Self-Reg has continued to impact on my life and in my practices: resulting in positive changes in both my personal and professional life. Usually though, when I blog about my Self-Reg aha’s, they are in regards to my experiences as an educator and with other people. This post is different. What about puppies and Self-Reg?
Where It All Began …
Back in the summer, after experiencing the devastating loss of both of my dogs, I got a wonderful new addition to my family. Maggie is all kinds of wonderful, and then some.
She’s the first dog that I’ve ever had whose best friends are both the postal carrier and the garbage collector. She can convince almost anybody to rub her belly, and even has the recycling truck stopping in the middle of the road just to say, “hello,” to her. As wonderful and loving as Maggie is, there’s another side to her.
What Happens Come Dinnertime?
Maggie might best be called Jekyll and Hyde. Just around dinnertime, this calm, loving pet changes personalities.
- She runs.
- She jumps.
- She growls and nips.
- She’s looking to play, but the more time that you spend playing with her, the more up-regulated she becomes.
Maggie also gets up fairly early, as my mom cares for her while I’m at school during the day. This long day and the excitement of me coming home, just makes things more challenging. As I look more closely at her behaviour and think about Shanker Self-Reg, what I see here is a dysregulated dog, who is looking for a person to co-regulate her.
- Sometimes a cuddle helps.
- Sometimes a calm game (e.g., fetch) works.
- Sometimes a quiet voice makes a difference.
- Sometime she just needs a little snack, but not to eat alone, but for me to feed her: one piece of kibble at a time. Can a gentle touch be as valuable for dogs as it is for humans?
Then The Snow Came …
And then there were these past few days of snow. An epic amount of heavy snow. Maggie loves to go for walks, but she’s a small dog and the snow banks are huge. She’s one incredible jumper though, so climbing a snow mountain or two doesn’t stop her. It does tire her out. Just like it’s more exhausting for people to walk through thick snow, it’s the same for dogs … particularly when a dog needs to gallop through it.
Maggie is also a really clean dog. She does not like anything getting on her fur. Unlike any other pet that I’ve ever had, Maggie cleans herself frequently … and she needs to be the one doing the cleaning. So with all of this snow, she came back from every walk with lots of snow clumps stuck to her belly and paws. What did she do? Sit down and lick off every single one of them. This was exhausting.
A Welcome Change
With all of this extra work cleaning herself coupled by the more tiring — and calming — sensory snow experience, Maggie is now a different dog. She isn’t looking for that co-regulation in the evening because the snowy walk is providing her with the Self-Reg that she needs. (Just like people, what calms some dogs might dysregulate others. Maggie’s rapidly moving tail tells me that she loves the snow, but this is not the case for all dogs. Maybe some would become more aggressive and upset after some time out in the snow.) Maggie’s making me wonder what active, independent sensory experience might be possible for her when the snow melts. Could a dog actually self-regulate? Maybe yes or maybe no, but either way, Self-Reg is helping me see the stress in her behaviour and respond differently. Might a change in my response also result in a change in hers? Never before has professional learning impacted so much on all aspects of my life … including that of a four-legged furry friend.