Mental Changes at Both Ends of the Leash!

Communication is a Two Way Process

Change is difficult for our dogs and us. Going into areas outside our comfort zone is a challenge within itself. When we ask our dogs to do it, we are also challenging ourselves in the way we look at and see our dogs in a new light. We battle with learning a new skill, while our bodies and mind want to do what is familiar with what works, sometimes instinct takes over. Our bodies are on autopilot, moving in a familiar pattern with keeping our balance and at the same time keeping us safe.

The change in your dog’s movements whilst stepping up and over, walking through and standing still with exercises on the ground, are all sensory inputs that your dog is experiencing on the sensory level. The new skills that you are learning with the way you relate to your dog, stroking the leash, two points of contact, touch, moving your body to support your dog in moving, standing or inviting them to move out of their ‘stuckness’, is effecting you on the sensory level too.

Sometimes, the change within our dogs is so slight – the way they hold their tail, the lifting of the head, the bending of a knee or hock joint, the placing of the feet – all indicating that change is happening.

New Pathways in the Brain

Within the physical challenges, the brain is receiving sensory information of changes happening at the cellular level. The brain then processes this new information, and starts to set up new pathways in the brain, as new learning is happening. This whole new infra structure takes, in a human brain, 30 days of doing the new exercises daily. I personally feel with dogs the time it takes is shorter.

When we do exercises in a way that is not ‘normal’ for the dogs – non habitual, change does happen on a whole new level.

An example would be to see how they manoeuvre on a short flight of steps. How does your dog do these at the moment? See what they do and then, ask them to stand before moving onto the step, whether up or down. Help them move a little bit slower. Can they do that? What do they struggle with? How does their body cope with the change of pace? Do they bunny hop or use their legs independently to step up or step down? Do the exercise a few times, and then leave it until the next day. See what change there is the next day. It may be slight it may be more obvious however, there will be change not only on the physical level but mentally too.

Taking time outs to allow our brains and bodies to process information is so conducive to learning. Standing and allowing the dog to take in what is going on gives us the opportunity to ‘see and listen’ with how the dog is coping and responding. How are you coping and responding?

As sensory information is relayed to many areas of the brain associated with emotional processing, we often see shifts in a dog from an unfocused, anxious state to a more calm and focused state. As information is processed in our brains and we see change happen and we become more adaptive, we become more focused, less anxious and more relaxed with our new learning.

Our communication with our dogs becomes empathetic, sensitive, observant and mindful. And our listening skills improve to a new awareness, at both ends of the leash.

Jane
Inspiring You to Empower Your Dog to Reach Their Full Potential