Overdoing it lately? Chances are your dog has been too



I had ‘one of those weeks’ recently. Everything happened at once, and work/life/family commitments were pulling me in all directions. I worked late, didn’t get much sleep and generally felt a little unsettled and jittery. We all have weeks like this, and it got me thinking about how important taking time out is, and how this is equally important for our canine companions. It can be difficult to resist asking our dogs to do things all the time (come here, wake up, dinner time, walk, eat this, no don’t eat that!) or even just shield them from the pressures in our lives that inevitably have an impact. During busy weeks, I sometimes catch myself thinking ‘oh please just stop sniffing that tree and hurry up’ while out walking my dog. And I imagine if I'm thinking it, my dog is very likely to be feeling it through my body language and general demeanour. A relatively recent study looking at how effectively dogs can interpret our facial expressions just adds to the body of research suggesting that dogs can read our emotions astoundingly well. Just like us, dogs need their quiet ‘days off’, where they aren’t subject to our demands and commands. I discuss this with clients regularly, so in response to my own hypocrisy, I made sure that I kept my mouth shut this week, and allowed my dog to make his own decisions about how things would unfold. And what a lovely time we had! He chose the walking routes at his own pace, he let me know when he felt like interacting and he seemed much happier (and more affectionate) for it. That's what I love about dogs – they are fantastic teachers when it comes to enjoying the little things, provided we remember to listen. Harriet Alexander is a dog trainer and behaviourist working in London. www.harrietalexander.co.uk

#stress #choices

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