By Jennifer Broome, QK Owner
First, my apologies- this title does not refer to moving from Connecticut to Florida, instead it refers to a change in physical and mental state of being.
Think for a moment how you first felt when you read the title – was your first reaction FEAR? Fear of change? Fear I was leaving you? Fear of the unknown and what it would mean?
Recently I began studying with a motivational guru and the primary focus is all about our ability to change our state from one emotion to another in order to live a more fulfilled life.
Think now how you are feeling – a bit more relaxed? Less fearful? Wanting to know more? How much effort did it take to go from insecure to confident? From fearful to curious and quietly confident? From anxious to relaxed?
My new awareness and ability to understand ways to instantly change your state is truly amazing and empowering. It is a beautiful skill to be able to control your emotions so that you can immediately change your state.
These ideas led me to relate “Change in State” to my dog training and the many dogs that I encounter.
A question that seems to always come up with dog owners is “How can I just make my dog calm down?” My answer is typically the same, I do not try to make a dog calm down, instead I balance their emotions with work, excitement, and relaxation. And you can too!
For example, I can get my own dogs very excited and in a state of high arousal through exercise or field work training, but then I direct them to engage a thinking state of mind. This helps them control their emotions and change their state! Instead, all too many owners use a lot of excited energy which puts a dog in reverberating state of arousal and reactivity. When the dogs become too wild, jumping, nipping, barking or exhibit anxious behaviors (often instigated or initiated by the owners) those owners suddenly want a calm, relaxed, well-behaved dog!
This typically does not work for dog owners who fail to teach a dog basic foundational obedience commands (heel, sit, lie down, come here, go to bed). AKA – a change of state – CALM!
I’d love to see these same owners go from highly excited to calm, from confused and fearful to receptive and trusting, from scathing mad to instantly happy and grateful. Yes, it may seem pretty tough to do, but it’s a skill every one can hone!
When I think about a pet dog’s ability to change states, I think about how people greet their dogs with enthusiastic voices and tones, rough-em up petting and physical interaction. Many owners encourage this behavior. The wigglier a dog is, the busier their minds are, and most pet owners think this is a happy dog when really it is an excited dog and often behaviorally unbalanced.
When the owners get frustrated with their dogs escalating and sometimes obnoxious behavior, they want to the dogs to suddenly turn a switch and be calm. I call it engaging their OFF switch – it’s a change of state! This can be successful IF the dog has a great education for obedience where a wild, excited mind can suddenly be re-directed to sit and be still.
However, most owners fail to practice calmness with their dogs through obedience training in a thinking mindset. The outcome is a highly aroused dog stuck in an excited state of mind. Dogs often have poor impulse control in response to stimulus while stuck in this mindset – just like many people.
I find it extremely stressful to be around dogs that are perpetually trapped in an anxious, busy, excited state of mind. Their pulse is quickened, respiration increases, blood vessels dilate, digestion is interrupted and adrenaline flows. IT is time for ACTION! When demands on the body and mind are stressed, this causes a fight or flight mode. This is expected during exercise, training and play time and can be a healthy way to drain energy. This is not desirable when you need a calm and relaxed dog!
So, what are great ways to help a dog engage their OFF switch (change state) to find a sense of calmness, low stress, peace, and Zen-like stillness?
I teach this with a crate or patience line training. Both methods allow a dog to be in a confined area to practice being still! Dogs that are allowed nonstop physical movement become stuck in a state of being neurotic. They just cannot seem to relax physically or mentally. Dogs sleep upwards of 12 to 16 hours a day, puppies upwards of 18 hours a day, and it just makes sense to confine them during these times so that:
- There is a factor to force the down time and encourage being still. A crate or patience line teaches them to figure it out on their own. This does NOT involve you doing it for them, THEY learn to change their state themselves!
- They truly DO stop to rest and sleep.
- In calm, quiet times their bodies can rest and digest, repair itself and replenish resources. They CAN and WILL become balanced and calm. I refer to this as a GIFT of forced down time (and we could all use that ourselves).
I believe that a well-balanced dog can master changes in state.
That means that YES, they can exercise, run and play with an elevated heart rate and excitement, and YES, when suddenly leashed up or when asked to go lie down they have the ability to rein in and relax.
The flip side would be a dog that even after exercised stays aroused and in an incessant mindset of action (fight or flight activity). This includes barking, whining, demanding attention, panting, pacing or general nonstop movement.
Which do you think would be of benefit to both of you?
How can you work on changing your dog’s STATE and have a more fulfilling relationship?
Do you balance controlled down time, mental problem-solving challenges such as obedience and then offer an outlet for energy burning times with exercise and play? The more balance you can create, the more success you will have in your ability to change your dog’s state. Our QK motto….A TIRED, TRAINED DOG IS A HAPPY DOG!