I sat down to write my new blog post at a very strange time. I had some ideas about what I wanted to write. But then I read the news...we were heading for another lockdown. I stopped, because we are living in a time where we really do not know what tomorrow will bring. Many of my ideas all of a sudden felt completely irrelevant.
I then took a moment to think about our dogs. Would they love it or hate it? So many more people will be home...again...and there is, from what I understand so far, no limit on exercise. This is good. Dogs need company, dogs need physical and mentally enriching experiences. So these could be some great times for our dogs. However, for many, this is an incredibly stressful time. We are dealing with something completely unprecedented, life seems to change daily and we are constantly having to adjust. Being stressed is completely normal and understandable.
Dogs are experts at judging our moods. I was reading about this recently in an article by Psychology Today (you can read it here)
Essentially they can read our moods through sound, sight and smell. They then adjust their behaviour accordingly. So there’s a reason why your dog is less likely to behave on those days you are already having a rubbish day! WE cannot hide it either, as part of our dog's brain has developed especially to sniff out pheromones which totally give us away!
So, in this time I look to my friend and colleague Dr. Janet Finlay. Janet, who runs Canine Confidence is a huge advocate of self-care, and looking at helping ourselves to help our dogs. In fact she wrote a course and a book called ‘Your End of the Lead’, looking at the importance of changing our behaviour to help anxious and reactive dogs. For once we are calm and feeling confident, our dogs are more likely to feel calm and confident too.
One of my favourite lessons I have learned from Janet is the ‘power up’. These are small things we do daily (at least 3 things) they may help us or help our dog. She suggests having a jar and writing a few things on bits of paper that are small things that help you (as many as you can think of really!) - you can have one for you and one for your dog! Each day pull out at least 3 and do these. It can be anything that helps you relax, having a cup of tea in silence, listening to you favourite song. For me I often run or walk on my own and I’ve recently started meditating. For our dogs it could be things like a sniff game, their favourite enrichment game or even a snuggle with us on the sofa.
So, don’t feel guilty if you need some time to take care of you. This is so important. Your dog will be all the better for it to!
PS. You can learn more about Janet here and the work she does here https://www.canineconfidenceacademy.com/