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Sunday, March 30, 2014

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Dog Psychology 101 – The Real Thing

Dog Psychology 101 – The Real Thing

Being Consciously Aware is Essential

I see and hear the term ‘dog psychology’ used everywhere – on dog trainers’ and behaviorists’ websites, on the professional group discussion boards I participate in. The word ‘psychology’ has become a trap, a catch-all, a regurgitation of misconceptions.

Thought Streaming on Auto Pilot
Most of us move through our typical day surrounded and consequently flooded by visual and audio stimulation while our thoughts flow by on auto-pilot. We have a habit of forgetting to connect back to ourselves to make deliberate, conscious choices about how we direct our thoughts and our communication.
For most of us our default state is an emotive-reactive state where we forget to be truly observant or present. We are in a state were logic is absent and omission is enabled – meaning we do not consciously see, feel, sense many of the details that surround us. This is also how most of us communicate.

When Auto Pilot Works Well
Auto-pilot is advantageous when it includes the habit of being aware, alert, observant – this is a healthy state of normal.
When auto-pilot is comprised of unconscious stream of thought and reactivity you become just what you don’t want your dog to be – inattentive, unfocused, flooded and reactive. An undesirable state of normal.

We Place Ourselves at a Disadvantage That Negatively Impacts Ourselves and Our Dogs
Dogs are, in general more connected with their senses. Dogs are much more adept and insightful communicators as they are more in-touch with their natural kit of communication tools. In addition, some dogs have heightened sensitivity – an attribute that is a real advantage when understood and properly utilized, and a dis-advantage when not recognized and not understood.

Expanding Out and Away From Our Man-Made Limitations
Our disconnected out-of-touch, and unobservant default state is further enabled by our cultural beliefs as humans – i.e. dogs cannot express emotions as humans do. Dogs have less value as beings than humans do, etc.

We Need to Acknowledge There is More
Dogs have a full range of emotions, they also have the muscular facial structure to express those emotions -  dogs do smile. Dogs feel and express joy, surprise, sadness, grief, and everything in between.  Dogs have empathy. Dogs react to stimuli much like we humans do – based on nature and nurture. Each individual (whether canine or human) has a unique combination of inherited traits, and  acquired traits shaped by environmental influences. These help to determine how we react and adjust to various situations.
Dogs form habits and associations to situations much like humans do – changing habits and associations in dogs and humans requires a similar approach.

Training for Us – The Road to Positive Change
While a dog needs some support to change his/her habits the dog is already a good communicator. We need the training to better our communication skills, our awareness, our insight in order to support conscious observation. This is how we change our default state and by so doing gain the opportunity to provide true, logical and consistent leadership to ourselves and to others.

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