December 31, 2018
What is your dog’s New Year’s Resolution? This time of year, lots of us start obsessing over buying our dogs the perfect gift. We start looking towards the New Year, wondering how we can make it better for ourselves and our dogs.
Take a vacation together? Sign up for classes with the best dog trainer? Try a new dog sport?
Those are all great goals to achieve. If you haven’t yet seen our post from last year about this, take a peek here.
This year, however, I’m looking at what I can do to give my pup a fantastic life in a whole new way.
A few weeks ago while contemplating my 2019 plans I decided to listen to a podcast on Enlightened By Dogs, the work of a truly gifted trainer and educator, Kathy Kawalec.
Kathy focuses on having a fulfilling and rewarding partnership with your dog. It’s not dog training; it’s lifestyle training. The episode I listened to was called What Your Dog Wants More Than Anything. It sounded exactly like what I was looking for. It wasn’t what I expected.
In this episode, Kathy shares that like humans, canines are highly socially intelligent beings. We all know that dogs and humans live and work best in “packs” – it’s essential for our survival. Family groups succeed when all individuals work together. Even after our basic survival needs are met, humans and dogs alike have other core needs that are essential to both our species.
The first is the need to BELONG. We all need to feel appreciated, to know that we have a place in our family and are loved.
The second is the need to BE UNDERSTOOD. To be Heard.
The third is the need to CONTRIBUTE. To have Purpose within life and the family group.
It’s easy to see how all three of these needs intertwine with each other. If these needs are not met, individuals – both human and canine – can turn to destructive behaviors and actions in order to get these needs met.
Kathy has some light bulb moments on this podcast. I highly recommend that you give it a listen. No, seriously – these podcasts are a game changer in strengthening the bond between you and your dog.
So how to put this into practical use?
The need to belong and to be accepted unconditionally is so strong. It’s easy to show your dog you love them exactly for who they are. Once a day, simply sitting with them and loving the dog in front of you – straight from your heart. Or telling them aloud (because dogs pick up on the energy behind our words) that they are the BEST dog in the world.
Shades of Fred Rogers here.
The need to be understood goes hand in hand with the first. Your dog is communicating with you at all times. The challenge: we speak human; they speak canine.
If you don’t know much about canine communication and body language, it’s a good idea to read up on the subject. Videos are a great learning tool for this. Carefully observe your dog to pick up on all the subtle ways she’s communicating with you and other canines. Respect what she is telling you!
Kathy has a perfect analogy for explaining how many times we don’t listen to what our dog is saying and dismiss their feelings. If you were absolutely terrified of spiders, would you feel comfortable going to lunch with your best friend in a café crawling with spiders? Would you be relaxed? Could you ignore the spiders? Would you be enjoying your time with your friend, or would you be asking to leave?
The same is true for our dogs when we ask them to stay in an uncomfortable or scary situation when we’ve missed cues that tell us what they need.
Since your dog is your best bud, make an effort to listen and respect what she’s telling you.
The third need, to contribute, may seem unimportant. It’s not.
If you own a herding or working breed, you know that left to their own devices, these dog will create their own job if you don’t give them one! All dogs, from the tiniest to the mightiest, need to feel they have an important role in their “pack.” They need to give back.
Allowing your dog to have a job in the family is fulfilling that need. And it doesn’t have to be a physical “bring in the evening newspaper” type job. It can be as simple as fulfilling an emotional or mental need, such as allowing you to pet and hug them when you need a lift. Letting them remind you how important it is to relax when they invite you to play. Or even letting them guard the children while they are in the yard.
Thank them and appreciate the unique job they perform for your family.
We’re inviting you to help your dog meet her important needs in 2019. Don’t forget to honor your OWN needs as well. Keep your “pack” strong and healthy!
Happy New Year!!
Kathy Kawalec has several different programs available online. Check them out if you want to deepen your relationship with your dog. Podcasts are FREE and have a wealth of usable, relatable tips.