Could Canine Therapy be the best option if your dogs are misbehaving?
We have long considered domestic dogs to be “man’s best friend.” They are faithful and loyal companions, and also incredibly intelligent and sensitive. It is hardly surprising so many people have brought new puppies into their homes to help them cope during the pandemic.
But, as we all know, dogs can sometimes develop annoying and disruptive habits. How do you deal with a dog that constantly barks and jumps up everyone in sight, for example?
Becky Shuttlesworth of Therapy 4 Dogs explains why we should consider Canine Therapy to address dog behavioural issues, and how easily some problems can be rectified by a suitably experienced and qualified Canine Therapist.
Humanising our dogs
We are living in an age where we are becoming more aware of our own mental health and wellbeing. We are also increasingly acknowledging the role our dogs play in this and are constantly finding ways for our dogs to take part in more of the activities that we enjoy. Dog cafes are popping up everywhere with dog-friendly coffee and cakes; Doga classes are advertised alongside regular Yoga; we can buy matching outfits for us and them and buy them birthday and Christmas presents and cakes.
We are humanising our dogs more and more each day. So why do we still treat them like dogs when it comes to their behaviour? Why do we still use words like Alpha and dominance? If we had severe anxiety or anger issues ourselves, would we just call someone in to train it out of us? Of course we wouldn’t! We would see a doctor or therapist, wouldn’t we? So don’t our dogs deserve the same?
Our dogs are highly emotional beings. They feel all the same emotions that we do and are affected by emotions the same as we are: they feel and react to feelings of joy, happiness, excitement, fear, panic, jealousy, guilt, grief…
Unfortunately, the way that our dogs express how they are feeling is usually through a behaviour we do not like: they bark, whine, growl, howl, bite, mouth, chew, lick, and some will even dig! All the behaviours that we complain about and want to rectify such as them jumping up or excessively barking is just their way of expressing how they feel about something in that moment.
Sensitivity to electromagnetic fields
Before we look at how to deal with these behaviours, it is also important to understand that dogs have the biggest heart-to-body-mass ratio of any living animal: a dog’s heart to its body mass is a 0.8 percent ratio. Most other animals including elephants, mice and even humans have a 0.6 percent ratio.
The heart, like the brain, generates a powerful electromagnetic field which can be measured several feet away from the body. This electromagnetic field contains certain information or coding and different emotions can influence or change this information/coding.
When you are within a certain distance of your dog your electromagnetic field can directly affect their electromagnetic field meaning that at any given moment, they know how you are feeling and when your feelings change. When you get home from that stressful day at work and get to your front door and paint that smile on your face so that your family think you are fine, your dog still knows how you’re really feeling!
Their innate intelligence is even more apparent when you consider how many dogs are trained as guide dogs, to detect cancers, sniff out contraband goods, find people lost on mountains and so much more. There’s even research being carried out to see if dogs can be trained to detect COVID-19!
But think about how many different emotions we can go through in a day and consider that our dogs go on this rollercoaster with us. Add their own emotions and the way they themselves feel about different situations to the mix, along with the fact that we don’t allow them to express how they feel properly because we don’t like the associated behaviours, you have an emotional wreck of a dog that suddenly can’t cope anymore.
Does this sound like something that someone can just come in and train out of them?
What is Canine Therapy
I can’t really say what Canine Therapy is as a whole because it’s a title I have given the collective techniques I use when working with dogs that have behavioural issues, so I can only really tell you what my version of it is.
I found that when I went under the label of a canine behaviourist, people expected me to work a certain way with certain techniques and weren’t always prepared to try my methods, but since using the heading of Canine Therapist I am attracting clients that are a lot more open to how I work.
This is not dissimilar to the way many people therapists work. Many are trained in two or more disciplines and when working with clients they take a holistic approach enabling them to adapt more effectively to the individual’s needs.
I have taken on a lot of rescue dogs over the years and have studied various techniques with different people in order to help them. I started as a general behaviourist, specialising in pack structure training, but soon found that these techniques didn’t help the highly traumatised dogs that came into my care.
Although the techniques were kind, I couldn’t touch some of these dogs for the first weeks or months of them arriving with me and realised that what they needed the most was just love, kindness and the time to settle and learn to trust me.
I started looking for ways to make them feel calmer, happier and more relaxed and I now use a combination of animal communication, Reiki and other energy techniques, canine hypnotherapy, relaxation techniques, grounding techniques, dog-safe essential oils, and Bach flower remedies to help resolve the behaviour issues I am presented with.
How I work
I tend to start by having a telephone conversation with the guardian and finding out what the struggles are from their point of view. Then I would do a communication session with the dog via Zoom, with the guardian present, so I can ascertain the dog’s point of view. From there I will usually know how deep-set the problem is and if there are quick fixes the guardian can make, or whether they are suffering from deeper issues that need further therapy.
If the issues can be easily rectified, I’ll provide the necessary advice and then I usually just follow up with a second communication to check that the dog is happy and coping ok with the changes, or whether further changes are then needed.
If the issue is deeper set, then I will arrange a home visit for a full therapy session where I will then use whichever techniques I feel the dog needs at that time.
Hector was a 4-year-old Labrador who hated having visitors in the house and would bark and bite. His owner had to shut him away whenever she had friends round, but then all he would do is bark the whole time.
Using Animal Communication, I found that he was getting over excited when other people came to the house and did not know how to cope or what to do. All he knew was that he needed to ground to release the energy and barking and biting are two of the ways dogs do this. He didn’t mean to hurt anyone; he just could not cope when it happened.
The added shouting and telling him he was naughty then caused upset on top of this, and shutting him away was just making things worse because he was holding onto the original excitement and upset that he couldn’t release and then was getting more upset and stressed because he didn’t understand why he couldn’t say hello to people and why he couldn’t be with mum.
I explained to Hector why his mum got so annoyed and the consequences of him grounding on people. He felt it would help if he had a chew or a bone that he could bite on. I then spoke to mum about keeping him on a lead when people arrived and giving him this chew or bone before she let people into the house. I also did an onsite visit and did some energy work and used aromatherapy oils to release any trapped emotions that Hector had at that point so that he wasn’t triggered by these before he even felt anything new.
I gave his mum a list of grounding activities she could do with him to make sure that he had the opportunity to release anything that built up in him each day.
I also did a follow up communication with Hector and his mum 2 weeks later to check how things were going and to this day the problem has not returned.