Are You Addicted to Stressing About Your Dog? #16

#brain training #canine #humanmind canine connection Apr 16, 2024

Stressing is often a habit. A bad one! Training the brain to focus on what's going well can break the habit of constantly finding what's wrong.

Your brain can be trained to focus on the positive, leading to more positive experiences in life. This mindset shift can create a richer, more rewarding relationship with your dog.

Key Takeaways: 

- Overly stressing about issues with one's dog can be harmful.

- Body awareness and focusing on sensations can help regulate the nervous system and promote calmness.

- Training the brain to focus on what feels good and what is going well can break the habit of constantly finding what's wrong.

- Positive reinforcement benefits both oneself and the dog, strengthening neural connections and improving the relationship.

- The reticular activating system can be trained to focus on the positive, leading to more positive experiences in life.

- Following veterinary advice is important for the dog's well-being.



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All information is for general educational purposes ONLY and doesn't constitute medical or veterinary advice. Please consult a qualified healthcare provider if you or your dog are unwell or injured. 


Do you worry about your dog? Do you spend a lot of time wondering about how you can help your dog's behavior or maybe your dog's mobility, things like that? Well, today I wanna talk to you about whether you've actually taken an, an issue that you have, that you're dealing with your dog, or again, it could be behavioral, it could be something,

something else. And maybe you are letting it play an outsized role in your life, and it may actually be harming the relationship you have with your dog, even though you have the best of intentions. So, oh, by the way, if we're meeting for the first time, my name is Mary Debono, and this is the Easier Movement, happier Dogs podcast.

So, you know, just like people get addicted to things that they find pleasurable, like maybe it's eating certain foods or, you know, drinking too much, or smoking cigarettes, or even doing, you know, drugs that they shouldn't be doing. You know, you can get addicted to a lot of different things. Well, sometimes we forget that we can actually get addicted to certain behaviors that we're doing.

It's like we keep running these loops in our head, and unconsciously or consciously, we are just driving these behaviors. And, you know, one of them is, is stressing, it's worrying, it's being overly concerned with what's going on. For example, with your dog, that's just one example, okay? This can show up in a lot of different places in your life.

Doesn't just have to be about your dog. But what I've seen from working with dogs and their people for well over 30 years is that it can take a, on a life of its own, and it can really harm the relationship the person is having with their dog, is they become so stressed and so focused on just that one issue. I am not saying that you should ignore problems with your dog.

Not at all. But what I'm encouraging you is to look at it in a different way, to kind of reframe the situation, number one, and also to think about what you're doing to yourself and how it's influencing your physiology and how that will influence your dog's relationship with you. So, something I say a lot is how you breathe, how you move,

and even how you direct your attention. In other words, what you think about, right? Those are all felt by your dogs, and they all, and it shapes your interaction with your dog. So if you think about this, your, your underlying sense of either ease or effort or worry, right, is going to have a profound impact on how you and your dog relate to each other.

Dogs are very, very sensitive to that. Like, you might be able to fool some people, some, you know, friends and family, but you won't fool your dog, okay? This is true for other animals as well as, you know, I work with horses and et cetera, but a dog can feel that, okay? They will feel that underlying sense of this constant worry.

And I wanna come right out and say that I am not immune to this, okay? I am not immune to this. I've spent a lot of my life worrying and stressing. So this, this subject is very near and dear to my heart because I find that it's obviously not helpful. And again, it can become a habit. And, you know,

and, and the way the brain works, and this is just a very simple way of describing it, but it's like you're, you're constantly either reinforcing or, or dismantling neural connections. So in other words, if you have a habit, and it could even, like maybe you started stressing about something work related or with your children or other family members or something totally different,

and it just creates this, this, this neural connection, these neural network in your brain that says, okay, this is what we do. It's like a grooves it into your neural pathways. This is, you know, this constant worry, and you literally get like, I don't know if literally is the right word, but you get habituated to that because those neural can,

those neural pathways get so reinforced, they get so grooved in that. That's like your go-to, that's your go-to. And if you think of it this way too, we're wired, I mean, from an evolutionary point of view, we're wired to look for what's wrong, okay? That's how we know how to avoid this saber tooth tiger or whatever, right?

We wanna be aware of potential dangers in our, in our environment, okay? But then we take that a step too far and we start finding what's wrong all the time instead of looking for what's right. So what I would encourage you to do to help you kind of break free from this compulsion to find what's wrong all the time is a couple of things.

And there's many different ways I have a lot more to say on this subject, but I just want to keep this episode short for you today. First thing is really to kind of connect with yourself. So center yourself, notice how you're breathing. Bring your attention to your physical sensations, okay? To developing greater bo body awareness. You can do this when you're sitting down,

standing, walking, lying down, whatever you're doing, just start noticing your sensations. Notice you know, if it's applicable. Notice how your feet are contacting the floor. If it's, if you're sitting, also notice how your bum is contacting the chair or on the ground wherever you're sitting. But start to just pay attention. You can think of doing a body scan from the top of your head down to your toes,

and don't do it in a way that you're, you're being corrective with yourself, that you're being judgy. Please don't do that. That's just, again, reinforcing this idea of finding what's wrong. What we're doing is just noticing what is, just notice what is. And when you do that, you may notice that your breathing will change, right? You'll start to actually regulate your nervous system in a different way,

and you'll start to be more present. We always, we talk a lot about being in the present moment. And for many people that's difficult to do. But if you can just be aware of sensations that will ground you in the present moment, and it'll bring a sense of calm to your nervous system, which again, your dog will feel. And you can start to notice what feels good.

Like, instead of thinking, oh, my shoulders are tight, my neck is tight, my knee is achy, think about what feels really good right now in my body, you know? And, and, and notice that, notice that start to train your brain to look for what feels good, what what is pleasurable, okay? This is how you start to rewire.

And, and when you start doing less of the finding what's wrong and that worry train you are on, right? Those neural pathways will start to disintegrate, if you will. They'll start to come apart and you'll start to strengthen the ones where you're looking for what's right. And when you notice what's right, you get more of that in your life. Okay?

So that's the number one is to think about your own body awareness. Bring your attention to your sensations. Notice your breath, notice you know all the things about yourself, and then find what feels good. Okay? And now let's bring it to your dog as well. You know, we, we so often, maybe it's, again, it could be a mobility issue you're worried about.

It could be a behavior issue you're worried about, but look for things that are going well, it could be the simplest thing, something that seems so insignificant. Please find it. Please celebrate whatever it is, whatever, however small it is, celebrate that. And you're, again, you're training your brain to look for those things, okay? And you'll get more of that,

and your dog will sense this change because it literally changes your physiology. Because when you start to notice what's good, you enter into a state of gratitude. And we know how gratitude can actually change your physical and emotional state and, and bring you into a higher performing state and a state where things feel easy. So you start To have that sense of ease about yourself,

okay? And this can can transfer over to other areas of your life as well, which is pretty cool. So that's, that's another nice thing about, like, for example, positive reinforcement training for your dog. Because in that, in that approach, you are looking for what your dog is doing. Well, you reinforce that and then you build on that,

right? So it's not about correcting. So think of it that way. It's like you are doing positive reinforcement for yourself, you're finding what's working, what's what feels good, and then you reinforce that, okay? And then that again, you start to strengthen those neural connections. And so you start to do more of that and wouldn't that be so much better to be habituated to looking for what's good,

what's wonderful rather than always what's wrong, what's bad? And it, you know, without going into a whole thing about the news cycle, but you know, watching the news all the time because they want you to know about all the bad stuff in the world. You know, that reinforces that that idea that the world is scary and things are bad are happening.

Now again, that's not to say you wanna close your eyes to that, right? You wanna be aware, but in a balanced way. So in a way that you are also noticing what's good and wonderful. And this can go a long way in really strengthening your relationship with your dog and helping your dog be, you know, physically better, right?

You can, there's lots of different ways, and in my book, lemme see, I think I have it here. Grow young with your dog. I talk a lot about, you know, different ways you can help your dog. And again, you're building on what your dog does well. So even a dog who has, you know, maybe they're towards the end of their life or they have a serious injury or something like that,

you can find what's, what is working, what feels well, and then you can generalize that feeling of ease and pleasure for the dog. The same is true for you, right? And so we want to train the brain. The brain has a particular mechanism they call the reticular activating system, or, or RAS RAs people call it. And it,

you can think of it kind of like as a filter. It's like when you go on Google, right? You have to put something in the search bar to tell you, you know that, to tell Google what to look for. Well, you kind of do that with your RAS. You, you tell unconsciously you're telling your brain what to look for in the world.

So when you start to train your brain to look for what's going right, right? What's wonderful, what's what's working right? That reticular activating system will start to search for that. And you'll see more of it. More of it will come into your life and then it just builds on itself. So it's really, really important. So these are just some little tips.

I have a lot more. But to get you started on this idea of getting away from the habituation of stress and worry and more, you know, thinking about having it being more natural to find what's, what's going well, what's, what's working really well for you and your dog and really strengthening that relationship. And you may be pleasantly surprised to find that physical,

your dog maybe physically starts to get a little bit better. And of course, you obviously follow your vet's advice as well. And behavior can change for the better as well. 'cause your dog is feeling your underlying sense of ease, okay? And again, how you breathe, how you move, how you think, all shape your interactions with your dog.

So hope you found this helpful. Let me know what you are dealing with. I'd love to hear from you. You could reach me directly at Mary at mary Debono dot com. Thank you so much for being here. I appreciate you subscribing, listening, and reviewing the podcast. Okay, I look forward to talking to you soon. Bye for now.