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— April 8, 2014 —

by Daniel McElroy Jr.

What is it and how does it apply to dog training.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines composure as “calmness of mind, manner or appearance.”

By definition, composure means to have self-control. The thing is, unless we have control of ourselves, we’ll never effectively teach, train or manage our dogs. Composure is sometimes the missing link when a handler takes a dog to a trial. It can’t be measured objectively, but you can see when it’s missing.

A problem dog or an aggressive dog can test your composure. A dog that just can’t seem to “get it” can test your composure. A handler with a bad case of “trial nerves” may lack of composure and this in turn takes the dog off their A game.

I am also involved with a training company called Windy City Working Dogs. We preach composure during training every session. When a dog is super excited and driven to do the bite work (cool bitework photo here), they often give their handler a great deal of difficulty during the obedience portion of the training. Composure here is critical. If the handler is feeling overwhelmed by the dog’s excitement level, and looses their composure, the training will not be very effective. Occasionally, I will stop a training session and ask the handler to take a second to gather themselves, to regain their composure. When it works, the results are immediate and obvious. The dog responds and training becomes productive.

As important as composure is in training. I can’t teach it. I don’t think any trainer can. It’s something you have to learn. To this day I am still working on it. The more you practice with your dog and are mindful of your mindset, the better your composure will become.

The next time you feel yourself getting frustrated, or feel like your dog is completely out of control, stop, gather your thoughts and do your best to regain your composure. Your dog will thank you for it.

Follow Up info re. Bailey.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about a dog that I turned down as a training client. I suspected that the dog had medical issues which were contributing to his recently increased aggressive behavior. I have gotten an email from the owners and he has been diagnosed with arthritis and since being on anti-inflammatory medications his behavior has been much better.


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