It fascinates me how dogs are perceived regarding their moods, emotions and needs. Many people assume they do not have good and bad days, as we do; that they are emotionally incapable of needing varying levels of support depending on what is happening around them.
Clients often comment that they don’t know why he is worse in his fear or behaviour one day when nothing seems to have happened. When asked what happened yesterday, and I explain about cortisol levels or the side effects from a long walk etc. often a light bulb comes one. Dogs, like humans, can be happy one day, feel off colour or sore the next, and be anxious on another. Some days they want to sleep more, other days use their brains and at times, just want to be left to do doggy things like sniffing the lamppost to pick up their pee-mail.
I love interpreting what my dog needs day by day, it is different from one to the next. He is an active, intelligent, an anxious dog if with some health issues, which makes for varying needs depending on so many factors. I watch to see how he is feeling and structure his daily activities around my observations. As I say he is very intelligent but being a lurcher he is also up for some fast exercise too.
His day might start with a 2 – 3 mile run with my husband or a walk if either is tired or sore. He generally sleeps for a few hours after breakfast but if after his meal he is still hanging around and leaning on me, I know he is feeling tight in his muscles after the run and needs a massage. That duly administered, he will happily sleep until lunchtime.
Depending on his energy levels he might then feel like some more running around, playing ball or flirt stick work in the garden or if he’s not up for that we do fun scent work or trick training, with a bit of obedience training mixed in. Afternoons are for walking and I vary the location depending on his cortisol levels and to give him more interest with new sights and smells. If he is in a good place emotionally we might go out for a training walk where we can watch other dogs and people and get rewarded for calm behaviour. If he isn’t in a good place we go on a quiet sniffy walk or to a nearby empty field I know and do fun stuff like finding treats in the grass, but occasionally all he wants to do is stop, lean against me and have some Tellington TTouchbodywork to help balance his mood and release tension from his body.
Mostly after the walk and his dinner he is done for the day, we know we have met all his physical and emotional needs if by 6pm he is upside down on the sofa snoring and dreaming away. We give each other a high five, we have satisfied his wants and needs, worn him out physically and mentally and helped him feel safe and loved. If we don’t have an upside-down dog, we review what is needed and do what is necessary and before long our calm and happy, sleepy canine appears.
The point to remember is our dogs are all individual.
As well as varying personalities and levels of energy, your dog is a sentinel being capable of requiring adequate mental and physical stimulation for his age and intelligence but he also needs us to take into consideration his emotional requirements. He is allowed to have a bad day, a duvet day or to feel under the weather just like us.
Try to look at him every morning and ask, what do you need from me and how can I help make today good for you?
Toni Shelbourne has worked with domesticated and wild canids since 1989. After a long and successful career with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, she started her own business as a Tellington TTouch Companion Animal Practitioner. She is now one of the highest qualified Practitioners in the UK. In 2001 her skills in TTouch took Toni to the UK Wolf Conservation Trust were she meet a pack of socialised wolves. She went on to work with them for over a decade as a Senior Wolf Handler and Education Officer for the organisation. Through observing the wolves she has a unique insight into their behaviour. This led to her questioning the ingrained ideas about the alpha theory with dogs, ideas that were often in conflict with her own knowledge and observations. Today she advises wolf organisations and zoos on wolf behaviour and management. She teaches all over the UK and abroad, works with clients’ one to one, writes and runs workshops.
Over the last decade, Toni has been developing her writing. She spent two years editing and writing features for Wolf Print, the UK Wolf Conservation Trust’s international magazine. She went on to write for national dog magazines, rescue society newsletters and websites. Her first and second book, The Truth about Wolves & Dogs, (Hubble and Hattie 2012) and Among the Wolves (Hubble and Hattie 2015) have been a great success. Her latest writing collaboration with author Karen Bush sees a series of books entitled Help… My Dog is. The first, Help…My Dog is Scared of Fireworks is available as an eBook or in paperback format and is an essential guide for the owners of noise phobic dogs. More titles are planned.
Visit www.tonishelbourne.co.uk for more details about Toni, TTouch and her books.
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