Change the emotions, change the dog

Dare I say you may even be enjoying your new position and feeling quite proud of yourself and how well you are coping with the whole situation, its a whole new feeling and its positive!

Now return to dogs, is it really fair that we expect different of them?

Changing a dogs emotions will change the dog, it has the power to change their reactions and expections in wonderful ways. With patience, perseverance and positivity you have that power to make those changes!

When training my puppies for example everything is paired with positive things wherever it can, be that food, toys, whatever they enjoy. If we are out walking and they see something new they think is scary (could be as simple as a bin that wasnt there yesterday) I allow them to investigate from a distance they feel is safe, to approach it as they feel comfortable and I pair the object with positive things like favourite toys and treats. They soon not only discover that object is not scary but have built a learning path that when they meet something scary it is possible for that thing to actually become positive and therefore each new thing they meet takes them less time to adjust to, the more it happens the quicker they learn next time!

One of the biggest problems I see in dog training when it comes to behavioural issues, is the clients desire. Whilst it is great that the ultimate desire/goal is normally to help the dog, it is normally a ‘cut to the chase and fix my dog’ kind of desire which misses the ultimate point in most problems….how your dog is feeling.

Many behavioural issues stem from your dogs emotional state at any given time and emotions are something that cannot be changed in a heart beat.

Take fear aggression as an example.

As a human being you may be scared of spiders or sharks (cliche I know!), now if you are, and I show one to you, right in front of you, you are likely to experience physical symptoms bought about by your emotional state i.e. sweaty palms, racing heart, a desire to flee, difficulty breathing, difficulty hearing any advice being given by others because of your overwhelming fear.

Imagine now that anyone expect you to simply ‘pull yourself together’ and get a grip on both your emotions and the physcial result of those emotions that you are experiencing…..can you? Of course you cant, its far too much to ask of anyone yet we often ask it of our dogs, expect it and are disapointed when they fail to deliver.

Now take the same example but I show you the spider/shark/whatever at a much, much further distance, something you consider ‘safe’. Your emotions and physical reactions will be lessened perhaps even to such a degree that you no longer experience blind panic or even fear but that you can be curious about the thing you fear, you might be happier to look at it and consider it and you are unlikely to experience an overwhelming desire to flee. Now imagine I hand you a hot chocolate and a donught whilst you consider this fearful beast…now your actually experiencing some positive things in the face of something you fear.