EMHD Episode 5: Develop Intuition with Your Dog

Sep 27, 2022

Do you want to know what your dog is feeling? Do you want to“read” your dog (and others) more clearly?

This episode will de-mystify intuition and start you on the path to developing informed intuition so you can help your dog move easier and feel better!


Grab your FREE canine video masterclass today! https://www.marydebono.com/dog

Join our free Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/DogHealthAndVitality

Get Mary’s bestselling, award-winning book, “Grow Young with Your Dog,” for a super low price. Demonstration videos included at no extra cost.


Hello. How would you like to know exactly how to best help your dog? So whether your dog is, you know, in his or her golden years, maybe has some arthritis or some other conditions that affect mobility, maybe your dog is recovering from an injury. Maybe your dog has something like hip dysplasia or, or any number of things.

Or, maybe your dog is just really anxious, right? And you want to know how best to help them. Well, today I'd like to share this little episode with you so that you learn how to develop something I call informed intuition. Now, I first heard the term informed intuition in reference to the Feldenkrais method, which is a method that I practice. I'm a Feldenkrais practitioner, and my animal work is based on the Feldenkrais method.

It was developed for people by a man named Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais. And he used that term. And my understanding of the term, and the way I use it, is it's, it's like an intuition. In other words, you, the information flows through you in a way, but it's based on knowledge, okay? It's based on an understanding of the subject, whatever the subject happens to be.

In this case, we want to help our dog. So it's, it's learning how to read our dogs more carefully. How to understand, in my case, the hands-on work that I do, right? And what I teach. So in that, we're gonna talk about it in that context. So I'll explain it this way. If you think back to like, maybe you drive a car now, right?

And maybe you've been driving, like myself, I've been driving for decades, right? Many decades. And it's, driving a car is so natural to me. But when I was first learning, even having the radio on was a distraction cuz I had to really pay attention to every little thing I was doing. And the same is true a little bit when I, cuz I learned to drive with an automatic car.

And then it was a number of years later, I, I learned to drive a stick and I drove a stick for, for quite a while. But in the very beginning when I was learning to drive a stick, you know, I had to pay more attention, of course, okay? To get that coordination down. And then it became second nature. So you can think of informed intuition, something like that.

It's like, you know, you, you definitely, you, you pay attention to small details and you consciously pay attention to these details at first. And you really learn what to do when you notice each detail. We'll talk about what the details are and you understand and you develop a skill, okay? And this could apply to any kind of skill.

And then what happens when you get that certain level, you know, maybe some people call this like, I, I think you can call this unconscious competence, where you're just, it's just so natural. It's just the execution of that skill just happens effortlessly. So you can, you can approach working with your dog in the same way.

At first, it's going to be something that's really, really vital that you consciously pay attention to all these different things. And then little by little your brain will, will process them unconsciously. And it's like, you'll be guided by that. That's where the term informed intuition I think is pretty accurate.

Cuz it almost like feels, it feels intuitive, but what's really happening in my understanding is that you're processing this sensory information that's coming through. Whether through your visual fields, you're listening to things, you're definitely feeling a lot, you just, all these different ways you're processing that. But it doesn't have to be so conscious.

Now that doesn't mean, for example, when I'm working that I'm not also making conscious decisions about what I'm going to do next and how I'm going to modify what I'm doing. Of course, I do and I would encourage you to as well. But there's also this additional layer of this more unconscious processing that's happening that I would really, really encourage you to think about developing because you can just start to read your dog better.

You know. And you may see a dog down the, you know, on the street as you're walking. And you'll be more tuned into how that dog is feeling. Is that dog fearful? Does that dog seem that, that, you know, she feels threatened and might be aggressive or what, what have you, you know, so you'll get better at reading all dogs, which is a good thing.

You may get better at reading people too, okay? Cuz you start to develop this sensory acuity, you start to notice these different changes. So some of these changes can be something like really paying attention to your dog's posture, Okay? So if your dog is standing, noticing how they stand, are they, you know, how are the legs oriented?

You know, do they always have one foot in front? How are they held? Are they closer together, wider apart? Are the elbows out? Are the elbows in? I mean all these little nuances. And it's not that you want to be compulsive about that and start to worry. This isn't about worrying, it's about just neutrally observing, okay?

Just being curious and neutrally observing. Cuz a lot of times it doesn't really mean anything significant. It's you're seeing if there's a pattern, okay? And noticing if things change over time. So you also wanna notice, you know, how your dog is holding her tail.

Is the tail up and kind of over the back, Is it out like a flag? And of course every, you know, dogs have different types of tails held naturally in different ways. But you start to notice changes. Is it a little bit lower? Is it tucked? Certainly, we would know how we would recognize if a dog has a really tucked tail, right?

They're probably feeling really threatened, they're really stressed. But start to notice the small changes, the toneness of the tail, for example, that can change quite a bit. I've worked with dogs that have that dead tail, some people call it. And we've helped them recover from that. A lot of times dogs do recover spontaneously from that as well.

And they can get that. There are many different reasons to get that. One of them is like overextension. If they haven't been warmed up and they kind of over arch or overextend their back, a lot of dogs that do like jumping into the water, things like that will sometimes get it so that I'm often a tangent there. So don't worry about that.

But just start to get used to the tous, how your dog's tail feels. So meaning how the musculature feels around the tail. So start to pay attention. In my book, I talk about this in the very beginning cuz it's so crucial, is to take the time and run your hands and do like a body scan with your dog and you're feeling any changes in temperature, any changes in muscle development.

Does this shoulder feel the same as this shoulder? Does this hin leg feel like this hin leg? And you could pick up things way before they become, they become a problem if the dog is headed to that potential. So these are all things that over time, you know, just become like unconscious again, that informed intuition.

Then more subtle things are like, for example, the way your dog holds his mouth. So you really start to pay attention to how your dog's mouth is when your dog is relaxed. Now there are different ways you're gonna hold the mouth. Sometimes the mouth will be closed and relaxed. Other times the mouth will be open and relaxed. Maybe your dog is hot and he's panting to let off some, release some heat.

You know, so there are many different ways and the tongue could be out or whatever. So there are all different ways, but pay attention to, especially how they hold the corners of the lips, what they call the commissure of the mouth. You'll see dogs that are feeling stressed or threatened in any way.

They often, and again, this is a general rule, so, so you have to look at the whole context, but the commissaries, the corners of the lips will be kind of brought back in like a V. So this isn't a star or anything like that. The mouth is closed usually, although it can be open too. But the, the lips are drawn back in a V.

Okay? So notice that again, mouth open or closed, but start to notice how the corners of the lips are. So oftentimes the dogs that have the lips drawn back in that kind of V shape, they're often feeling stressed, threatened, and if there's aggression, it's going to be defensive aggression. They feel pushed to be aggressive, okay? Like trying to get out of a situation.

So this is important. Now you might think my dog is never aggressive, but this is for your benefit to learn when your dog is feeling uncomfortable, okay? Because it's these little signs that, for example, when I'm working with a dog that I'm constantly processing, I'm constantly processing these little things. Again, many times as processing is happening unconsciously. I adjust what I do.

I may, you know, back up, you know, back up with my upper body a little bit to take pressure off the dog. And I don't mean physical pressure, I mean that kind of invisible pressure that like looking at a dog or leaning towards a dog can bring about. So it's this stuff that whether this is your dog or not is still important.

Getting back to the es of the mouth. If they're brought forward more like in a sea shape, that dog is usually feeling potentially aggressive but more in an offensive way. So they may be more confident of this potential aggression. So, but again, start to really pay attention to your dog's mouth.

Maybe make that your kind of like your homework for the week and notice that maybe take photos or videos and certainly feel free to discuss it in. We have a free Facebook group. I'll link to it in the show notes, but it's on Facebook of course, and it's dedicated to dogs and it's all about dogs' health and vitality and their humans. So it's a win-win. You feel better and your dog feels better.

That's kind of my whole thing. So pay attention to this kind of stuff. And again, I wanna emphasize that when you take the time to develop this awareness to start to notice little things with your dog, then as you learn the work, now whether you've gotten my book Grow Young with your Dog or you've gotten the free video masterclass, which is marydebono.com/dog.

You can get that, it's three free videos and within those, I think it's the second video, you'll actually learn a very, very valuable hands-on approach. So whether you're doing that, you can start to gauge your dog's responses when they're small, cuz that's when we want to, to modify what we're doing is when the responses are small, when they're kind of like under that threshold, you don't want to wait till the dog is uncomfortable in any way.

Okay? And this also works for positive, for, for feeling, noticing the positive responses with your dog to know when you're on the right track. So that's a big way that I help guide my work and know what to do, is I'm constantly reading the dog.

And to give you an example of how important this whole idea of noticing the dog's responses is, you know how important it is. There was a dog I worked with years ago, and actually, I didn't do this with a number of dogs, but this is the one I talk about in my book. Her name was Blossom. She was so shy when I first met her.

She was super shy, she was a rescue, she had been adopted by a lovely, lovely woman who was very knowledgeable about dogs and she, she was really a cool dog. But in the beginning, in my first session, I remember I literally had to work with her, with my back towards her. So she did lie down on the mat in my office, but the only way she could be comfortable is if I literally had my entire back to her.

So what I started to do was, she's lying on the ba on a mat behind me, her person is there, you know, with her. And I used my hands behind my back literally. And I started to touch her in such a way that brought her a sense of relief.

And I remember exactly what I was doing with her. I remember I was doing what I call spinal coaxing, where I'm just very gently lifting the tissue adjacent to the spine and giving her a sense of ah, such immediate relief. And what ended up happening was she started to, because she wasn't feeling threatened, cuz it was my back to her, she started to relax more and more and she allowed this sensation of relief to grow larger.

And her breathing started to deepen. And I could feel, you know, I could feel through my hands, you know, how she was changing and how her tissue was getting softer and you know, how her breathing was changing. And little by little I could gradually turn and eventually have my side to her and then eventually face her.

And what was really neat was within a short period of time, you know, within a few sessions, whatever it was, she would just come into my office and flop down on the mat. And she was perfectly comfortable, perfectly comfortable. But it was those small things that I had to pay attention to because if I tried to force her to lie there, she would never be comfortable.

She wouldn't get the benefit of the work I'm doing, right? It's all about creating this connection and helping her rediscover healthier movement. So that wouldn't have happened, that would just have been some pretty, almost like violent, if you will, cuz if I'd have to hold her, you know, manual technique and that's not what I do.

It's really so much about this connection and to create a connection with your dog really requires you to pay attention to what they're telling you. So you always wanna think about having a conversation with your dog, right? And it's a nonverbal con. I mean, you could talk out loud, that's fine, right?

And dogs do understand a lot of our language cuz we teach them, you know, different cues and things like that, but it's that nonverbal language that they're, they're talking to us with, right? So really start to pay attention to that. You'll get really good at this, you'll get so good at this and you'll, you'll develop what I call this informed intuition.

And it won't only benefit you when you're doing say the hands-on work that I teach, but it can benefit you in so many ways with your dog. So many ways. Cuz you'll just start to pick things up, you know, like, like, you know, very intuitively. So it's just like this effortless kind of unconscious processing. So you'll develop this, I guess you can think of it as competence in this, in your communication with your dog.

And we're always learning. I just want to put that out there. I'm constantly learning. I mean, I hope I'm gonna learn for the rest of my life and keep improving my abilities to communicate and to listen to others. But that's a really big one, is this idea of paying attention and developing this skill that I call informed intuition. So it's a little short episode for today.

But I hope, I hope you play with that. So just pick even just one thing so you can just pick maybe paying attention to your dog's mouth this week. Start to notice all the different ways your dog holds its mouth and pay attention. Maybe take photos, maybe take little short videos, whatever you wanna do, feel free to post it in our free Facebook group.

So make sure you join and you do have to answer the membership questions, otherwise, you know that that's how it works. You have to say you agree to the rules or whatever. So please, please let me know if you have any questions. And yeah, so I'm excited to go on this journey with you and help you develop this skill of informed intuition so you can best help your dog and live the happiest healthy lives for both of you.

Thanks so much for being here. I so appreciate you listening to the podcast and I can't wait to talk to you again. Bye for now.