Anxiety is a demon I have gotten to know all too well in my own personal life.
To be honest until Bundy came into my life, I didn’t know how deeply it could impact and affect dogs, or how much strain, and tension it could cause in a household.
Not just between myself and Bundy but shane and I, struggling to agree on how to handle what Bundy was going through on a daily basis.
I could empathise with Bundy waaaay too much and Shane who is the chilliest dam person in the world – not nearly enough.
And I see this happening in so many households, I thought it was just me but nup turns out a dog can trigger quite a few disagreements between couples.
What I found in my own home life was that shane and I both needed to be a little bit more like the other, but we had no idea how exactly to do that.
It’s a constant balancing act between empathy, love and ass kicking (and no not literal ass kicking) and yes both can be done at the same time, you can kick ass with love, you don’t have to be an asshole to achieve the ass kicking.
The one thing I always make sure I am doing is walking my talk, doing exactly what I teach my clients to do, or encourage them to start doing, I surround myself with mentors who know how to give me a swift kick in the ass but also surround it with love and encouragement, and it’s that balancing act between being loving and supportive but not putting up with bullshit excuses.
We all have them, the stories we tell ourselves, the stories we tell for the dogs, the one thing we often forget is the power we have over those stories and the fact that we have more power over our dogs story than he does.
I was speaking with my therapist yesterday – it’s a requirement to work with one of my mentors everyone MUST have a therapist and since jumping fully on board with the idea I seriously question why I didn’t let go of the stigma and do it sooner.
I digress, we were speaking about how to again tweak my coping mechanisms when my body experiences a rush of adrenaline the good ol’ fight or flight, due to childhood trauma.
I have written about it before the similarities we share with dogs, there is a reason why we specialise in anxiety, over excitement and reactivity, I have spent years unravelling the mystery with my boy and helping others do the same as well as working unravelling this stuff in my own life for most of my life.
And let me be clear on this I am not a victim of childhood trauma and I am not a victim of anxiety. The path it has lead me down has had me do the most incredible things and meet the most incredible people – has it been easy? Hell no! Worth it? Yes without the challenges I have faced in my life I would not be helping others the way I do, that is something I wouldn’t change for the world.
I had a choice, to let is consume me, or empower me, I think you can guess which it is that I chose.
And as I spoke to my therapist she put things in a way I had struggled to find the words to describe how what we do actually works for a dogs mental state, and also forgot to apply it into my own life – have I mentioned before I’m only human? Lol
We spoke about when the adrenaline rush first hits, research is revealing that the action must continue, if you distract, or “shut down” so to speak the surge of adrenaline and don’t let it play through it becomes almost trapped. The next time it happens its worse and so on and so forth.
I have known over the years meditation, remaining calm is not a tactic that works once you are adrenalized.
Don’t get me wrong I love meditation and being calm but those things should be happening outside of anxiety, away from the adrenaline to help keep a balance, in the moment though? It’s useless.
It creates a pressure cooker effect, even if in that moment the anxiety seemed defused, the next time it rears it’s ugly head it seems worse than before.
Ever been on a walk with your dog and you think he is cruising by ok, he is somewhat anxious but you are able to distract him from each trigger quite well, but then all of a sudden, it tips , just one thing becomes too much and he explodes, you can’t get his attention, nothing can penetrate that panic? You feel like you are straight back to square one.
That’s the pressure cooker effect.
And it’s exactly WHY I don’t talk about obedience in a good light, why it’s not helping you guys, it’s a tactic that does not work when there is a high stress situation, in fact it can make it worse, same goes for calming behaviours like getting your dog to remain on place command frequently.
It’s not that I hate these things, or that I don’t use them but there is a time and place for them – no pun intended, and many people completely misunderstand what anxiety is, why it is actually important to our survival even if it isn’t so necessary in the modern age and how to MOVE a dog through their stresses rather than putting a lid on it.
We can not remove our instincts but we can find structures that support a dog with a more sensitive nervous system, that perhaps has had a bit of trauma themselves that they need to heal from.
It is not so simple that google will give you the answer, that you find a vid on youtube you do a little bit of training and bam problem solved.
If you are dealing with a dog with anxious tendency, and remember over excitement can be just a mask over the top of anxiety there is a whole cocktail of things going on from brain impulses, muscle memory, hormones, survival mechanisms and social network strength are all coming into play and impacting on how your dog reacts let a lone the training side of things learning how to better move your dog through these processes.
To deal with all of that on your own IS exhausting, I have spoken to many owners who don’t realise just how much mental and physical energy they are spending on their dog just trying to manage that behaviour, to avoid triggers, plan out walks, put safety protocols into place, controlling and micromanaging and some have reached the point where they are so exhausted they have stopped doing much with their dog at all because despite how hard they try nothing really seems to work.
What if it could be different? If you spent less time and energy on managing your dog, if you could fix things at the core and have all that energy and work you have put in over the years be reserved for simply enjoying your dogs company, ridding yourself of that guilt and living the life you have always wanted to have with him.
We all tell ourselves stories, even me. You have a choice you can tell a story of why you can’t or you can tell a story of why you can, why you’re that badass that stepped up, kicked ass and gave your dog the freedom in life you know he deserves.