Did you know that both you and your dog are wired for connection? It’s almost as though your relationship with your dog was written in the stars!
However, there are things you could be doing that consciously or unconsciously disconnect you from your dog. The things that weaken your connection with your dog can lead to your dog becoming over-aroused, anxious, or even reactive.
So, how can you become more aware of your actions and behavior to avoid weakening your connection with your dog? And how can you make your dog feel safe, calm, and happy? Keep reading to find out!
“We have systems in place that support connection, which is what helps us to feel safe.”
Create a circle of safety and trust
As a dog mom, I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you want to live a safe, calm, and happy life with your dog. Sharing life with a dog is amazing. There’s no greater joy than being out in nature with your dog and seeing how happy they are. Of course, not all walks are peaceful and stress-free. Sometimes, things happen that can knock us off balance and cause our dogs to react differently from what we would like.
Creating a circle of safety and trust is so important. You are responsible for making your dog feel safe in their environment, any environment. Your role as the loving leader in the family group means that you need to create a circle of trust and safety with your dog. When your dog feels safe and secure, they are less likely to act out or behave in a way that is out of character for them.
Dogs are wired for connection
When you’re in the process of developing a circle of trust for your dog, nature gives you a helping hand. As social animals, humans and dogs both have the right systems in place that support connection. We seek connection with others because it helps us to feel safe.
Both dogs and humans are wired to connect. Our hearts lead the way to facilitate that connection by sending signals to our brains that engage a sense of safety, calm, and happiness. It’s truly extraordinary and great news for dog moms who want to create a real heart connection with their dogs.
Our autonomic nervous system is like our personal surveillance system. It forces us to ask questions, either consciously or subconsciously, about what’s going on around us. It helps us determine whether something is safe or not, and all social animals have the same personal surveillance system, including our dogs.
When the autonomic nervous system deems something unsafe, it could cause our dogs to become reactive and anxious. This system learns through experience, and it begins at a very young age. For puppies, early experiences can impact their actions later in life. They may develop fears that you can’t explain, but if you go back far enough, you will be able to pinpoint an experience or series of incidents that have led to your dog’s anxieties or triggers, etc.
Over time, our internal systems are shaped to respond to the experiences we have gone through. Its goal is to keep us in a safe, calm, and happy place, otherwise known as the ‘green zone.’ The system inhibits our natural defense systems so that if and when the time calls for it, our flight, fight, or shut down response is enabled.
The importance of co-regulation
Co-regulation is essential for survival and living in partnership with your dog. Connecting with your dog, building trust, and making them feel safe is key towards building a brilliant partnership lifestyle. If your dog’s biological need for connection is not met, it can lead to autonomic responses of protection and survival strategies, which could be in the form of various behaviors.
Traditional dog training does not take any of this into account, and it just doesn’t work. Desensitizing your dog to certain things does not make them feel safe, calm, or happy. And, since you’re the one putting them in uncomfortable situations, you risk losing some of your dog’s trust. They no longer believe that you can keep them safe because you continue to put them into situations that trigger their autonomic nervous system to jump to their defense.
How to make your dog feel safe
So, what is the solution? What can you do to help your dog feel safe, calm, and happy?
It starts by accepting responsibility for your dog and making a conscious effort to connect with them. You can do this by sharing experiences with your dog to build your dog’s trust in you as their partner. You can still do all of the things you enjoy doing together, but you might want to stop doing things that unintentionally activate your dog’s survival mechanisms.
Identify the experiences, places, and circumstances, etc., where you and your dog are in the green zone together. Then, do more of those things. If you can limit or completely stop putting your dog into stressful and unpredictable circumstances, you can make more progress towards building trust with your dog.
Each time your dog experiences a negative incident with you, you can accidentally teach your dog that they can’t trust you to keep them safe. You unknowingly teach your dog that you are not a steady role model in their life and are not dependable enough to guarantee their safety. This leads to your dog’s survival mode being triggered, which can cause your dog to become nervous, anxious, stressed, frightened, over-aroused, or reactive.
Eventually, you might end up blaming your dog for their reactive behavior. Remember that you are a loving leader who is responsible for creating co-regulation between you and your dog. You don’t want to be stuck in survival mode every time you walk your dog in public, and neither does your dog.
So, try to move towards the green zone as much as possible and stay connected with your dog. If you notice that you’re moving towards the orange or red zone, make a new decision. Think about what you can do to help you and your dog return to the green zone.
“You and your dog are biologically searching for a connection”
Build a strong connection with your dog
You and your dog can build a loving partnership and an unbreakable connection. However, to reach that stage of a brilliant partnership, you need to stay out of survival mode. Concentrate on doing things with your dog that makes them feel safe, calm, and happy.
When you notice that you are potentially headed to the orange or red zone, could you find a way to get out of it? If something unexpected happens and you don’t have time to escape the situation, remember to be present with your dog in the moment. Be the loving partner they need you to be; let them know you are there to help them through it.
The longer you can stay in the green zone, the better. The green zone is where you and your dog’s connection will continue to grow stronger. Enjoy your time together and have a snuggle and take in the little moments with your dog. Give them the love and attention they crave, and they will openly return that love to you in response!
Watch the video below:
If you’d like to work with me and learn how to create a partnership lifestyle for you and your dog, you can request an invitation to join us in the Brilliant Partners Academy when the doors open for the next enrolment!
You can listen to everything I talked about in this blog post over on my podcast – Enlightened By Dogs. It’s episode 132, which you can listen to here.