Easy Breathing Aids Dog Training: Relaxing Helps When Working with Your Canine
May 01, 2008 03:00AM
By Paul Owens
Everything we do—work, family activities, sports, playing a musical instrument—is directly affected by our ability to concentrate and focus on the task at hand. Concentration and focus are equally vital when working with a dog, not only for safety, but because dogs thrive on attention. By focusing on the task at hand during a training session, we enable the animal to learn more quickly and with much less stress. All this can be achieved more quickly when we learn to breathe properly.
Few individuals have considered the idea that the simple act of observing and changing their own breathing patterns could affect their relationship with their dog, but it does. Paying attention to the breath is one of the best ways to increase concentration, and the single most important tool in developing and maintaining focus and control when interacting with a dog in any manner. Whenever I teach a nonviolent dog training class, my first advice to participants is to breathe and relax. I say, “You can’t expect your dog to be in control if you are unfocused and out of control.”
How we feel affects how we breathe. Fortunately, the reverse is also true. Our breath affects how we feel and our ability to perform. Changing our breathing patterns, from shallow and short, to slow and deep, easy breathing, not only relaxes us, it has a tremendous effect on the dog we’re working with.
An easy breath must be relaxed and unstrained, with the inhalation equal in force and duration to the exhalation. For example, try breathing in for three seconds, then breathing out for three seconds. Avoid holding your breath when you breathe in and out; instead, make the transitions gentle and continuous. Breathe through the nose, with the mouth closed.
Easy breathing is particularly good for the body because it oxygenates the blood and energizes every cell. I recommend doing three or four easy breaths whenever possible: while driving, watching TV, upon awakening and before falling asleep. The more often we practice easy breaths, the better the results.
With continued practice, inhalations and exhalations naturally and automatically become extended, which deepens relaxation and concentration. I promise my students that within a few weeks, they’ll be able to comfortably breathe in and out for 10 to 20 seconds or more. However, the length of the breath is not of primary importance when first starting to practice—focusing on smooth and relaxed breaths is the key.
This is done by consciously listening to the breath as it moves in and out of the lungs. As we become more familiar with the sound of our breath we can consciously relax into it more and more. With continued practice, we are able to relax our breath at will. Both you and your dog will benefit.
Paul Owens is the author of The Dog Whisperer: A Compassionate Nonviolent Approach to Dog Training and The Puppy Whisperer. His dog training DVDs are The Dog Whisperer: Beginning and Intermediate Dog Training and The Dog Whisperer Volume 2, Solving Common Behavior Problems. For details visit for details.