.

This is the hardest element for me, remembering that my own need for affection should not get in the way of what might be best at a particular moment in time. Not to smother my child with affection if they run into any difficulty, but to allow them to learn and gain strength on their own.

Last weekend, armed with a new perspective, new information and a new approach, we acquired a new puppy. Midnight is a 7-week-old black Labrador. To say she is cute is an understatement. For the last few days, we have focused on leading so she will follow and providing her with enough exercise to expend her pent-up energy and grow stronger. She is receiving plenty of affection.

Currently, Midnight is quietly sleeping in her crate. She ran after the children before school this morning. I am hopeful that, after expending a bit of energy themselves, my children will focus on learning and the dog will continue to sleep, at least for today – and then we can begin again all over tomorrow, trying to incorporate what we learned and where we made mistakes the day before, continually learning from a dog.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.