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Are You Really Listening to What Your Dog is Trying to Tell You?

So what's the big deal about being heard, and what does it have to do with dogs, our bond with them, and their behaviour?

Lately, it has become clear that all of the modalities I have chosen for working with dogs have the common denominator of the dog being heard.

If you think about how you feel when something is bothering you, and no one seems to quite hear you, you can get a sense for how significant this is.

For example, you might be upset about something in your relationships, something that you need deeply in order to be content. But your partner/friend/relative cannot quite hear what you are saying, either because they don't have the tools to listen at this level, or because they cannot see through their own filter, or any number of reasons.

Or maybe you are having a physical issue, and the doctor is not hearing what you know about your own body?

So, what happens to us humans when we are feeling misunderstood, or unheard? We might have a tendency to feel afraid, or lonely, or angry, and eventually, even desperate to get the message across. This can begin to permeate other areas of our lives that have no other obvious relevance to the issue with which we aren't feeling heard.

How do you think you would feel when someone finally gets it? For me, I know that finally feeling heard, and thus, acknowledged, somehow magically melts away the intensity of emotion that has collected, and has the ripple effect of diffusing the resulting behaviors, feelings, and frustrations. Just like that, I feel at least 50% better simply from feeling heard, with nothing else changing- and this is true even if the person is not willing or able to help me with whatever the actual concern happens to be.

Imagine how this process feels to your dog. Your dog may be barking, pacing, jumping up, lunging at other dogs, protecting his toys, pulling on the leash, chewing your things, etc.

In human language, we often refer to these as "problem behaviors". However, all behavior is communication, and every one of them is nothing more than an attempt at being heard. The severity of the "problem behavior" is proportional to the intensity the dog feels the need to be heard.

So, first of all, if you have read this far, you are a great partner for your dog, and are interested in being the one who "hears" him!

So how do you "hear" your dog? The simplest explanation for this that I know is that you are simply "willing" to hear his perspective without any need to change it or fix it. This does not mean you have to be telepathic, or even to know what they are saying/feeling- just that you are willing to be present and consider their perspective.

The techniques and thought processes I love are teaching me skills to facilitate the listening. They all have this in common, yet each uses it's own tools to facilitate the process in both the dog and the human. They all ask the question, "how may I assist you?".

Tellington Ttouch has this willingness at it's core. Above and beyond the touches, equipment, wraps, etc is the intention to hear our dog's needs and desires- the willingness to see them in all of their perfection. We watch their bodies for predictable, known signs that they are experiencing release. We only move forward when we see that they are willing. If they are saying no, we listen and go back to seeing the perfection.

Looking at our dogs as emotional beings with a tremendous force of flowing energy, as feeling rather than thinking beings, gives us another powerful opportunity to listen to and understand dogs. In this thought process, behaviors are simply energy that needs to be grounded and expressed. When we see behaviors in this way, we can assist by allowing space for this energy to flow freely. We also recognize that dogs mirror us emotionally, so we listen to them and ask ourselves if they are acting out or showing us something about ourselves that we may not be aware of.

Applied Zoopharmacognosy is wholly about hearing the dog. By creating a space for, and fully knowing that our place is as facilitator only (we provide the substances since they don't have access to many them in nature), and that animals know exactly what they need and how much, we can hear them in the most integral way. By doing this, we provide them the opportunity to satisfy anything they need, whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual. How could one possibly hear any more intimately!

Having a partnership mindset allows us to collaborate with our dogs to create the life we want to share with them. Dogs are socially intelligent beings and learn from what we do, how we are, and from our underlying intent, particularly when it comes to behavior and how to live in our individual family units. Positive, rewards based training is absolutely effective, necessary, and fun for teaching specific skills a dog might need to fully engage in the activities, sports, and be safe while doing so. Listening is at the heart of this process as well. We try something, watch for response, adjust how we are trying if needed, and try again. The dog always has a choice and when we hear a "no" or a "this is uncomfortable", we find another way or look deeper to understand what our dog needs. We ask, "how may I assist you?".

Lastly, all of these modalities teach me that my dog is also trying to assist me. Our dogs want us to thrive. They want us to recognize our true nature. They want us to live authentically. And they absolutely know when we are not doing these things. And often, their angst is related to us not "hearing" them trying to help us! So each of these modalities has it's own unique way of challenging me to look within and take care of my side of the street. By hearing myself, I am also honouring and hearing them in a most satisfying way.

The simple act of listening can resolve or mitigate a multitude of issues. At the very least, it is the first and continuing step to creating trust and giving us information that allows us to assist any animal or human with having a satisfying, productive life.


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