Being tense makes us more likely to lash out – in fear, frustration, or aggression.
This is the same way for our animals. By being tense when we see a dog walk towards us, we really increase the chances of our dog reacting instead of remaining calm. It can even be, and usually is, a sort of subconscious tension: we could be thinking it, have tension in our shoulders, or even be imagining how this dog encounter will go.
Even with dogs that have a “problem” seeing other dogs on walks (they pull to play, or lunge to act aggressive/defensive), I try to envision everything going smoothly. I imagine I’m walking my own dog who doesn’t react to others. I look at the other dog and think, “Good thing my dog doesn’t react badly towards other dogs!” Even if that’s a bit of a lie. It helps me stay calm, in control, and loose.
With horses, our tension can fuel their fear. We are predators and they are prey animals. Put yourself in their… hooves. What would it feel like to have a tense predator on your back? You’d probably wonder why this predator is so tense – what’s he worried about? What’s he planning? Am I going to die?
So we can start to notice how our tension can cause different reactions in our animals – prey animal or predator and depending on their personality and experiences with humans.