Part 1 of 2.
One of the reasons why a dog misbehaves or is unstable is because the dog is stressed due to the fact dog owners are anxious, emotional, or stressed too. Most dog owners have a hard time relaxing in general, especially when their dog is misbehaving or is unstable. Dog owners haven’t taught their dogs how to relax so when the dog misbehaves, the owner is not able to relax the dog, likely because both dog and owner are stressed.
In order for the dog to relax, the dog owner needs to be relaxed as well. But the relaxation activity needs to be practiced continuously and consistently before the dog will understand and respond.
Let’s first talk about what “relax” and “stress” means. Relax is a state of mind that helps you distance yourself from mental and physical consequences that cause you to react in a negative way. Stress is your body’s and mind’s way of reacting to a task. Relaxing is a way of canceling negative and unwanted energy.
I have learned to relax throughout my life by practicing and understanding it so that it becomes a learned behaviour or state of mind that I fall into automatically. I don’t allow negative energy to have any impact on me. Since having dogs in my life, I have learned to practice them more and more in order to get even better at it them. Dogs have always given me signs that I had been stressed by reacting negatively to a situation. In reverse, they do not react to a situation if I, myself, am relaxed.
Your dogs can teach you how to get yourself relaxed if you work with them. Dogs are very relaxed and calm animals by nature but we humans create situations and conditions whereby they become stressed and unstable.
I use the dog’s state of mind to figure out where the dog’s stress level is. Most dogs will show their stressed state of mind right away but some don’t. Believe me; there are many stressed dogs just like many stressed humans.
A stressful dog starts with a dog owner that cannot relax and does not see that what they do causes the dog to not be relaxed. I will discuss dogs in the next issue but here is an example. Many dog owners and dog lovers believe that a dog leaping upon them or other people; jumping up and down, or enthusiastically wagging its tail are indications of happiness and enjoyment and are positive reactions from the dog. The reality is that the opposite is true. It means that the dog is stressed and in a neurotic state of mind. Most dog owners and lovers allow and praise that stressed state of the dog’s mind. There are many other reasons and activities that may cause your dog to be stressed and you may be unknowingly and unintentionally supporting them.
In order for the dog to learn to relax we need to learn how to relax. Once you learn the art of relaxation, then you can use the knowledge to teach your dog how to do the same thing.
First, you need to create time and space to practice relaxation. Start with at least a couple of days a week for half an hour each day. Find a place where you can be alone with no physical or mental distractions.
I suggest playing soothing music which can help you relax during the half-hour. Avoid playing your favourite loud and raucous music. Selecting something you normally wouldn’t listen to will teach you to be comfortable with accepting new ideas and new experiences. Remember, this is a new state of mind that you may not be familiar with. I will have some music suggestions at the end.
When you have created the atmosphere and put aside the time, try to use it wisely. Don’t focus on the time that you have but on what you need to do during this time. Start by thinking about nothing. Believe it or not, this is a difficult thing to do. Our brains are so bombarded throughout the day with activities and things to do and say that when you put the brakes on, it becomes impossible to not do anything and think of nothing. It will take some time to learn how to think about nothing. To help you speed up this process, focus on the relaxing music that you are listening to. Focus on the notes, and tempo and slowly fade out those intruding details until you are thinking of nothing.
After a few sessions, start to think about only one thing. Let’s say, your dog. Think about all the positive things that your dog does. Do not think about the negative parts. This is another hard exercise as it may seem impossible to not bring negative thoughts to the exercise. It becomes harder because you only need to think about only one subject. Your dog. And then, only the positive parts of that subject.
It will take you a few more sessions to get there but don’t give up. You may need to put aside a few days in the week but the more you do it, the easier it will become.
Next, you need to learn and get used to the idea of thinking positively and finding a different subject in each session to focus on. The purpose of this exercise is to help you to get into a peaceful and positive state of mind as quickly as possible. Your mind will become comfortable with this activity; therefore it will get easier for you to get there.
Learn to do this as often as possible and try it with your dog. See if your dog’s reactions change. The idea here is if your dog misbehaves, first, you need to relax and then think about the positive things that your dog does. Next, you need to do whatever techniques you have learned to control your dog but in a positive and relaxed manner. By following these steps you will notice that your dog’s behaviour changes and you’ll find you are able to control your dog easier and faster.
You never know; by learning how to relax you may be able to improve your life in many other ways too. In my next article, I will talk about how to learn to relax your dog.