Sometimes information I provide to my clients is for them new, vast and can be overwhelming. Some of them actually start to stress out because they want to repair the relationship so badly or they do not want to make something that will damage it – since they truly care about their dog.
That is not what I want for them so when they have questions on how to act differently in some situations I tell them: “ask yourself, is this beneficial for my dog?”
I love the word BENEFIT because it makes us think of things that tip the scale in someone’s favor. It includes things that bring value to some situation. It embraces thought about someone’s welfare, enjoyment, comfort, ease. It promotes well being and produces good or helpful results or effects.
So when should we ask such question? Examples would be taking a dog for a walk in areas where there are lots of triggers for that dog. At the beginning of work such areas should be avoided so that dog can have a chance to learn and de-stress.
For dog with behavioural problems having a long walk in such environment is simply not beneficial. When we compare pros and cons the scale tips to the “wrong” side. He will just be overwhelmed (dog goes in flight/fight response) and his learning ability as well as overall health will be compromised (due to too much stress).
Of course that dogs need some sort of exercise and it does not mean that we should not walk our dog at all (plus it is very individual). However, if people who have dog that has strong reaction to the environment do not have a possibility to take dog somewhere else for a nice relaxing walk, than having short walks where number of triggers is as low as possible is more beneficial – for that dog and for certain period of time until they progress in their work.
There are number of other things that they can do with the dog in home environment where dog feels safe (or safer depending if he fears of outside noise as well as other things).
So I advise them to try and make an effort to have longer walks somewhere quiet whenever possible. Sometimes for some people it is once a week and that is fine. It is not ideal, but going after my clients saying that they MUST do something that they find hard or impossible would just stress them and make them shy away from whole process.
If they start doing some fun activates with dog in their home, where dog gets some mental exercises and some light physical ones, than it will all balance it self out.
Why? Because dog also does not find going out where “monster” is on every corner beneficial. His whole body and mind are in red alert state and being outside is far form fun or relaxing.
Second thing that than starts to trouble some people is that they feel stressed when they go outside with their dog where triggers are and they would rather stop going out completely. Well, idea is to change dog’s emotion regarding triggers so going out is also part of the process. But it should be done in certain way where both person and dog stay under threshold, stay present, can learn something and possibly have fun doing it (at least in time).
So I advise them, from now on when you see your dogs trigger – feel joy! (or try to) since it is an opportunity to help your dog!! 🙂
Also I tell them that they should became “stalkers” in the name of their dog so they laugh. I tell them to go actively looking for triggers which consequently makes them in charge of situation in their mind and not the other way around. That can empower them!
Of course if trigger suddenly appears that is not a beneficial scenario but I tell them in advance that that it might happen and that it is just something they need to sail through and just look at it again as source of information.
For example what was the distance from trigger when my dog reacted, or what was trigger doing at the time etc…
I also advise them to look around for best setup when/if trigger appears, to be prepared (be aware of how you hold your leash, where treats or toy is etc.), to remember to breathe and look ahead for exits.
That changes their perspective of whole concept of going outside where triggers are (or at home if for example guests are triggers). They start seeing that as practice opportunities, as moments where they can start actively helping their dog. At the end they realise that such situations benefit both them and dog since they approach it differently.
Their body language changes, they are less stressed and more focused which mirrors also to their dog (or at least partially).
It is not easy and it can take time but is possible, we have to be there for our clients and teach them skills how to cope in such situations.
So, asking – “is this situation beneficial for my dog” – is of big value. Also we should ask the dog if we are not sure, he will know for sure 🙂
* Please excuse my English, it is not my primary language.
Jelena Kallay – Vagabond Positive Animal Communication
Dip. Animal Behavior Technology, Dip. ABT – CASI
Karen Pryor Academy Dog Trainer Professional Program, KPA – CTP