Window of tolerance
The window of tolerance is a very clever tool that a clinical professor of psychiatry, Dan Siegel established back in 1999. This window looks into how we as humans are described best in a state of arousal in which we can thrive and function, especially following trauma.
Of course because the window of tolerance is another tool that we can apply to further understand dog behaviour a model of a window of tolerance was researched with dogs to understand their ability to function and thrive and where this landed within the window and where dogs were placed for hypo and hyper arousal. Two very different states.
So in my last blog in the "Five Freedoms series - freedom to express normal behaviours. I mentioned thriving because I think this word and concept is massively underrated not only when applied to animal welfare but dog welfare.
I did write a blog a while back on" Yerkes - Dodson Law" which also looks at states of arousal and optimal learning and performance and looks at how dogs learn and what can prohibit them from learning. So I wanted to make an easy to understand tool for everyone. I won't lie, making the inverted U curve graph was hard work and on reflection probably not so easy to understand. But our dogs need to be within an optimal emotional state to be able to participate in training or behaviour modification and be able to communicate with us for any work we do with them to be effective. Here is the blog if anyone wants a refresher or go back to cross post.
Yerkes Dodson Law Blog https://www.facebook.com/100057373879884/posts/755132353075887/?sfnsn=mo
When we or a dog feels threatened or perceives a threat, because it's the individual who decides what is a threat, or have experienced trauma, our very clever brains send lots of communication signals throughout our body. So here is my super geeky blog on the dogs brain for further understanding of all of the functions in detail. Understanding Your dogs brain blog https://www.facebook.com/100057373879884/posts/670293268226463/?sfnsn=mo
In summary the automatic nervous system of the body sends signals which can communicate to a dog to enter into a state of fight, flight, submission or freeze . Also known as hyperarousal and hypoarousal. (1)
So when we talk about healing trauma in dogs, we are giving you the tools and the knowledge to let your dogs vagus nerve turn off, so your dog can truly enter a state of relaxation and feeling of safety. The vagus nerve does not also control emotional regulation but also the digestion communication for the dogs body too.
Entering into these states is to enter into a state of survival, the dog's brain is programmed very much like ours and when we are threatened we can enter into these different states to survive.
However, just like humans, dogs too can still be affected after the event. There are cognitive, emotional and physiological symptoms. We also refer to this as the "Emotional Bucket" which was taken from "How full is your bucket", written by Don Clifton and Tom Rath 2004. (Another human psychiatry model we took for the Animal learning world).
Here is a summary blog I wrote to fill you in with in depth detail should you wish to learn more: Your dogs emotional bucket blog https://www.facebook.com/100057373879884/posts/632791141976676/?sfnsn=mo
So when a dog feels threatened or experiences a trauma, you may see them sleep more than usual,they may also be lethargic, have very little motivation to move, exercise, enjoy enrichment, appear depressed, go off their food, seem listless or not themselves. They could be very jumpy, anxious and unable to settle comfortably, shut down or distressed.
Conversely you may find that they are high, boisterous, unable to calm, unable to engage, on constant alert, barking, lunging, humping and in a high state or fight or flight and hypervigilant. They can also be anxious, unable to rest and settle, growling, high risk of bite, piloerection, stiff body, dilated pupils, lead or barrier frustration and mouthing or chewing.
So to understand this we then look to the window of tolerance, we can see on the scale where the dog is and if they are in either category of hypoarousal or hyperarousal, we need to begin looking into ways to help them to heal that trauma and encourage the vagus nerve to rest.
When a dogs body enters into one of these states on either side of the thermometer, they can suffer physiologically and become unwell. We may not always see unwellness on the exterior, a lot of unwellness can and does occur internally and dogs are very good at hiding this.
You may find the "Emotional Bucket" blog helpful in understanding why 72 hours decompression is so important in embarking on the immediate healing journey for your dog, encouraging sleep and enrichment opportunities.
It is so important we help dogs to heal, not just for emotional regulation for a quieter life if they are in a state of hyperarousal or to essentially cheer them up if they are in a state of hypoarousal, but to let them heal inside and be in the optimal state biologically to thrive and not simply survive.
If you would like to monitor your dogs behaviour you may find journaling helpful, noting what is happening, when, how long for. To begin to break down the behaviour and identify the trigger. You may find this blog helpful and the journal sheets are free to download and print. https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=710183720904084&id=100057373879884&sfnsn=scwspmo
LeDoux, J. (2012) Rethinking the emotional brain, Neuron. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3625946/
Title: FEELINGS Thermometer for dogs and subtitle We need our dogs in the optimal zone to thrive.
A grey background infographic with a thermometer to the left hand side. The thermometer is blue at the bottom, green in the middle and orange on the top. There are 6 text boxes in colour code parallel to the thermometer. There are 3 Wolfdog cartoons on the thermometer. The blue zone has a cream and grey Wolfdog howling with the label hypoarousal in black text.
The Wolfdog on the green middle of the thermometer is a charcoal and cream Wolfdog on his back playing with a Kong toy. The label says optimal level.
The Wolfdog on the orange section of the thermometer is charcoal and cream, sat with a purple teddy in his mouth with the right ear chewed. The label in black text reads: hyperarousal.
The first text box parallel to the bottom of the thermometer is light blue in colour and in black text reads: Shut down, lethargic, possibly not eating, possibly suffering with depression and distressed.
The second text box parallel to the lower bottom of the thermometer is darker blue in colour and in white text reads: Fatigued, sleepy, little motivation to move, not really interested in exercising or enrichment.
The third text box parallel to the middle lower of the thermometer is light green in colour and in black text reads: Optimal level. Able to cope with stress effectively (eustress), optimal ability to learn and respond to cues,thriving!
The second text box parallel to the higher middle of the thermometer is darker green in colour and in white text reads: Able to be present and demonstrate curiosity, able to self regulate emotions, able to listen actively and engage.
The text box parallel to the bottom of the orange section of the thermometer is light orange in colour and in black text reads: Hypervigilant, high state of arousal, humping, lead or barrier frustration, mouthing, dilated pupils.
The first text box parallel to the top of the thermometer is dark orange in colour and in white text reads: In a state of fight or flight, lunging, barking, growling, high risk of bite, unable to engage, piloerection, stiff body.
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