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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Have We Listened Well Enough?

Another gem from my TTouch notes:  If we get to "stop" on the feedback scale, we haven't listened well enough! 

How does a dog tell you to "stop?"  There are the more obvious, hard to miss signals such as a snap, a growl, or a bite.  But what about all the signals way before that?  Do we pay attention to them?  By the time a dog gets to a snap, a growl, or a bite, things have gotten way out of hand.  Someone is likely to get hurt, and it is almost certain that the dog will be blamed for the situation going bad.

Why do we wait for the dog to YELL at us to stop before we listen?  Dogs that live in human society often put up with our human-like behaviors that make no sense to them, and that they do not like.  Many dogs don't like to be hugged and kissed and patted.  Yet we enjoy doing those things, so we do them anyway.  Some dogs tolerate them anyway, just because they are exceptionally tolerant dogs.  But that doesn't mean they like it.  And it doesn't mean they aren't trying to tell us to stop.

A slight stiffening or moving away when we reach for them means, please don't touch me right now.  But do we notice?  A dog turning his head away is saying, I'm unsure, please don't do that right now.  But we may think they are just looking at something over there, and so we continue doing what we're doing.  A dog photographed with his tongue sticking out is cute to us, but most likely it was the dog's way of saying, hey that camera looks a little scary - I'm not sure I like this idea. 

No matter what our dog is telling us, there is always a softer, more subtle signal that we haven't noticed yet.  If we wait until our dog is telling us clearly to stop, we've missed a chance to observe some softer signals.  We've waited too long.  We haven't listened well enough. 

With the dogs that we live with every day, we often notice subtle signals.  If my dog wrinkles her eye brow just a certain way, I know she's noticed something that she has cause to stop and think about.  That isn't quite her "stop" signal, but it means that likely she will be making a decision shortly as to whether she likes something or not.  By paying attention to her subtle signal, I can make sure I scan the situation to make sure there is nothing happening that will cause her to get to "stop." 

Living in a multi-dog household, I can often see this subtle communication better when watching the dogs interacting with each other than when I'm actually participating in the situation.  Just a slight movement of an ear or an eye is enough to get the message across to one of the other dogs to "stop."  There is no drama, no argument, no yelling.  Just simple communication. 

Now, if the other dogs had not listened to the first dog's warning, things would have escalated into more obvious signs ... a lifted lip, a harder stare, moving her weight forward towards the other dogs, and then it would progress even further still until it resulted in a growl, a snap, or even a bite.  But no one likes all that drama, including my dogs. 

To keep the peace, listen well enough so your dog doesn't have to YELL "stop!"  Respect her softer signals.  Let her know that you understand. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Food Toys

There are many types of food toys and puzzles made for dogs these days!  Here are just a few of the ones in our toybox.  Food toys are great for any dog, but are especially good for blind/deaf dogs.  Many b/d dogs don't play with other types of toys because they can't see or hear the toys, so there is nothing to grab their interest.  With food toys, they can smell the food, so they have something to keep their interest and encourage them to interact with the toy. 
Dogs like food and by hiding the food in different toys and puzzles, we can give them something challenging to work for.  Food toys teach problem solving skills, as the dog has to try different methods to get the food to come out.  Giving a dog the mental exercise of a food toy is good exercise.  Mental exercise often will tire a dog more than physical exercise. 
Dogs that gulp their food too fast will have to eat slower when eating their meals from a food toy.  This can aid in digestion and prevent vomiting caused by swallowing too much food too quickly. 
Some food toys are easier than others, and it's best to start with easier toys until your dog gets the idea.  For some of my foster dogs that have not had toys before, I even start with a plastic cup or yogurt container placed on its side with a tasty treat inside.  Even with the treat so accessible, some dogs find it difficult at first to figure out how to stick their nose inside to get the treat. 
Then I would use a Kong toy and put some loose treats or kibble inside so it fell out easily when the Kong was bumped.  Then progress to sticking the treats inside with something sticky like peanut butter, and so on.  Some food toys have levels of difficulty that can be set on the toy itself so you can control how easily the food falls out. 
By having different types of food toys, I can rotate which dog gets which one and give them some variety.  Each toy and puzzle has a different strategy to get the food out.  Sometimes it gets too easy if the dog always gets the same puzzle or toy over and over again - they know just what to do to get the food to come tumbling out!  By mixing it up, they have to really think about it and experiment.
Treasure sure does love her food puzzles and toys!  Treasure's favorite food toy?   Why, the one with the tastiest treats in it, of course! 
I prefer rubber or plastic food toys which are easy to keep clean.  The rubber ones just go in the top rack of the dishwasher or can be washed in hot soapy water, as can the plastic ones.  Depending on your dog, some of these food toys should not be left with it unsupervised.  The rubber food toys that I have are safe for me to leave with my own dogs unsupervised, but make sure you supervise your dog the first few times it uses them.  The plastic ones I won't leave with my dogs unsupervised, since plastic is less durable and more easily chewed! 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Remember Your Perfection!

What a perfect word - PERFECT!  How often do you hear it in your daily life?  How often do you use it to describe others?

In my TTouch notes, I have written and underlined:  "Remember Your Perfection!!"  What a wonderful image that creates for me, not only for remembering my own perfection, but in remembering that each of us and everything is indeed, perfect at being ourselves.  Below is a cartoon I found online ...

Read that quote below the cartoon again ...
If we look at others and expect them to be just like us, we are missing their perfection.  That fish may not be able to climb a tree very easily, but it is absolutely perfect at being a fish.  Look at the fish with new eyes.  See its beauty.  See how it can do all the things that it needs to do to live as a fish.  Marvel at its intelligence.  See its perfection!! 
Look at your dog with new eyes.  Does she have to be like everyone else's dog?  No, of course not.  How boring would that be if every dog was the same?  Take a moment to see her beauty, her intelligence, her creativity ...  Take a moment to remember her perfection.  See how in every moment, she is perfectly herself. 
Does that  mean that you always like her behavior or her little quirks?  No, of course not.  But behavior can be changed.  Who she is in all her perfectness cannot be changed.  It is who she is on the inside. 
Take a look at yourself now with new eyes.  See your perfection!  Remember your perfection!  Remember that part of you that is who you really are.  Take a moment every day to ...
Remember your perfection!  

Monday, October 7, 2013

Move the Molecules

When a dear friend's dog refused to walk toward the car, we tried every technique we could think of to get him to move forward.  We tried the best treats, we tried waiting him out, we tried cheerleading and acting silly - all to entice him to go to the car.  He didn't mind riding in the car once he go there. He was just in the habit of stopping dead in his tracks and not taking another step. 

On this particular day, as we were leaving TTouch training in the evening, we tried bringing him out a different door so he was approaching the car from a different direction.  He trotted happily along the parking lot until he got close enough to the car to know where he was going, and then - he stopped dead in his tracks. 

On a whim, I decided to try a new leading technique we had learned that day - moving the molecules.  To our amazement, after taking a moment to think about it, her dog walked all the way to the car.  Wow.  What a break through!  This had been an ongoing struggle for my friend and her dog for a long time.  What happened?  Why did this work?

Many times we get in a hurry and we just want the end result as soon as possible.  We all do it.  It's human nature.  When I focused on moving the molecules instead of the dog, the entire energy of the situation changed.  I was now focused on clearing the way to allow the dog to walk forward, instead of trying to make him walk forward.  I put respect back in the equation by giving him the option to respond or not.  I opened up in my mind and in our space the possibility that he would walk happily to the car.  And he did.

So often in my own life, I try so hard to make things happen the way I want them to happen.  Often they work out the way I hope they do, but sometimes I get frustrated when I just can't seem to get things to happen.  I need to remember the lesson I learned that day from a very special dog - clear the way to open up the possibility of something wonderful happening.

Move the Molecules!