Out of the blue sir Oliver can become fearful, I suspect this has to do with his past as a laboratory dog, and not to forget that we are his fourth address/home in 5 years time.
This fearfulness is showing when he wants to be stroked on his belly when lying down and showing me his belly. Then I do stroke him and all of a sudden his little body starts trembling. While a minute before all was okay and nothing in me changed. Or he is standing and asking my attention, his tail is wobbling, and as soon as I pet him his tail goes down without any wobbling. What I do now is I stop stroking when his tail goes down. Then his tail goes up again and when he asks, I will stroke him again, but only for a very short period so he can adjust and get used to it. Touch is very important to get oneself stable and grounded, and that doesn’t go for dogs only. How many times do we hear people say that they missed that arm around their shoulders? Touch is like food and touch is enjoyable.
We also use touch when we are outside, and sir Oliver gets too focussed on something and he needs to snap out of it to be able to continue his walk. I touch him on his flank, just a quick but not rough touch with no pressure. He snaps out of the focus he had on a human, a smell or a sound.
When we walk I have another way to ground myself, and through me, sir Oliver. On our walks we hear, see and smell many things. Sometimes he gets scared of all this input and other times he seems not interested and bothered at all, it all depends on where his interest is at. So lets say a scooter drives by and he looks up, then I say with a low and stable voice: “a scooter”. I of course could say as well: “a chicken”, if it was with the same intention and intonation, but I chose to keep it simple and name what is here. So I name all the things where I see his interest goes towards. And I do not jabber as much words as I can think of in as less time possible. It’s about being calm, being here with your dog and through practicing being calm and grounded with my voice, I stabilize myself and my dog is aware of my state which calms him down as well.
So one day we passed by a young man and sir Oliver wasn’t sure he wanted to pass by this man. So my daughter who was walking him, said to him: “it’s okay, he won’t do anything”. Now she said this with a somewhat high pitched voice, and right away I could see a change in sir Oliver his attitude moving away from the young man. I asked my daughter if she maybe was uncomfortable with passing this young man. She wasn’t really aware of it, but wasn’t sure if she was totally comfortable either. This showed me quite nice how we can affect our pets with our own state. People that start yelling at their barking dog, mostly do not have much success in silencing the dog. People that are rushed on a walk can’t get their dog to do what they want, or what the dog normally does.
It’s not that I take yoga lessons with our dog to get totally zen, though simple things like touch and a stable voice can ground your animal, and you get really in touch with your animal. Since the focus is on the dog and not on a smartphone when for instance walking the dog, you can be here. It’s not much different with children or any relationship one would have with any living being. Really being here with another is really acknowledging yourself and the other and not taking anything for granted.