I wanted discuss more about fear and how this emotion can help us move through training blocks with our dogs and how it can also lock training blocks in place. Mainly I run into the fear the most frequently when a dog has a strong behavior issue where the owner is afraid of someone getting hurt or is afraid of embarrassment. Of course there are more situations.
How do we feed into our dog’s behavior with their fears? Our bodies condition themselves and are good at predicting what will happen in a particular situation especially if it is based on numerous past events. For example, if your dog reacts at other dogs when you are walking your dog when you see another dog approaching your body may get tense and your mind may think some thoughts such as “Oh know here we go again!” Your dog may develop a behavior issue disregarding your actions, however our emotions can lock these behaviors in place. If you are constantly feeling fear every time a dog approaches then your dog begins to realize that you get scared when a dog approaches! “Wow” your dog thinks, “This must be a scary situation then!” You are reassuring him that his fear is of value.
What are some ways to believe in our dogs and be safe at the same time? Neuro-Lingustic Programming (NLP) can help wonders for fear. This is a technique when a new neuropathway is developed in the owners brain by creating a new emotional response in a situation. One great way to move through this is visualization. Not just any visualization but Deep Deep visualization. I will walk you through a process right now and if are you able after you read this, do it 🙂 Get in a comfortable quiet place and be standing or sitting whichever feels best for you. Close your eyes or look at a pretend screen. Disassociate from this scene so that you don’t become physically involved in the scene. Look at the situation or issue you are having with your dog. Examine yourself. What does your dog body feel like. Scan your entire body and take in all of the areas of tension and all of the areas of relaxation. Really examine your whole body: Your forehead, lips, eyes, neck, shoulders, entire back, etc. When you get a clear picture of what your body feels like, look at the actions you are doing. What are you saying? What motions are you doing? What is your body overtly communicating? Now look at your dog. What is your dog doing? What is his body saying? What motions are your dog doing? Okay add any other senses that you may want (smell, taste, auditory, etc.). Look at the scene and ask yourself “How could I create something different? I wonder how I could create a different response that might be more productive.” Note any messages that you get. When you feel complete step away from this spot and shake your body to move out these emotions. If you feel something big coming up fully feel your sadness, anger, fear etc (Sometimes people cry. This is okay if you do.). Breath deep as well to let them pass through your body.
Okay now for the fun part! Create a new scene. This one is best to do with your eyes closed or in a way that you feel fully part of the scene 🙂 Now take the answer to the above question “How could I create something different?” and visualize these answers in the new scene. Fully take in how your body feels different. Scan your entire body. What are you doing differently? What are you saying differently? How is your dog reacting differently? Take in all of your senses auditory, taste, smell, all of the colors, sights, feelings….etc. Take the scene fully in. When you feel complete with this move to a week a from now and notice the differences that you see in your life and your dog’ life. Now move to a month from now…then a year…then two years…then 5 years…then 10 years…etc. Go so far into the future that you can see, hear and feel all of the changes that are occurring as a result of these different response you have in your body, mind and spirit 🙂 Awesome!! You are complete with the process.
For some people there is a drastic shift from this process and for others a minor shift. Other people may not experience anything different. Embrace any results. Know that you can repeat this process many times over a period of months and each time you will learn something new.
Love and Light!
Johanna Teresi, Professional Dog Trainer of Four Legged Scholars LLC