We often find ourselves caught in a frustrating cycle of temporary fixes and unsustainable practices that don’t lead to lasting, sustainable results.
So, what's the key to success in both trying to lose excess weight and trying to resolve our dog's challenging behaviour?
A great example of this for me, has been my attempts to lose weight over the years. A new eating regime or diet will come along, I’ll give it a try, lose a bit of weight, stop the diet, and much to my dismay the weight gradually (or sometimes quickly) seems to pile back on again! This pattern is sometimes referred to as yo-yo dieting or weight-cycling, and is not only in-effective, but can also do some damage to our body in the long-term, with all the constant disruptions and changes in metabolism.
However, I recently started a ‘healthy lifestyle’ programme which was not only aimed at alleviating the Menopause and postmenopausal symptoms (of which weight gain is one of these), but also looking at supporting the general aging process that women begin to experience with the onset of menopause.
This programme includes an easy to follow, healthy eating plan aimed at gently detoxing the liver and alleviating inflammation in the body, and there are also modules that focus on education around heart health, re-programming sleep patterns, the correct amount and type of physical exercise, mindfulness techniques and practices to reduce overall stress, as well as mindset coaching for taking inspired action and creating new healthy lifestyle habits. It’s been so refreshing! I have steadily and effortlessly dropped a few kilos, I’m feeling more energized, sleeping better and symptoms like night sweats and knee pain have reduced drastically. But, the most valuable thing I have gained from this programme is that this new way of eating and taking care of myself feels so good, it’s easy to continue! In just 4 months my daily routines have changed, and I have no reason (or desire) to go back to the ‘old’ way of eating and taking care of my body.
So why am I sharing this with you?
Well, it dawned on me there are parallels between weight loss diets and trying to fix our dog’s behaviour through a variety of training techniques and protocols. Both offer short-term results, but they rarely lead to long-lasting positive change.
So, in this blog post, we will explore some of the parallels emphasizing the importance of embracing a holistic lifestyle approach to achieve lasting and sustainable outcomes.
1. Embracing a Healthy Lifestyle
Just as achieving long-lasting weight loss requires a commitment to a healthy lifestyle, resolving behavior issues in dogs necessitates adopting a new lifestyle approach. In both cases, temporary solutions are unlikely to bring about lasting change. Instead, we should focus on developing healthy habits and making daily choices that support overall well-being and balance.
2. Consistency is Key
Yo-yo diets and sporadic training sessions or jumping from one technique and protocol to the next, yield similar outcomes – they fail to address the root causes of the problem. Weight often returns after a crash diet because we return to old habits, just as dogs revert to undesirable behaviors (or new ones pop up), because we are simply seeking a ‘quick fix’.
3. Supporting Mental and Emotional Well-being
A holistic approach to weight loss or dog behaviour challenges involves considering the physical, mental and emotional well-being of the individual involved. For weight loss, managing stress, prioritizing sleep, and finding work-life balance are essential elements for success. Similarly, dogs need a good balance of sleep, physical exercise, mental stimulation, social and emotional enrichment and a stable environment to thrive.
4. Physical Exercise for Overall Health
We know that behaviour is inextricably linked to the individual’s state of physical and emotional health. Engaging in daily exercise is vital for maintaining a healthy weight and promoting general well-being. Similarly, dogs require physical activity that matches their age, ability and breed type. It allows for the release of stress and creates a healthy body-mind connection.. For our dogs, incorporating regular walks in nature, playtime, activities that promote the use of innate canine talents will not only help maintain physical health but also contribute to a balanced mindset and resilience to stress.
5. Cultivating a Positive Mindset
Celebrating small wins, expressing gratitude, and focusing on the positive aspects of life are powerful tools for maintaining motivation and building resilience. Finding ways to constructively deal with setbacks and learn from them, is also an essential part of the process.
A healthy, positive outlook can help us recognise that it's not just about the destination but the journey towards a healthier and happier life for ourselves and our four-legged companions.
I believe the time has finally arrived for a new paradigm shift. One where we see the drawbacks and pitfalls of simply trying to ‘fix’ our dog’s ‘undesirable’ behaviour through old-style training techniques.
Instead we can move into a deeper understanding and empathy for what our dogs are desperately trying to communicate to us through their behaviour - which is how they are feeling on a physical, cognitive and emotional level.
It’s about embracing a new, holistic, lifestyle approach to supporting our dog’s overall well being and that includes creating deeper and more fulfilling relationship with them.