Taking The Dogs Emotional viewpoint…

Posted: May 25, 2017 in Uncategorized

Just as a sailboat needs wind to drive it forward, your dog needs motivation. Much discussion of “drives” takes place across the spectrum of canine training. What motivates a dog to certain behavior. What causes a dog to act in certain ways. I am convinced that “emotion”, from a canine point of view, is very powerful. In relationship training, it is foundational.
Humans are emotional beings. We would be incomplete if we weren’t. Without emotion, there would be no poetry, music, or art. Granted, there would also be no war, broken marriages/families, or other assorted poor decisions. There are emotions both pleasant and poisonous.
Part of the research for this post caused me to ask the questions, Can you be calm, when you are emotional? Can you be emotional and calm at the same time?? Are calm and emotion mutually exclusive? And does our emotion affect a dog? How do dogs deal with emotions? And what part does emotion play in our communication?
We have no doubt that dogs exhibit and “feel” emotions. Not in the same manner as humans, but they do experience some type of internal motivation. When we watch my two German Shepherds chasing each other around the training field with wild, reckless, abandon, we feel their “happiness”. We make special effort to “share” their emotion, by taking part in their celebration, offering them behavior that allows them to continue their games. Positive “emotion” if you will. Encouragement at the least. We work at observing emotional response in the dogs, and then reciprocate that back to them. It affects their sense of well-being, and helps us communicate with each other. We are telling them, in effect, I understand what you are telling me, and I’m sharing it. Dogs are better behaved when we connect on an emotional level. This is a daily exercise, and requires that you see through your dogs eyes sympathetically. And we know it’s impossible to do that perfectly. But you can learn to identify your dogs state of mind! It’s similar to becoming engaged and eventually marrying another person. You do everything in your power to learn about, and understand another person. You learn what makes that person happy, sad, angry, the entire gamut of emotional feedback. How do you do that? Observation, conversation, and honesty. Effort, motivated by love. It’s defensible to say that our dogs are “aware” of our desires much of the time, even if they don’t necessarily try to fulfill them. Some will bolt away from this next statement, but as far as social behavior is concerned, each and every member of a group or family is sensitive to the current tide of emotion within that collective. That includes both two and four-legged members. Don’t believe this to be true? Find a place where several dogs are together peacefully, and then introduce an unbalanced, or otherwise unsteady dog. The reaction is immediate and undeniable. Negative emotion, tension, and angst easily permeates any group of sensitive living creatures. The same is true of positive emotions, relaxed mind-frames, and smiling faces. Emotion communicates. Try the same experiment with human interactions with dogs. The next time that one or more members of your human family are exhibiting strong emotion, thru some disagreement or family tension, observe what most dogs do. A majority of them will excuse themselves from the raised voices and discord, and find a spot to lay low.
Emotion is a key to developing a communicative bond with your dog. Always approach training, or socializing, with an even temperament of your own. If you feel frustration develop, or heightened excitement, take a minute and chill out. Each of us will need to explore and develop our own individual means of “calming” our human selves. It is important. Dare I say, vital.
Other evidence of this emotional bond can be observed between dogs playing together. If they are on the same emotional level, you will observe harmony that resembles a huge flock of birds flying together. Rolling, twisting, and diving, they never seem to run into each other. How? It’s God-given in my opinion. When my dogs work together, it’s a sublime example of “oneness of mind.” When I’m involved in it with them, it’s absolutely “Next Level Cool.”
My advice is quite simple: Share emotion with your dog. If you observe him gnawing on a nice meaty bone, express the the emotion that he is. Is that bone goood? Ooooh yummmmy! Thats a Goood Boy! It’s beneficial to include yourself in his pleasure. It’s okay if you sound like an idiot talking to your dog in this manner. Dogs don’t care about that. They care about interaction with the most important person in their life, you. Celebrate the fun of playing ball together. Not including your dog in your activities is a sure fire way to frustrate your friend and it affects your relationship. Just examine a dog that suffers from Separation Anxiety.
Go ahead, encourage your dog often and eagerly with words and tone that make him feel good about himself. I have been able to observe the power of this conclusion training for Agility. The most successful trainers are ridiculously happy while training, even if the dog is less than perfect. The least successful are those that emotionally punish their dog if they missed a tunnel or jump the wrong bar. “Stupid Dog!”, they’ll spit, as though the mistake were the dogs fault.
In fact, and this is something I admire in the sport, foul language and yelling at the dog can result in points lost, or even disqualification of the team. This is where a positive attitude is of the highest value. Be in the moment with your dog, and make it uplifting in dog terms! Your assignment today, and for the rest of your time together is this: Watch for your dogs emotional output, and support it. We have all seen our dog smile about something. When you do, smile with him.

There are times when I watch my dogs and try to imagine what they are thinking, feeling, even emoting. Ears back, eyes closed, a deep sigh. Ears pricked straight up, eyes like lasers, a slight whine. Flat out laying on the grass completely supine, mentally and physically. Ready to pounce at the instant I produce a ball, intending to throw it so that their energy can find fulfillment.
The dog you live with, is an incredibly…simple creature. However, that simplicity is amazingly misunderstood by those of us with only two legs. It is complex beyond our grasp, because we are not masters of our emotions. In that hazily understood condition, we continue to choose the dog as a companion and friend. Perhaps it’s because we recognize that in their simplicity is a command of really living, really feeling. We want to understand that mindset, and emulate it for ourselves.
I consider it an unrelenting truth that our dogs reflect us like mirrors of mood, emotion, and mental state. They become us by proxy, and we affect every minute of their day. Now, I have come to believe that it’s time to allow myself to become a mirror of my dogs mood and mental state, for my own good. This being the opposite of what I’ve been doing, wanting the dog to emulate me…
Like so many people, all people, I am physically affected by the stresses and pressures of life. Our lives are busy in an unprecedented manner, with jobs, families, school, worship, and the myriad of responsibilities that are all too common to the human condition. We choose, and allow these responsibilities to become even more palpable and burdensome by the inclusion of an array of electronic devices that society tell us are necessary, even vital. Cell phones that demand we answer them, “Right blessed now!” whether it be another person or a text message. I-phones with complete access to every form of communication known to man. Check the Weather! Check the Market! See My kid at Soccer! Look at the cute kitty on Facebook!” The cacophony of distractions is varied and undeniable.
We enter our homes, our cars, our offices, our recreation, with phones, Ipads, Kindles, notebooks and other assorted electronica firmly clutched in our sweaty hands, or stuck in our ear canal, reluctant to disconnect from knowing what someone we “friended” had for lunch. Many of us can’t even operate a motor vehicle without the ridiculous panoply of I-phone, navigation, I-this and I-that robbing us of the attention required to aim a 3000 lbs bullet safely at 70 mph. Some have even paid for this necessity with their lives or that of others. Look around for someone of 25 years of age or under without a sweaty ear-bud inserted, spewing out racket at 140 decibels. It’s harder than you think. It’s not uncommon for us to have televisions in every room in the house, including the bathroom. All of this noise and “information” overload, is killing us. Or at the least, driving us toward a psychotic episode. That’s where the dogs enter the picture.

Your dogs mind and heart are capable of something that humans seem to fight: Contentment. Tranquility. Focus. Satisfaction with what it has, not yearning for something it doesn’t need.
I’m told that dogs seldom have high blood pressure. How many humans can say that truthfully? True, dogs have stresses of their own to deal with, but they’re usually from a human source ignoring the dogs being.
Dogs flow through life. They accept what they cannot,(or do not know they can) change. They content themselves with the warmth of their social group, or even find comfort in the solace of aloneness. Dogs are blissfully unaware of the political and social issues that swirl about them. They have no idea what CNN is, who Rachel Maddow or Rush Limbaugh are, and they care not one whit about gay marriage. The only quality they care about in humans is the one that takes care of them properly. Dogs don’t care if you are a vegan, if you support the second amendment, or if you are a progressive/socialist. They don’t have Twitter feeds or hash-tags. They don’t have Facebook pages or blogs unless a meddling human sets it up. They have more important things on their minds, like, who’s going to feed me supper? Who’s going to throw this ball for me? Is my Mom or Dad on the way home yet? What’s for supper? They are focused on important things, not what others say is important.
I’m going to be more like my dogs. For my own well-being. Unplug, stop worrying about what idiots are saying about useless issues, sit in the grass in the sunshine on a spring day, romp in the mud because it’s fun, play like somebody left the garden gate open. I’m going to master just focusing on what’s really important. I’m going to imitate my dogs and learn to “Be”.

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Comments
  1. daintrejoy says:

    I enjoyed this one

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