Window of tolerance part two. Exploring the behaviour on a walk or a different environment.
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.
What I didn't explain in the first blog as my blogs always seem so long are the behaviours you may see on a walk or in a different environment, now I am exploring how you may see this behaviour in the context of a walk or in a different environment to home.
This is not individualised but generalised, in layman's terms for guardians. This is a broad idea rather than addressing each and every behaviour and challenge as we would be here for weeks.
We and dogs both experience emotions to ultimately keep us safe, they keep us alive and keep our instincts sharp. Dogs can experience many emotions interchangeably just as we do.
Dog body language and emotions can be widely misunderstood. Dog refusing to walk any further on a walk? A cute social media viral video or an annoyance for the guardian? Or is it actually a sign that the dog is unwell, in pain, fearful, in a freeze or fawn state?
Is the dog frozen because they are trying to be difficult? Have they just showed their belly because they want a belly rub? No, this is called fawning. So the viral video of the Golden Retriever guardian attempting to pull him along on his back with his belly exposed is not actually funny, but really sad.
Those of you versed with behavioural consults will know that this guardian should be seeking a Veterinary consult and a behaviour consult to explore why the behaviour occurred and what was happening in the environment to cause this behaviour.
Every single dog is an individual and I can't stress this enough. Some dogs maybe found to be mostly in an hyperarousal state and you may see: lunging, barking, snarling, piloerection and the other behaviours in the chart below. But you may also see a freeze and a possible stalk or a freeze into lunging, fighting the lead, spinning, showing extreme distress because they are so frightened.
A frightened dog isn't necessarily attempting to hide, but attempting to make the scary thing go away! This is hyperarousal and a state where the dog is extremely high, they act impulsively and lack self control, they maybe teeth chattering (a common behaviour described by guardians), dilated pupils and not noticeable by the guardian but a heightened heart and respiration rate, they can't listen to what you are asking of them.
They are barking at every passerby now, they could be repeatedly shaking, spinning, heavily panting, showing whale eyes and pulling as hard as they can. You may find at home that they are also hypervigilant and unable to rest properly and every little sound can cause a reaction.
Then there are dogs who may freeze, fawn or be giddy and moving backwards, going forwards and so on and licking the face of the other dog quite feverishly to engage in play and show the other dog that they are not a threat.
This is why I say every single dog is an individual and we cannot simply say this behaviour means this, because just like us behaviours are so intricate and broad at the same time.
In a state of hypoarousal you may also see freezing, fawning, where they roll on their back and expose their belly or they are trying to hide in an attempt to be as small as possible. They maybe showing displacement behaviours of scratching and sniffing the ground and avoiding eye contact with the other dog or person.
Trying to escape entering into flight rather than fight and I sincerely hope you have never had to witness this but the awful scream some dogs emit when they are feeling that their fear is just not being respected. Lip licking, yawning, whale eye, stiff body, tail tucked, crawling along the floor, trembling and very jumpy in their movements.
However, all dogs are individuals and because emotions change so intermittently and the autonomic nervous system is so complex they can fluctuate between arousals. They may show shaking, barking, screaming, teeth chattering, tucked tail, low tail, crouching to the floor, fawning, growling, snarling, grimacing, cowering, pulling to the end of the lead, attempts to flee and more all whilst on the lead! There are just too many behaviours to name them all.
So with this in mind it is really important to understand your dog as an individual and become accustomed to their behaviours on walks and behaviours at home, especially following times of stress.
I am purposely not using clinical terms as this is designed for guardians, but you may want to seek a behaviour consult to fully understand your dog. The behaviourist can look at more than just your dog behaviour, but pain and unwellness, the environment (not just home), routine, a full history, experiences, behaviours that concern you or perhaps you aren't aware of behaviour to be concerned about. Having a behaviour consult compiled can be so helpful to fully understand your dog!
I will link back to the original Window of tolerance blog and dogs emotional state and how to support them effectively which signposts to the Emotional Bucket blog and specifically how the dog brain works, so you can get a true understanding by cross referencing in your own time https://www.facebook.com/100057373879884/posts/853950979860690/?sfnsn=mo
The new model below is one based on the "Circumplex model of emotions" by a neuroscientist called James Russell. He wanted to show how emotions are related. His model is related to humans whereas I have adapted this to apply to dogs. (1)
The framework categorises emotions into a circular structure (on the original) based on two primary dimensions: valence (how positive or negative an emotion is) and arousal (how calm or aroused an emotion is). The model proposes that emotions can be plotted on this circumplex space, creating a two-dimensional representation of emotional experiences.
In the Circumplex model, emotions are placed around the circle based on their position along these two dimensions. For example, emotions such as happiness and excitement would be located in the upper right quadrant of the circle, indicating high positive valence and high arousal. On the other hand, emotions like sadness and relaxation would be found in the lower left quadrant, indicating negative valence and low arousal.
When it comes to dog emotions, the Circumplex model is a useful framework to understand and interpret their emotional experiences. Dogs, like humans, experience a range of emotions, including happiness, fear, sadness, and contentment. By applying the Circumplex model, we can assess the valence and arousal levels of these emotions in dogs.
For example, when a dog is excited to see you, their guardian or play with a toy, their emotions would be located in the upper right quadrant of the circumplex, indicating positive valence and high arousal. Conversely, if a dog is fearful or anxious, their emotions would be located in the lower left quadrant, indicating negative valence and potentially high or low arousal depending on the situation.
Understanding the emotional experiences of dogs through the Circumplex model can help us better interpret their behaviours, reactions, and needs. It allows us to recognize when a dog is experiencing positive or negative emotions and adjust our interactions or environments accordingly. By using this model, we can enhance our understanding of dogs' emotional well-being and promote their happiness and satisfaction.
This is where a behaviour consult comes in, as sometimes being in the situation you cannot remove your own emotions and think of this in a clinical way and understanding that the dog isn't being bad or difficult but experiencing a range of complicated and intertwining emotions due to their environment and other factors that we study and breakdown to learn how to best support your dog.
In the next and final blog of the "Window of tolerance" I will explore generalised ways we can address these behaviours and work with these emotions and set up effective communication with our dog where we feedback to them we are listening and ready to help them.
POSNER, J., RUSSELL, J.A. and PETERSON, B.S. (2005) ‘The Circumplex model of affect: An integrative approach to Affective Neuroscience, Cognitive Development, and psychopathology’, Development and Psychopathology, 17(03). doi:10.1017/s0954579405050340.
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