How Taking Care of Yourself is Taking Care of Your Dog
What if taking care of your dog's emotional health simply meant taking care of your emotional health? Well, it's as easy as that...
With an increasingly busy world, endless to-do lists, societal pressures, and life in general, I’d say it’s typically common to have stress. Maybe some of us even have anxiety… and lots of it! This article is meant to shed light on the true roots of caring for your dog and having a team-based relationship that’s not stressful - rather an outlet for you and your dog.
The fact of the matter is, dogs are connected to their owners. We know that dogs are emotional living beings. I’m not saying that they think cognitively here - dogs don’t “think” like we do. They feel. To say that a dog has an emotional investment in their owner could be an understatement - especially if they are constantly with you and have little down-time in their den or cave (their crate sanctuary). With this being said, if you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, overstimulated, suffering from trauma, whatever it may be… your dog is picking up on that and it will come out through your dog one way or another if the energy of your day to day activity continues affecting you in this way. The interesting thing is, it doesn’t always come out as aggression - it can result in separation anxiety, overeating, overstimulation, stiffness, anti-social behavior, or constant barking. In short, if the emotion that the owner is feeling for a period of time goes unresolved or manifests into something greater, the dog will overcompensate to try to bring the Team back to a place of neutrality. This is called the Group Mind.
Group Mind (noun)
a way of thinking and feeling developed by a group of people, often considered to prevail over individual thoughts and beliefs; a notional collective mind or consciousness shared by a group of people, as expressed in uniformity of thought or behavior.
Since dogs are emotional beings - just like humans - there is a group mind between the dog and the owner(s) or family.
Lately, I’ve come across memes and photos about dogs being the best therapist. I want to briefly touch on that and how this can cause some friction in the relationship between you and your dog. This is coming from the most compassionate and empathetic place in my heart - trust me. I made all the mistakes when I first got my dogs and would project my bad days, weeks, years, onto them - impatiently waiting for my nightly snuggle session after rough days. What happened following my resistance to do something about my emotions came out through my dogs, and it wasn’t nice. For any of us.
To be frank, and put it semi-lightly: to think of a dog as a therapist is dangerous and unfair to the dog. To have a solid relationship with your dog requires the owner to do some self-care, self-work, and self-study. When a dog wants to hunt, connect, and express his energy, we have that duty to fulfill for our dog. It’s their outlet - and if you aren’t practicing drive training yet, you’ll find it’s a fun outlet for you, too. As owners, if we’re having a rough day, week, month, year, get some help. When I started working on myself and in turn gave my dogs an outlet to rage and get the bite out (with appropriate tug toys) the Group Mind shifted. We ALL felt better. It showed and continues to.
There is nothing wrong with you and there is nothing wrong with your dog. There are resources out there to help, whether it be a life coach, acupuncturist, therapist (human), a hot bubble bath, or yoga class (maybe even a retreat in paradise)… take care of yourself. When you take care of yourself, you take care of your dog. It’s all about the Group Mind.