Self love, you and your dog
Did you know humans have emotional buckets too? It's easy to become so focused on dogs sometimes it isn't always realised we get a lot of our material from human psychology. The concept was originally designed by Brabban and Turkington (2002).
Our buckets fill all of the time and sometimes more than others and that's totally OK. Sometimes recognising that you have an emotional bucket can begin to help you with initiating self care and a healing journey for yourself.
You can download your very own emotional bucket here https://mentalhealth-uk.org/blog/the-stress-bucket/
Lots of people struggle with a secure emotional connection with their dog or puppy, especially in the first days and weeks and during adolescence or when adopting a dog.
Feelings of frustration and annoyance towards the puppy or dog are big indicators of this, from barking, separation anxiety vocalisations, nervous behaviours, mouthing, not wanting to be friends with every dog they meet, showing nervous behaviours indoors and outdoors or not being able to cope with visitors, toileting, the list goes on and on.
This isn't a criticism post, this is for people who want to feel connected to their dog or puppy and just don't feel it, this is the first step in acknowledging help is needed, gently explaining a lack of connection to people who aren't ready to hear it is much harder and not what this post is about.
People can feel disconnected for lots of reasons, grief for a past dog, the puppy blues (which I'm obsessed with raising awareness with), anxiety, depression, life frustrations, work problems, problems at home or with family, not feeling good enough or feeling lost.
Alternatively there can be far too high expectations or not realising that many behaviours that the guardian doesn't like stems from a lack of a secure emotional connection even when all of the five freedoms are met under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 (UK law).
So how can you reduce these feelings and work on a secure emotional connection? First of all you need to heal yourself and show yourself some self love.
You may not feel that you deserve it, but you do. Set time aside for yourself, remember if your puppy or dog seems to be connected to someone else in the home, the dog walker or trainer/behaviourist don't worry or focus on this. Focus on you and your healing and self care, then the emotional connection will come. You maybe healing from a personal trauma and need to work through the process of healing to securely connect.
Going through a trauma is exhausting and you may feel deflated, alone, unmotivated, tired and emotional and that's OK! Trauma exhausts the body mentally and physically and guess what dogs and puppies also need sleep for their cognitive functioning and for their mental and physical wellness, so if you find your sleeping a lot, don't worry, even if your puppy or dog isn't right by your side on the sofa or bed and they are sleeping on the floor it isn't a problem.
You don't always have to be doing things with your puppy or dog to begin securing an emotional connection with them, there isn't enough emphasis placed on the value of sleep for puppies and dogs.
If you need to exercise and start becoming active little bursts of playing tug or fun scent games can be a huge pleasure for both you and your dog or puppy. Scentwork Foundations https://youtu.be/D_0Fn_VtRXE
Tug foundations https://youtu.be/jzawF6AA5FA
Going for a walk for your mental health and your dog or puppy, make it about sniffafaris, your getting fresh air, their getting mental stimulation and your doing another interactive activity https://youtu.be/OFf7kaFKp7w
You formally have permission to remove all of the pressure, pressure of training, pressure of walks focused on walking to heel (because that doesn't meet yours or your dogs needs at all) , pressure of what others are thinking. When we do begin to process our emotions a lot of it can come down to what others think, especially with our dogs.
Who cares what others think, it's about you and your dog or puppy, focus on your own well being, needs and mental health and that of your dog or puppy.
Enjoy them for their personality and who they are, enjoy you for your personality and who you are. Ditch formal training and play games like pattern games, https://youtu.be/PrKaYbx9daM.
Focus on some home made enrichment, you're making something which gives you a sense of achievement and you've made your dog or puppy something too, win, win! https://youtu.be/g9tY6cVwd5w
Destruction boxes https://youtu.be/lwoNhx-2m1g
Or spring is here, build an enrichment garden! https://youtu.be/JwUfqJXTCO8
Sensory enrichment with plants https://youtube.com/shorts/-VxBoY10jCU?feature=share
Dig pit https://youtu.be/Yvt8C1UHc98
Remember that you need to focus on self love and enhancing your relationship with your dog or puppy begins with you taking care of you and don't bother with what others think, your relationship with your dog or puppy is yours, not theirs and your journey will not look the same as anyone else's. But if you follow the above and take one day at a time, your relationship will be so much more beautiful than theirs!
Brabban, A. & Turkington, D. (2002) The Search for Meaning: detecting congruence between life events, underlying schema and psychotic symptoms. In A.P. Morrison (Ed) A Casebook of Cognitive Therapy for Psychosis (chap 5, p59-75).
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