Summer has finally arrived and more people are walking their dogs. Or are the dogs walking their owners?

I see people struggling to hold on to their dogs and often wonder if they enjoy the walk.

While I started out my business by offering Energy Healing to animals I came to realize that Energy Healing can’t bring a dog into balance if the owner doesn’t provide leadership.

To help animals with behavioural problems, like pulling on the leash and aggression, I use my life-long experience with dogs, which includes handling and training dogs for the Yukon Quest and Iditarod races.

When the dog takes the owner for a walk it is only the symptom of the underlying issue, the lack of leadership. Dogs need leadership. It is like gravity; it’s not optional.

For dogs to be balanced they need exercise, structure and then love. When we watch a dog with her new litter we don’t realize much of what she does is to establish dominance and boundaries for the puppies for them to find their place in the social structure of the pack.

Tiffany had contacted me for help with her dogs: Mia, a three-year-old German Shepherd mix and Rio, a Pug Japanese Chin X.

I met Tiffany, a gentle caring person who loves her dogs dearly, at her home in Whitehorse and got to know her and her dogs.

Tiffany had adopted Mia from the shelter when she was six months old. Right from the start Mia was pulling her when they went for walks.

It got to the point where Tiffany would only take the dogs to off-leash areas in order to have some enjoyment while they were on an outing.

Tiffany had done everything she could think of to make the relationship work. She had taken them to obedience classes and the dogs knew their commands, but the performance was not reliable.

I noticed that when Tiffany meant to give a command she made it sound like a question. If you ask a question you take a chance on getting a “No”. And so she did, at times.

When a pack of wolves goes hunting there is no democratic vote on how things will be done. The leader directs the pack through energy and body language and this is what we need to use in a successful relationship with our dogs.

Once leadership is established it is easy to walk even multiple dogs on a leash (PHOTO: Susanne Aichele)

In the dog’s eyes we are the pack leader by default because we control movement and access to food.

Most people don’t want to be leaders for their dogs. They have to tell people at work what to do or they are parents having to tell their kids what to do and they just want to love and be loved by their dogs. But that is what they want, not what the dogs need.

After I got to know Tiffany and her dogs, we went outside to walk the dogs. The tension in Tiffany rose immediately. She could already see herself being dragged by her powerful dog Mia.

I took Mia for a walk to show Tiffany that her dog is able to walk on a leash without pulling. Corrections were done early and Mia learned to walk beside me as she accepted me as her leader.

Once Tiffany saw that Mia is capable of walking on a leash without pulling I asked her to replace the picture that she had about Mia with what she just saw. I walked beside the pair to give little hints and corrections.

This is a very intuitive process. Dogs read the energy that we project.

I might suggest to people to think about somebody that has leadership qualities and bring that energy into their relationship with their dog or to feel their feet touch the ground and really be in the moment.

(It’s a bit like writing about a massage – if you want to experience it you can’t just read about it.)

Mia also had problems with some aggression towards other dogs.

As we walked, one of the neighbour’s dogs appeared and Tiffany had no problem keeping Mia focused on herself. As a result, Mia ignored the other dog.

The last part was that Tiffany had to include Rio in the walk and did so very successfully within a few minutes. After two and a half years of being pulled by Mia, Tiffany can now walk her dogs without getting dragged along.

Teaching people leadership skills with their dogs is very rewarding. It can be quite emotional because after one hour the person often gets what they worked hard for but just never quite got there, and then I can give them the missing piece in the puzzle. What more could I ask for from my work?

And the best thing is, they can take what they learn into other areas of their lives.