Today, I want to share with you why my holistic approach to dog training and behaviour means so much to me. Working with dogs and their pawrents is a journey that's never dull, always challenging, and filled with a range of emotions.
The moments when you see a dog-human-team start to communicate in a way that is kind and loving and understanding from both sides is magical. The moment when it clicks and they truly “see” each other and “hear” each other. It can also be stressful, even devastating at times, but it's all these moments that truly define the depth of my passion.
A Touching Client Experience:
Allow me to illustrate the profound impact of this approach through a recent message from my dear client Jenn with her girls Penny and Lola:
“Hi Bianca, Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you’re having a great weekend. (long story to follow) … Lola has something going on between two toes. I think we’ve finally figured out what’s bothering her … it’s taken so long to work it out. It started last week - she was growling at us when we tried to scoot her over on the bed and also barked in my face and my husband's face for putting our hands on her and I thought that was so out of character, she must be in pain … so I took her to the vet, he examined her as best he could but she was so scared and her body was completely tense and shaking that it was hard to really pinpoint an area. I thought maybe back or hips. (She’s always like that at the vet) Since he couldn’t find anything I was so close to contacting you to discuss behaviours ...
I thought maybe she was suddenly resource-guarding the bed or something. Yesterday throughout the day a couple of us noticed her licking her back paw. At first, it didn’t sink in, but after I noticed her licking aggressively, I got a good look at her paw and definitely all swollen and sore in between two toes. It was evening so we cleaned it, put antiseptic cream and a light bandage and then a sock so she wouldn’t lick. She had the most restful sleep in a couple of weeks. It must have been bothering her for a while and we couldn’t find it …
I literally hear your voice in my head when I don’t know what to do regarding the dogs… It’s amazing how the knee-jerk reaction to a growl - especially when it startles you - is to scold them! I have driven it into everyone in the house never to scold a growl and instantly I heard your voice ‘ok - there is a reason for this, we have to figure out what it is!’ Man this pup keeps me on my toes.
We don’t know what caused the initial discomfort but she apparently licked enough to be a big problem. She had clusters of ingrown hairs and little blisters and sores and infection…”
Getting a message like this makes me tear up every time I read it. This is my WHY <3 This is why I pursue a holistic approach. Behaviour Doesn't Happen in a Vacuum!
To help pawrents understand their pups and to be able to “unpack” their dog's behaviour changes and to “dig deeper” versus suppressing the behaviour that got our attention.
Let’s dive a little deeper into what I mean by that: What does "holistic" mean? Let's break it down!
Holistic is all about looking at the bigger picture and understanding that behaviour doesn't happen in a vacuum. Just like us humans, our furry friends also display behaviours that are influenced by a multitude of factors.
When it comes to our beloved dogs, it's important to remember that their behaviour is not solely driven by their training or genetics. Many factors come into play, such as their environment, past experiences, social interactions, and overall health and well-being.
Taking a holistic approach means considering all of these aspects when trying to understand and address our dogs' behaviour. It means recognizing that their actions are not isolated events, but rather a reflection of their overall state of being.
When it comes to understanding our dogs, it's crucial to recognize the circumstances that can impact their behaviour, be it in a positive or negative way, as you could see in the above shared client experience with her dog.
Let's look at some examples:
- Upcoming Storm: Dogs may become anxious or restless due to the anticipation of a storm, affecting their behaviour.
- Being Hungry: Lack of food can lead to irritability or increased aggression in dogs, altering their behaviour.
- Broken Tooth: Dental pain can cause discomfort and affect a dog's behaviour negatively.
- Matted Coat: Uncomfortable mats in a dog's fur can lead to irritability or a change in behaviour.
- Upset Tummy: Digestive issues or nausea may cause a dog to feel unwell and possibly display unusual behaviour.
- Not Enough Sleep: Sleep deprivation can make dogs more irritable, and less focused and impact their behaviour.
- Healthy Body: A dog in good physical health is more likely to exhibit positive behaviours.
- Mental and Physical Needs Met: Regular walks, engaging playtime, and stimulating games contribute to a balanced and contented dog.
- Secure Attachment to Pawrent: Dogs with a secure bond to their owners tend to exhibit trust, confidence, and positive behaviours.
What are positive and negative factors that influence your dogs behaviour? Please share your experience with us in the comments.
Izzy, my Border Collie, will speed up when she is not feeling well. What I mean by that is she will appear frantic, running faster, grabbing treats harshly, grabbing leaves and sticks when out on a run. This is most of the times my first warning signal to check her paw pads as she tends to wear them down to a point where they are sensitive to the touch. A couple of days of leash walks only will help and she will be back to her usual happy self. Hugo, my Boston Terrier, will retreat and sleep and be very quiet when he is not feeling well. He will be hesitant to go for walks, not engage in play with his big sister and seek out lots of cuddle time.
By taking a holistic approach, we can provide our dogs with the best possible care and support. This may involve looking at their physical and mental health, providing them with an enriching environment, offering appropriate training and socialization, and understanding their individual needs and preferences.