Is your dogs behaviour linked to your emotions? 4 exercises to try at home
Here are four emotions that are good indicators to try with your dog to see how his or her behaviour is linked to you. I have chosen emotions that we typically try to deny, because they are uncomfortable. If you are like me you might not always notice how you are feeling, but your dog knows and will be responding to it. Give yourself permission to think about your feelings, particularly the ones you don't like! See if you get any surprises. If you have more than one dog its possible that they will show different behaviours or responses. Mine do.
We can be fearful or afraid when we feel our natural 'right to be here' is challenged. It might not be a scary man with an axe coming towards you, it might just be a neighbour coming up in the street causing you to worry about what you are going to say. Notice when you feel fearful and notice how your dog responds. Do they bark and lunge, are they silly and excited, do they cower?
Guilt is what we get when we deny ourselves the right to feel and have pleasure. Our dogs can feel our guilt. Notice when you feel guilty around your dog. Can you notice a change in behaviour. Are there times, or things that you do, that make you feel guilty towards your dog, like leaving your dog to go to work, or not taking her a walk one day. Can you imagine changing that feeling? What happens when you try? When I start to go on a guilt trip I try to remind myself how much I enjoy my dogs and what a good life we have together. Sometimes its not that easy.
We feel ashamed when we feel our right to act and be an individual is challenged. It is very common to feel that we are not good enough, that we don't meet some made-up standard of being. Do you ever feel ashamed when you're with your dog? Maybe those times when he runs up to another dog in the park, uninvited and you feel bad about not being able to control him. Notice that feeling. Maybe you think 'OMG, I'm so embarrassed, why can't I have a dog that behaves. I'm just going to avoid meeting people altogether' If that's how you feel, notice it. Can you change how you feel? What would it take? Does it make a difference to your dog?
When you cry what does your dog do? When you cheer up, does their behaviour change? My three dogs all had very different reactions to my tears, reflecting their individual personalities, but all had very noticeable behaviours. One would try and lick me, another would just sit next to me and another would leave the room the moment the tears started coming.
For more examples of how our dogs respond to our emotions check out some of my other posts.