I hope this finds you safe and well, preferably with a dog by your side and a cuppa in hand.
I have been making list after list for our online training club (*update* the info from the club can be found here) and our blogs of training games, recipes, enrichment ideas and all the weird and wonderful things you can do with your dog while we navigate our new isolated reality. That wasn’t my plan for Spring as everything I have ready involves being out and about, being able to buy ingredients from shops and, you know, having the freedom to leave the house.
Now, I know that we can still leave the house (for now, at a distance) but I also know that now is not the time to bombard you with information.
I know this because dealing with and recovering from trauma is what we teach on our social projects. I know that at the moment most of us are in a state of shock and we’re frightened. While we’ll all deal with this in a different way, now is the time for me to put what we teach into practice.
When we’re frightened our brain responds in a way that is designed to protect us. It sends chemicals around our body that prepare us to fight or run away (or run to the nearest shop and fight for toilet roll, we could be seeing the next evolution of the fight/flight response in our lifetime). Every time there’s a new announcement, a breaking news report or a new thought that pops into our mind about the health of our loved ones, how we’re going to pay the bills or what life will be like ‘after’ we get a surge of fight/flight chemicals.
It has only been a matter of days for most of us in the UK and we’re exhausted. That’s ok; we’re coming down from the chemicals. There’ll be another hit of those chemicals coming; I have no doubt, so rest while you can. There’s no expectation, there’s no right or wrong way to deal with this and you’re doing the best you can.
Remember this next time your dog is frightened, confused or in a situation that simply doesn’t make sense to them.
We’re all just doing the best we can in the circumstances we’re in.
I have seen so many dog-folk mobilise with challenges, online lessons, 101 ideas for you and your dog and why now is the perfect time to train every cue you’ve ever wanted your dog to learn. They’re responding in the most positive way they can and I admire them for that.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I would like you to do one thing and one thing only.
Read this blog, especially the section on ‘fear and anxiety!’
The fear is overwhelming because we’re thinking about the future. Believe me, I understand that it’s almost impossible not to think about the future and there are practical reasons why you will need to consider what comes next. However, you don’t have to do that right now. You can put the kettle on; you can give yourself a few minutes and you can bring yourself back to this moment. Give your brain a rest.
The reason that this blog hasn’t appeared earlier is that I would have been inauthentic. I was panicking, making lists and trying to deliver 101 things for you and your dog to do in a nano-second in place of my scheduled plan.
I haven’t done 101 things in a nano-second with my dog this week. I have made sure we have kept our routine, I have played scent games (because it’s part of our routine!) and I have done my best – and failed more than once – to manage my emotions around him. Today, I have looked at and practised positive self-talk ideas mindfulness exercises, I talk about them every day, yet I haven’t been practising them this week. That’s the (not-so-secret) secret, you see. When the shit hits the fan, we have to treat ourselves in the way we treat our dog when they’re having a tough time; with kindness.
Now that I have done it I can ask you to do the same.
Stay safe x
PS, do I get a bonus point for reaching almost 800 words without using ‘unprecedented’?! Oh, DAMMIT!