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Your Dog Just Wants to be Acknowledged

How your energy, intention, and emotional state affect your dog...

Your dog just wants to be acknowledged. For who they are as a dog. For their individual strengths, weaknesses, fears, wants, likes/dislikes, and insecurities. Your dog wants to be treated with respect, wants to be trusted, wants to be able to trust you. Trust that you see them for who they are, and that you don't expect them to stuff their feelings and just be a robot who obeys commands.

I started writing this post because I used to advise people to ignore their dog when they come home, until the dog is calm. But this seems inhumane. So then I started calling this tactic "calm-neutral greetings" where the dog was allowed to come up and sniff and whatever, but we were still practicing "No Touch, No Talk, No Eye Contact." Not to emulate the dominance techniques of Cesar Milan, but rather, to avoid having the owner overstimulate an already excited dog.

Now I'm becoming more sensitive to my individual dogs and realizing that they just want to be acknowledged. This doesn't mean I have to go and pet them up when they have that manic energy. But it does mean that I will literally say across the room: "I acknowledge you." And you may find this totally crazy, but it works. I don't believe that dogs understand every word that we speak, but what they do understand is your energy, intention, and underlying emotional state.

So I just had a family meeting with my two younger dogs, who lately have been challenging me in numerous way, emotionally and mentally. And I was like, "Hey guys, let's all work on being more embodied and grounded so we can help each other co-regulate. And I will respect your need for safety and not push you outside your window of tolerance. And we will only do training that is actually fun. And you don't have to play with dogs who are bullies. You only will play with dogs that you actually like and have fun with. And in this way, I will give you boundaries and safety, and we will all help each other to be calmer and happier."

That wasn't the whole conversation, but you get the gist. And just speaking those words out loud gave me such a sense of relief. And my dogs seemed to enjoy the earnest conversation. And I think they could sense my relief and my intention to provide them with safety; and now they are both taking a nap, and I have the space I need to do my work on the computer. I know that if I take care of their needs while also maintaining healthy boundaries, we will all get along so much better. Because I admit, I have a tendency towards co-dependency, and this leads our household down a stress spiral at times.

So let's acknowledge each other, and be honest about what's really going on. Whose emotional state is ruling the household? Usually it's the human, and we just don't want to admit that, so we project our emotional baggage onto the dogs. They do their best with this less than ideal situation, but would do so much better if they didn't have to carry that burden.

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