Dr. Laurel Davis, WNC’s integrative vet, offers Stories from a Holistic Veterinarian, the blog of a holistic vet and “animal interpreter.” With a clinic in downtown Asheville, NC. Dr. Laurel also offers animal health, lifestyle and vaccination advice for cats, dogs and their human friends across the country.
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Dog Training: It Benefits You and Them!
Pup parenthood: love and health!
Ah, the wonderful blessing of sharing your life with a dog! Not only do they make our hearts bigger and teach us how to love, but it’s been documented that people who live with dogs enjoy lower blood pressure, longer life expectancy, and fewer health problems in general. When we get sick, recovery times are much faster for those of us delighted with a charming, tail-wagging, happy pooch. In fact, Time released a fascinating article this summer highlighting the many health benefits associated with befriending a dog. To read more, check out Live Science’s recent blog: “7 Surprising Health Benefits of Dog Ownership.” So….what we dog-lovers already know, that being best friends with a dog is wonderful, has been proven in the research. However, there is another side to this coin…
Living with an unruly dog can do quite the opposite.
As sentient beings, pups are very receptive to their human companion’s mood and energy. Chances are that if you are stressed out by Fido’s unruliness, your perceptive fur-baby will pick up on that and become stressed or unhappy herself. If left unchecked, stress can wreak havoc on our bodies and minds, contributing to health problems like high blood pressure and heart disease. We certainly don’t want that for ourselves or our dogs! Pup parenthood is a significant journey in one’s life. As the caretaker of your loving being, it is your responsibility to ensure your pup’s behavior is in check. This can easily be accomplished by taking the time to train your dog. Unruliness can also stem from lack of exercise. Daily exercise is crucial for your pup, and it can be integrated into any training program. This study explores the canine physiological effects of exercise, proving that it is an effective way to expend energy, lower stress, and improve their mood.
Integrative vets can help in ways that others can’t.
As an integrative vet, I spend my time listening to my patients…and I’m talking about the furry ones, as well as the human beings who bring them in! A great first step in the behavioral healing of your dog is to set aside some essential time to learn how your dog communicates. It’s important to note that many behaviors perceived by humans as unruly are actually normal dog behaviors. However, that doesn’t mean that you’re stuck with them. With effort, diligence, and deep connection with your companion, your dog will become well-trained. Once their new behaviors are established, the relationship shared between you and your love-bug will expand into a new way of being that is heart-centered, trustful, and positively effective in other aspects of your life. Additionally, the health benefits described above will become an essential aspect of your relationship.
When you go through basic dog training with your dog (and yes, even old dogs can learn new tricks!), he or she learns the foundations of what is acceptable when living with humans.
What is expected of them? (AKA “good manners”)
When dogs become aware and understand what is expected of them, their stress levels are reduced and their lives are better. As discussed earlier, the bond between a pooch and their human is reflective. Just as stress is experienced simultaneously between dog and human, the same is true for joy and love.
This transition to well-trained behavior results in more zen for everyone! When your pup demonstrates good manners, interactions with their environment and other humans are positive for all of those involved. Once this level is obtained, your pup truly becomes your “right-hand man,” and reaches a sense of fulfillment. At this point, your furry companion is a much-loved part of the family and is included in more of the fun of everyday life!
What is their “job” and/or their place in the pack?
Dogs thrive on living in a structured environment and finding their place in the pack dynamic. Investing time, patience and money in training your dog helps you create that structure within the family pack so your dog has boundaries and clarity in their role.
This really is a boost of confidence to them. It’s akin to finding your purpose, your honeypot in life. If you know what to do and where to go in all different situations, your self-esteem is greatly increased. It is the same for your dog. This confidence also decreases fear, which is a huge factor in lowering stress levels and increasing those “good feeling” hormones, such as endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. As a bonus, fear reduction encourages calm, attentive behavior, too!
Any relationship requires awareness and attention to be comfortable and sweet. This creates a bond that is valuable and nourishing to both beings involved.
The more time you put into conscious interactions with your dog, the sacredness of your shared bond flourishes and mutual understanding evolves into a deeper level. It’s important to keep in mind that training your dog increases and strengthens your relationship. Your sweet moment can be something as simple as the signal at the end of a training session with the declaration “Free!” to the pup, or training them to sit on a mat or their bed when people come to the door. The more you can fluidly communicate with your dog, the happier and healthier everyone will be.
Still not convinced it’s worth the time and effort to train Fido? Consider these additional benefits…
- When you train your dog, you are creating a common language that will benefit you and your pooch for life.
- When you share a deep bond and an understood language between you, you can learn to spot things about their health earlier.
- A more empowered you! The realization that there can be a common language between you and your pooch empowers the human to become even more engaged in the relationship. Also, it empowers the person to step it up in his or her own life, to take charge of creating even more relationships with the people around them. It inspires the person to actively engage with other living beings. As they say, “The way we do one thing is the way we do everything.”
- Over time, as the training continues, humans truly begin to experience the depth of emotion, intelligence, and awareness that a dog can offer. I have had many clients share with me that they didn’t even know that their depth of relationship with their dog was possible. Epiphany time! Just imagine if we all took a look around at the natural world with these new eyes, and made deeper, richer connections with everything/everyone around us.
EmBARKing on the journey of dog training: take time to set your intentions.
- We’ve discussed good manners and what is acceptable when living with humans. Take a moment to think specifically about which manners you’d like to prioritize in the training process. Consider your lifestyle and how these newly implemented behavioral patterns will not only benefit yourself but strengthen the relationship shared with your pooch.
- Another critical aspect explored is the need for dogs to have a significant role in the pack. Here’s another opportunity to analyze your lifestyle and day-to-day routines. Ask yourself the question: “Which jobs would fit Fido’s capability and become integrated into a routine?” This could include a weekly walk to explore the perimeter of your property so that Fido knows the boundaries of his place, for example. This is a wonderful way to provide your pup with a sense of purpose and belonging.
My next blog dives further into all the ways training your dog benefits your relationship, so be sure to tune in next week!
Are you interested in seeking help from a professional? Dog training can be daunting without any prior knowledge or experience. Here is a list of some wonderful dog trainers in the Asheville area who can help you and your pup build a relationship based on solid communication and mutual understanding:
True Connection Canine Education – Jennifer King
Wild Dog Training – Jodi Miller
Mindful Mutz – Heather Polechio
Ilio Canine Care – James Lyon
The Dog Door– Kim Brophey
A Good Dog’s Life – Susan Wilson & Gail Hubbard
Specialized Canine Services – Steve Dogfather Canady
Dr. Laurel Davis is WNC’s integrative vet offering phone and Skype consultations for animal lovers everywhere. Call 828-254-2221 or order an Ask Dr. Laurel™ phone or Skype session or bring your dog or cat to her downtown Asheville, NC clinic. Read more patient stories.
Get to know Dr. Laurel by reading her blog.
Do you have a story about Dr. Laurel’s dog advice or how she helped your dog or cat? Please leave it in the comments below or write a Google Review.