The emotional hangover….
Once upon a time so it goes, you're walking down the road and your dog is literally cursing at the other dog across the road, the other dog is walking on minding its own business along with the owner.
Ground swallowing you up comes to mind and you get the said owners you see daily shouting “Sort your dog out!
You have become a social leper and your vet has to make that late appointment to be sure of an empty waiting room.
Everywhere you walk it’s a mission in itself to avoid verbal abuse and conflict.
The whole world seems to judge you and your dog is becoming more and more reactive to more minute things than before; you feel you are treading on egg shells.
You have tried the treats, the toys, verbal cues to stop the said reactivity but to no avail. You have lost faith in all the dog training books and just feel despite what you have been reading, It’s all a waste of time: the dogs on dvd video in the books cannot be as bad as mine, you say.
The dog is possessed you think and you just can’t put your finger on it. Midnight dog walkers club seems more attractive, then months roll into years and the days spent on the beach watching other dogs playing and joining in your mind are just a dream.
Did you know there are lots of people in the world who feel exactly the same, even behavioural advisers and trainers’ own dogs who find these situations very difficult.
The trainers and behavioural advisers have the understanding to manage the dog’s specific needs and certain lifestyle, for you- the long suffering dog owner- it’s just the dreaded walk as a function more than a pleasure.
It’s not all bad; there is help and there is hope to help you and your dog manage things and cope much more than before. No cure, but other options to enjoy life with your unique dog who is also awesome in its own right.
Why do dogs react?
Firstly, there are many different types of reactivity- not just towards dogs or people. You have for example dogs who react to noise, touch, things in the environment that trigger stress responses, a reactive stomach, and food sensitivity.
The reactive dog is always seen as the one that barks and lunges in a way that is seen as aggressive.
So you can a have reactive dog owner if your dog reacts by fear to sound for example.
A reactive dog is a very sensitive dog indeed, and I admit I’m still learning about all the shades of reactivity and all the colours of the rainbow. I see blue, green, purple and lots of colours in-between, that then become words to describe what is seen. So what can be done to help manage the colourful outburst?
So why do dogs react more and more easily to the slightest things for no reason?
It can seem this way can’t it, to most people in the world we share.
Well there is an answer to this that brings me to a heavy night out in the bar and the day-after hangover, aka the come down.
When dogs or people get stressed, hormones build up in the body and the brain chemistry is affected. This affects moods, rational thinking, and the immune system, etc.
The more intoxicated you or the dog is with these things, the more the body is affected by moodiness and overreacting to the smallest of things; however, before you or the dog were fine.
Each time the said being has a trigger that upsets it, you are adding to this cocktail and you are unable to learn or to be rational. If you don’t get any time away from it to get away from it all, to give your dog a chance to unwind at home and not face the things your dog sees as bad on walks for example, then it has no chance to settle down and things will build up. When a few things happen one after the other in a short time that upset you, this is referred to by trainers as “trigger stacking”.
Things do build up over a longer period of time as well as the short term.
So if you both get time to have a few days to recuperate and look after yourselves, then your chances of being able to focus on tasks and think rationally are greatly improved. You will generally feel better and will be able to deal with the tasks bit by bit in your own time at your own pace.
So with a hangover to detox, what do they always say?
Drink plenty of water, rest, have time for you and just look after yourself. I use drink as an example as its about giving yourself a few days to get over it.
Your dog will be better for allowing it to go through its emotional hangover to help it relax and for you to help it look after itself better. Having its own time to feel better as days pass, and you to support how it figures things out.
So, to recap:
Every time you take your dog out and it stresses out, it may as well be going to the bar for one round after another, then hair of the dog the next day and the day after that.
The bar must be closed, help it find ways to have the emotional hangover detox so badly needed.
You as the dog owner need to look after yourself, to have some time to relax and have coffee with those that really understand your angle only too well.
It’s not all bad. Embrace your training journey and enjoy the hangover and the detox.
You and your dog will feel so much better for it.
Katherine manages her dyslexia daily and does not let this get the better of her expressing her thoughts in writing.
She is extremely social and compassionate, likes to see others succeed, and enjoys networking with others in her professional field.
Her sense of humour, compassion and problem solving-thinking outside the box- are what gets clients through.
Life is a classroom: it’s how you see it and how you embrace each moment in time.
Written by Katherine Berner.