Dogs are emotional beings that can't actually endure as much stress and is often perceived .
It's important to help your dog decompress regularly and build the skills needed to cope with the daily stress of living with you. (Sorry, for the honesty but yes life with you is stressful.)
Frequent behavior complaints can actually be greatly reduced when you give your dog a voice and help them feel secure.
Excess jumping on you.
Shyness and fear.
Reactivity when on a walk directed at people or dogs.
Reactivity to outside noises and street traffic when in the home.
Pulling on the leash.
When we talk about decompression at KAS it usually refers to the activities that fill your dogs emotional cup. I refer to the training and other procedures around setting your dog up for success as stress reducing activities. This poster 'Decompress for Success' illustrates those stress reducing activities and ways you can help your dog feel secure and comfortable.
In the end if we reduce the stress in our dog's lives the outcome is a more relaxed, content, and emotionally stable being.
There is one important concept to keep in mind! Your dog is not human. I don't say this to separate the two of you, but I say this because behaviors that are natural and make a dog feel good we, humans, can easily get impatient with. Be kind to yourself and your dog and respect each others differences.
Okay, here is my list of decompression activities that if you apply them you and your dog will be on the path to a balanced relationship and happy life.
Cooperative care and consent! -- This means asking your dog for consent and accepting the answer if they say no. Don't get me wrong there are some occasions where this will not be possible but try to ask 80% of the time. Another thing to mention is that asking can look different in different relationships. Obviously, dogs can't speak like humans so permission must be given through body language and training.
Reframe dog training as education and learning to communicate! -- Your dog does not have to be obedient just because they are a dog and you are a human. Think about your training sessions as educating your dog in your human (not native) language. Education should be gradual and the environment relaxed so the dog can focus on their learning. Think about starting new training tasks in doors and in a comfortable setting when the dog has had their primary needs of food, water, security, social, and physical health. It's extremely difficult to learn when you don't feel safe or your body feels sick.
Routine & sleep! -- Just like with the most successful humans in the world, the most successful dogs are those that are getting good and plenty sleep. Build sleep into consistent routines that make parts of the day predictable. Predictability provides security as it sets expectations your dog can rely on day in and day out. There is a place for inconsistency as well but it's not as important as routine to your dogs wellbeing.
Time to be a dog! -- Provide time and environments where your dog can engage in instinctual behaviors (i.e. chasing, digging, barking, sniffing, and hunting). The easiest and one of the key behaviors I encourage dog parents to capitalize on is sniffing. Dogs explore, learn, and communicate, through their sense of smell. When they are sniffing they are also deep breathing. Think of sniffing time as doggy-meditation! Allow ample time smell the roses on walks or play sent games in the house.
Stop Dog-Networking! -- Do you like attending networking events? You are expected to talk small talk with a bunch of people you don't know and everyone has their own agenda. If you're an introvert these events are emotionally taxing. Chances are your dog probably doesn't enjoy it either. Yes, some dogs, just like some people, thrive in that environment however the rest of us don't! This is they type of situation you are putting your dog in when you encourage social interactions with other dogs (or people) on the street, attend dog parks, or enroll your dog in daycare. I find this to be one of the hardest concepts for people to wrap their head around because it can look like the dog is enjoying themselves. Even pulling towards other dogs (or people) when in public. However, the signs of discomfort are subtle. Think back again to that networking event you attended did everyone there know you were uncomfortable? I can tell you with confidence when I attend those events people often suspect I'm an extrovert, when I'm actually freaking out inside. Many dogs mask their anxiety by doubling down on the "friendly" behavior. I could go on but I will save it for another article.
In conclusion, in order to build the best possible relationship and livelihood for you and your dog it is important to Decompress for Success.
If you want further information about following through with theses 5 suggestions please don't hesitate to reach out. HeyTrainer@kindanimalservices.com
Kind Animal Services is here to help you.