Calm assertive leadership is a term dog guru, Cesar Millan made popular to describe the effective relationship to have with your dog.
But what does it really mean? Does it mean taking deep breaths every time you are about to do something with your fur kid? Do you need to do yoga first? Does it mean you need to yell and be the heavy hand in order to have your fur kid respond? What about all this about showing your fur kid who is the boss by physically dominating them? The answer to all of these, in almost all incidences is a resounding NO! What about if your dog is bigger/stronger? In the words of an esteemed colleague, “I’d like to think that us as human beings can use our intelligence instead of brute strength to gain control over a dog.” Besides, there are just as many parents of 10 pound fur kids who have difficulties with calm assertive leadership.
Calm assertive leadership refers to a state of mind, a presence. The best example I can think of would be to think of our moms- really, think of mom. Most moms do not depend on their physical size to get their children to obey. We listen to mom because she gives that look that you don’t ever dare ignore, and though she doesn’t raise a hand, you know she means business. Even youngsters pick up on mom’s demeanor right away. This is the presence to emulate when dealing with fur kids.
The first component is confidence through conviction that you got this. And if you can’t muster confident, at least keep the mind, body, and heart neutral. Animals deal in non-verbal communication much more than we do, and they can sense fear even if we do not say a word. Don’t think of past experiences and don’t anticipate outcomes. When you are clear and calm like this, you can better focus on what is actually happening. From that state, you can then firmly ask for what you want and gain control of the situation.
The second component is reasonable expectations. Suitable expectations means achievable given your fur kid’s capabilities and stage of life while still being challenging for growth and development. Asking too much or too little depends on many things and can affect your relationship. An effective leader knows how to gauge this to get the most out of their followers. However, this is a whole topic on its own…for another blog.
The final components go hand in hand- consistency and follow through. The key to effective leadership is to not waiver on your expectations and to always have repercussions that reinforce them. If you would like your fur kid to say, sit and be calm before eating, then you must ask for this behavior every single time and you must not feed them until they comply fully. If you are not consistent with the asking and the doing, your fur kid will be confused and the results won’t be there. If we go back to the mom analogy, you finished your dinner every night because you knew mom would never let you up from the dinner table, right?! Conversely, would you have hit your curfew every single time if you didn’t get in trouble every single time?! Consequences, whether rewarding or deterring, need to happen- they are the follow through part of leadership.
In summary, calm assertive leadership is being present with a clear mind, giving good instruction to your fur kid and following it up with the the same action every time.