I’m going to be completely honest. I think I love my dog too much.
Now, wait. Let’s back up. Is that possible? TOO much?
Yes, but here’s the catch. I’ve caught myself many times showing my dog affection that humans may translate to love, but not dogs. Like many of us have with our pets, my dog and I share a very special bond, yet up until recently, I’ve failed to recognize his feelings. I’ve failed to be a mindful dog owner.
One of the amazing things about dogs is that they are upfront about how they feel in any given situation. Their body language never lies, and as a dog parent, it’s not difficult to understand them if you take the time to pay attention.
Some tell-tale signs your dog does not appreciate your hugs and kisses:
- Tail stops wagging when you initiate
- Stress yawns
- Lip lickin’
- Some side-eye situation
Becoming a Mindful Dog Owner
Beyond recognizing the signs when your dog is uncomfortable, research shows that your demeanor also affects your pup. A recent mindbodygreen article by Dr. Richard H Pitcairn, revealed that our pets are extremely susceptible to our emotions once we’ve bonded with them. With their heightened senses, our dogs can easily detect stress chemicals emitted by our body. The only problem? They have no idea why, yet it affects them as if danger is coming. For our pets who may have behavioral or health issues, this can become a vicious cycle of stress triggers. This constant rollercoaster of stress can prevent our pets from being truly well and happy.
Being a mindful dog owner means recognizing how our pets are affected by our thoughts and actions. We must be present in the moment to be conscious of their feelings. Since I started being a more mindful dog mom, I’ve noticed a world of difference in my pup, Blue.
Blue was a rescue that we adopted from North Carolina. He came with a lot of emotional baggage, including separation anxiety and fear of strangers. Blue’s go-to defense mechanism is fear-based aggressive barking that’s about 3x bigger than his 40-lb stature.
Through years of patience, unconditional love, and nurturing, I’ve worked with Blue to find contentment and peace. He still barks at strangers who give him weird vibes and has a hard time seeing other dogs on walks, but he is night and day from the boy we met 4 years ago.
Once I started listening to him, he came out of his shell more than I could ever imagine. I gave him space when my hugs triggered a stress yawn or my pets made his tail lower. As a result, I’ve been given an ocean of affection in return. Within the last year, Blue will now request when he wants to be pet, because I gave him the space to decide. He gives a little nudge and kiss to say thank you for giving him treats. He has become a serial snuggler because we have shown him we respect his personal space…even if he doesn’t respect ours.
I’m not going to lie, it’s not easy being a mindful dog owner. Most days Blue is so cute I just want to squeeze him relentlessly. Luckily, the pay-off for listening is worth so much more.