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Archive for November, 2012

Seriously cute Schnauzer

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Shameless excuse for a post I know, but I love this shot of Little Bear so much that I just had to share it.

That’s one unimpressed Schnauzer!

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Annie the Labrador sleeping

Annie sleeping peacefully…or is she meditating?

I’m a worrier. There, I admit it. Give me an inch and I’ll worry a mile.

Take last night. Other Half and I were snuggled on the sofa, Annie was in her bed looking relaxed and dreamy and Little Bear was flopped on my lap. Camden Cat was doing her nightly routine of trying to wind him up by staring at him at close range and he was ignoring her instead of barking. I also noticed that his neck and back muscles were much softer than usual.

Now a normal person would have thought ‘hey, this is good,  he’s really relaxed for once. Maybe its the long walk, T-Touch and the new Adaptil plug in.’ But no, my mind, sometimes too little to be allowed out on its own I think, goes running off worrying that maybe he’s ill.

By 11.30pm he’d had a biscuit (rattle jar, cue mad dash to kitchen to check motor skills), played six rounds of chase the tennis ball (if he turns down a tennis ball, we’d have been at the emergency vets), had 10 minutes tug of war with his string of sausages (favourite toy in the whole wide world) and squeezed in ten minutes clicker training to perfect his now beautiful roll-over just to check….

Temperament

I’m no expert, but I’ve studied enough now to realise the effect our emotions have on our dogs, especially those we have a close bond with.  But despite what the old guard insist on spouting, it’s not 100% nurture; temperament plays a huge part in deciding dog behaviour and if there’s one thing guaranteed to drive me onto my soap box it’s good caring dog lovers being told that their dog’s issues are entirely their fault because they’re not ‘tough enough’.  Genetics plays a huge role so we should stop beating up the good guys for pursuing kind, fair and effective training methodologies.

That said, for those of us whose nature is to worry first and analyse later, there is much we can do ; we need not to slaves to our genetics and early conditioning.  Our dogs, like us may be worriers by nature, maybe that’s why, noticing a kindred spirit, we picked them in the first place, but by learning how to help ourselves, we help our dogs by association.

Mindfulness

I’ve just started learning mindfulness meditation and at the suggestion of my meditation coach, I’ve started with mindful dog walking. I know, here’s me thinking I was going to have to sit in a beanbag chanting!

OH and I love our walks and spend most of it chatting, especially now that we have a wedding to plan and get excited about 🙂 but on a mindful dog walk, it’s 100% about the dogs.

To be mindful, we have to be focused in the moment so instead of chatting on our walk yesterday, we tried focussing entirely on the dogs.  I’m walking Annie at the moment to practice her walk to heal, so yesterday, I was able to focus solely on my timing and her position at my side.

When we got to the field, we talked about their body language while they ran around enjoying a sniff-fest and worked on grading their arousal levels, noticing what changed and what effect things like the sight of another dog in the distance had on them. We also noticed how they played and what ended the game – a subtlety we’d completely missed before.

With two reactive dogs, walks are way more complex than for your average dog.  Some are wonderful and some are downright horrendous, but I have to confess that yesterday’s walk was one of the most enjoyable I’ve ever had. The dogs were relaxed and happy when they flopped onto the sofas on our return, tongues lolling, faces soft and smiley.

Understanding

 

If mindfulness can help switch off that worry button for me, I know it will have a positive impact on the dogs. That’s not to say that we won’t still be using the other tools in the toolbox like clicker training, socialisation, exercise, mental stimulation, environmental control, diet and plug-in pheromones and tryptophan supplements, but it’s another step forward in understanding and for me, that’s never been just about understanding the dogs; understanding the self and our relationship with our dogs is equally as vital.

 

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