Wagasana, greeting the day
with gratefulness and curiosity!
Have you had a doga moment today?
Dogs are translators of what is going on between you and them!
Everyone has stress! How we deal with it makes a difference. Let’s peek at some of the risk factors for stress-related illnesses for humans and dogs: personal, interpersonal and social variables that include lack or loss of control over one's physical environment, mental wellness, and social support networks. In other words, “AHHHHHHHH, I need a brain break.”
Consider shelter dogs, multi-dog house holds, dogs living in abusive environments - oftentimes along-side children.
People who are dependent on others (e.g., children, elderly, pets) or who are socially disadvantaged (race, gender, finances, education) are at greater risk of developing stress-related illnesses. Other risk factors include feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, extreme fear or anger, long term depression, cynicism or distrust of others. Life and the environment are powerful stress pitchers. Stress clustered over long periods of time can cause physical and psychological disease.
A little stress is healthy. It pushes our goals. Clustered and continued stress for people or dogs, creates injury, illness and eventual breakdown. The only safe place to go is within. Some shelter dogs or dogs who live in abusive households can become catatonic (shut-down or learned helplessness), fearful or aggressive (coping mechanisms).
Instead of enjoying life and our dogs, we begin to feel controlled by it. Instead of riding the waves, we are drowned by them. Trying to train a dog in a high state of stress, is like shoveling sand against the waves.
As a behavior and wellness counselor, pet-assisted therapist, author and dog-training-coach for many years, it makes sense to me that integrating this intentional concept of mindful living into training could only enhance our relationships with our dogs and others. I have discovered it works for even the most resistant or results-oriented go-getters. It is not a magic bullet. It requires thinking in a new way (a new normal). Focused awareness and attention, strategy and flexibility, work well together. This can transition into career, family and other relationships.
If we are parachuted into a foreign country without a guide book, communication becomes a challenge and scary. Dogs who are launched into human households at about 8-weeks of age, oftentimes are morphed into humans by family members. Dogs are a species of their own (Canis Lupis Familiaris). It is wise for us to remember this because in the big picture of training, relationship and enjoying our dogs, teaching them how to "be" in a human home becomes easier.
When practicing with dogs, we are clearing the mind of clutter and preconceived stories about how it should go. We can focus on the moment, where dogs live and learn. Dogs are naturally seekers. Observe them sniffing, digging, exploring and playing with each other, then with humans. They absolutely have emotions and associations, who are experts in reading body language.
Dogs are strongly instinctive. We are intuitive (or can be). Together, we are amazing.
On the physical level, yoga postures, called asana's, are designed to tone, strengthen, balance, align the body and create flexibility. These postures are performed to make the spine supple and healthy, and to promote blood flow to all the organs, glands, and tissues, keeping the bodily systems healthy.
Observe dogs when they awaken.They stretch, yawn, arise and play bow. My dogs surround me, nudging me to face the world. The Border Terrier stands over me, staring, while drips of nose juice fall on my face. Being individuals, some dogs are energetic while others ease their way into the moment.
On the mental level, yoga uses breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation (dyana) to quiet, clarify, and focus the mind (picture a gentle wind blowing the dust off of the brain and out of the body). Dogs use big long exhales to relieve stress too. They yawn to calm others and themselves (On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals, Turid Rugaas). As humans, we make mistakes. So do dogs! Together, we get to learn from them. How exciting!
Mentally, dogs live in the present moment relying more on instinct then on intuition. We can use our intuition with the dog's instinct to discover new ways of communicating that can transition to all areas of our lives (career, socially, family and friends).
Watching dogs as they find wonder in the smallest thing like sniffing - gives pleasure! Dogs taught to wait patiently (sit) for food is like us sitting in traffic. You can’t change the situation at a red light. With practice and patience, you can change how your dog approaches you ... with a sit.
How does stress affect our relationship and teaching our dogs? Do we know when enough is enough? We expect dogs too.
Stress is defined as an organism's total response to environmental demands or pressures. Today, this is illuminated in Techni color on large screens, Internet and social media.
Dogs do a lot for humans and the biggest population lives with families. In comparison, dogs need very little (life rewards like food, shelter, play, love). Oftentimes, our overstressed lives, wants, desires and needs reflect upon our dogs. How many toys to do they need? What are our expectations for competition, companionship or therapist?
Have you ever been in a position where you were so tired, confused or scared that you either over-reacted or did nothing at all? Have you raged at anyone, or agreed like a bobbing head, even though in your heart you disagree, or know its wrong? Have it been because you lack the energy so avoid the conflict by being a bobbing Betty?
A dog's symptom response to stressors is similar to ours, but they may show it in different ways. We need to learn to recognize the difference cues our dogs give us (body language, vocalization, well-being). Is it really destruction, aggression, fear or submission? Is it about drives (fight / fight / freeze / appease) or shutting down? Sound familiar? Oftentimes, what dogs do is in response to their need for survival, just like us. They react, respond or zone out!
Consider this for dogs who have to learn how to live in our stressful and emotional world.
Stress in humans results from interactions between persons and their environment that are perceived as straining or exceeding their adaptive capacities and threatening their well-being. The element of perception indicates that human stress responses reflect differences in personality, as well as differences in physical strength or general health.
Amazingly, dogs can teach us how to chill-out, live more calmly,
and recognize when our "stress-meter" is in the red zone,
by observing our relationship with them! Take a deep breath exhale.
Take a Doga (brain) breaks everyday, for 5-10 minutes to rejuvenate and re-energize your, and your dogs, mind and body.
Integrating massage, stretch, breathing and relaxation into desensitization (home) and training for dogs is mutually beneficial on many levels. Training / learning does not start and stop for us or our dogs. Embrace what works well for you and your dogs and integrate it daily.
Enjoy the evolving journey and paradigm shift (movement to new thinking) living and learning with dogs. It can be joyful or painful as is every second of life. It can change in a blink. Dogs respond to changes in us (good, bad, funny sad) with their own responses / reactions (lethargy, boredom, destruction, barking, chewing, jumping.)
Join me in your own unique way to make a difference for dog's well-being by mindfully living and learning with your dogs.
A dog's life is short. Living fully and being the best we can be, at whatever it is we choose to do, is a precious gift.
Power and choice is in the present moment ... No where else.
Sharing your stories about our how dogs have changed your life can have a pawsitive trickling effect on someone else!
You cannot change anyone's behavior before you change your own. ~Maureen Ross
We must be the change we want to see in the world. ~Mahatma Gandhi
Doga for Well-Being
Doga and Stress