Let’s take a closer look at those stress buckets. Buckets are simple things. To change how much a bucket can hold you either get a bigger bucket, or poke a bigger hole in the bottom. As a professional dog trainer it’s my job to know which will most help your dog. First, I determine how long it actually takes your dog to relax after one of the those overflow events.
Does he ever relax? Hmmm. That’s a clue, one that tells me your dog needs Calmness more than anything else in his life right now. Or ...
It might be that your dog has a tiny bucket with a huge hole. These are the dogs that when something happens, they overreact and by the time you catch your breath, the dog is chilled out. Stress went in and instantly left. Tiny bucket. Huge Hole.
More often, it’s the bucket that needs to grow. These are the stressed out and continually overreacting dogs. There’s simply no room in that teeny tiny bucket. Stress goes in and bounces right back out the top. Life is messy. Things happen. Good and bad things. These dogs need a bigger bucket to hold the normal stress of life. They need a Bigger Bucket.
Some dogs can't avoid daily stress. The easiest of these dogs to visualize are the dogs that live with small children or other pets. Their bucket may be huge, but the hole is painfully small. By choosing the right Games, we can bore out that hole to make it bigger allowing all that stress to flow out at a faster pace thus giving your dog a way to deal with everday life. They need a Bigger Hole.
As smart dog owners, we have control over both the size of the bucket and the hole at the bottom. Just knowing that helps, doesn’t it? But wait. There's more we can do.
We also have control over how much goes into the bucket. You’re the human. You make most of the decisions about what your dog does throughout the day. Remember that everything that happens is adding to the bucket. So what would happen if we reduced the number of things the dog is exposed to? The bucket wouldn’t fill as fast, right? Less In = Less Stress.
When we consider this part of the bucket, we can, by managing our dog's day differently match the hole in the bottom to what goes in at the top. Effectively, the bucket level stays constant while the dogs metabolism processes the stress at a constant rate. Stress In = Stress Out.
Let’s look at that in a real life situation many of you can relate to. Let’s say you have a toddler. When the baby first came home, the baby wasn’t a bucket filling machine, but not that she’s walking, oh boy, stress is pouring into your dog’s bucket like a lucky slot machine at Vegas. At this point, your dog needs a break. As little as half an hour in a quiet room can do wonders.
To be clear, I am NOT talking about banishing the dog to the back room. Just 30 minutes in the other room to allow the stress level to stabilize while your toddler crashes about the living room can help. It's not a cure, but it helps when you're in the moment.
Lots of Stress In = Higher Potential for Overflow.
For your dog to reach his full potential, he needs real life skills. To get there, we make adjustments to all 3 aspects of the bucket. Size, Hole, and Input. Getting started is as simple as making a single change.
Keep reading for Step Number 1 toward helping your dog find Calmness.
This is where RosyDogs training loops back to Quiet Time at the shelter. It’s time away from all the stress surrounding the dog. It’s permission to relax and let go. It’s guided chill time. Needed chill time. At the shelter, we work to provide a few minutes of relaxation, but as a professional dog trainer with advanced knowledge of how stress affects dogs, I know how to help your dog get there faster and to reach a deeper level of relaxation while reshaping his brain to naturally understand how to get there on his own in the future.
Dogs don’t always recognize that they need distance from a stressful situation. At first, your stressed dog will need your guidance just like the shelter dogs, and once he understands, he will start to crave it. He knows that he needs it, and he will find a calm place to be when toddler takes center stage. It takes practice and skill AND it’s very doable for every dog.
Here’s your next FREE STRATEGY, and it’s one you can employ while watching a movie. Massage.
Where does your dog like to be rubbed. How much pressure? What speed seems to calm him? The key is to keep pressure and speed just under the level that excites your dog while you gradually slow the speed of your movement. Perhaps most importantly, don’t forget to breathe.
Slowing your breath like you would during yoga or meditation really helps. Your energy feeds the dog. Keep your energy slightly lower, and the dog is likely to follow you down into calmness. It can be difficult in the moment, but I use it all the time with shelter dogs, and I train new volunteers to use their energy in the same way. Think of it as reading a bedtime story to a young child. Your energy may be up and engaging at first, but as the pages turn, you soften and slow.
If you’re having trouble finding the right technique, pop me an email. Let’s get this right and the calmness that follows will come easier.
Working with and ultimately changing the bucket helps dogs live a healthier and happier life. It also keeps you and your family sane. Dogs that rarely find Calmness are difficult to live with, but know that your dog can learn to love relaxation.
Put simply, this is why I take the time to explain calmness in this blog series. At RosyDogs I work to keep dogs in loving homes where they belong. Here’s to massage. A rewarding way to stay together.
The Calmness Story continues tomorrow.
Rebecca Porter has been fascinated by dogs for decades, but it took a frantic mixed breed to send her on a journey into innovative and real life solutions in dog training.