HEAD TURNS TO TEACH RESILIENCE
This clever, sunny little boy is Sully. His level of training was already very high when he came to us and his mum and dad had worked hard to raise a lovely, well-mannered, obedient dog.
When he reached his later teen months, he started to struggle with some unknown dogs. He was particularly uneasy in cafes and pubs, and at times could feel very uncomfortable about people approaching tables where the family were sitting when out.
Like many teens, Sully had started to lose confidence in some aspects of his life. He had started to become sensitive to noises and fast movement, and his mum and dad had noticed that he was barking more frequently in the house and garden.
Teen dogs can often feel uncertain about unpredictable movement and sounds around them.
Developmental Confidence Dips
Part of normal teen development is heightened sensitivity and many dogs struggle with triggers that may not have bothered them when they were younger puppies.
Sully was reliant on being given guidance about how to behave, such as sitting when people approached him, or lying down at cafe tables. He had been trained very kindly, using positive, force-free methods, which meant he was very obedient. But he hadn't learned to think for himself so he didn't know how to cope with his emotions if something made him feel uncomfortable.
The "Self" in Self-Confidence
We're working with many teens with these issues of hyper-sensitivity and a lack of self-confidence. And that "self" is vital for true confidence. It's the crucial part of helping them become more settled in their own skin.
For our teens to be able to cope with things that they find difficult, we need to teach them to become SELF-reliant rather than relying on us to tell them what to do.
For them to learn to control their emotional responses, we need to teach them resilience. And that starts with helping them to cope with frustration.
Our first step is to teach them to feel comfortable when being ignored if they want input. So many of our dogs are used to us responding if they whine or bark when they want input.
We play with them when they drop a toy in our laps. We give them interactive toys because we've read all the stuff out there about enrichment and mental stimulation. We take them for long walks because we think we can tire them out and exercise unwanted behaviour out of them.
What happens is that many teens end up over-stimulated and don't know how to cope with the frustration they feel when they don't get the input they want.
Thinking-Dog Means Thinking Things Through
We teach our dogs to learn strong frustration tolerance, which helps them regulate their emotions when they feel under stress or uncomfortable. The first paw step towards them learning to regulate their emotions is the Head Turn Game and, if you watch the video, you'll hear an explanation about why head turns are an effective way of teaching resilience.
Happy Boy, Happy Home
It was lovely working with Sully and his family. He's such an intelligent, affectionate boy who loves learning new things. He and his family have moved to a new home since our sessions in early summer and he has adapted well to his new life in the big city 😊