Worry Jars and Dogs
This beautiful vase sits at the entry way of my home in the living room. First I must say I bought it because I thought it was just unique and it called to me. I loved the color, the shape and the price:-). It also has meaning to me and serves a purpose in my life.
I have had many visitors tell me it’s beautiful but ask me why it’s on the floor by my door so I explain. That beautiful vase isn’t just there because I like it and so that I can admire its beauty every day but it also is symbolic for me. It’s my “worry jar”. What’s a worry jar you might ask. It’s a place to put your worries. Sounds too good to be true right but think about it for a minute. We all know that we should come home and leave our work, any negative experiences for the day and our troubles at the door but so often we struggle to do so. That’s often easier said than done. A worry jar reminds you when you walk in the door to leave your troubles there. For those who experience a lot of stress or worry, you can take it one step further by writing down your worries on a slip of paper and putting them in the jar. Later you can deal with them one by one or if needed throw them away istead of replaying them over and over again in your head. Sure you can go pick them up if you need to work from home or deal with them later but it’s a beautiful reminder that our home should be a place of peace, rest and beauty – a place we enjoy outside the hustle and bustle of the busy lives many of us lead.
So what does a blog about a worry jar and stress have to do with dog training? I think a lot. Because we are all our dogs have and what we bring home each day profoundly impacts them – our anxiety, our stress, our world. For example, did you know when we are stressed, we shallow breath? Our dogs recognize stress in us and in our bodies and subtle movements or changes. If you don’t believe me, dance and act silly and see if your dogs don’t join in the fun. They read us VERY well – sometimes better than we read ourselves. Think about it for a moment, they don’t speak our language so they are very keen on picking up even the littlest changes in our body language. So often I have someone walk into one of my classes proclaiming their dog has been “awful this week”. When I ask if they have had a bad week, the answer is almost a “yes I have”. Coincidence? I do not think so. We, as adults, have outlets for our stress whether it’s exercise, talking to a friend, having a drink, going out to enjoy a hobby. Our dogs don’t have those options. They only have us! Dogs have been trained to alert humans prior to seizures*, to detect cancer* and can anticipate storms by changes in weather* so think they can’t detect when their favorite person is stressed, worried, sad? Think again!
I see dogs for private behavior consultations and I always look at the dog from a holistic approach meaning my goal is to understand the motivation behind a behavior(s) and to look at the dog’s lifestyle in relation to their physical, mental, emotional and social needs. Often changes and stress (remember good stress is still stress) in the family’s lifestyle can impact the dog more than many people realize. Just like in people, stress is cumulative for dogs too. Experts agree that most aggression is fear and/or anxiety based and many behavior problems have anxiety at the root of the issue. When we work on reducing our own stress and worry, our dog’s lives are impacted and improved. So lower stress and worry is good for us and our dogs. I think this too is just one way dogs provide a therapeutic benefit and why they lower our blood pressure, help with depression and improve our health according to a number of studies**. By being conscientious of mindful living and our own stress every day with our dogs in mind, the dog actually becomes therapy for us as we learn to breath, worry less and learn to live in and enjoy the moment.
Another reason I am writing about a worry jar and the benefits of stress reduction and mindfulness is because so many animal lovers take better care of their pets, fosters and others than they do themselves. Those of us who volunteer, foster, do rescue, work in an emotional field/job and/or are empaths ( http://www.empathtest.com and http://themindunleashed.org/2013/10/30-traits-of-empath.html) often struggle with balance in our lives and suffer from compassion fatigue (http://highlysensitiveperson.net/compassion-fatigue/). Remember if we don’t take care of ourselves, and that means reducing our stress and worry, how can we take care of those we love whether it be our dogs, our family, our friends or our rescue or volunteer work?
So pick out a beautiful jar to symbolize a place to put your worries when you walk in the door, take a deep breath and enjoy your family – 2 legged or 4 legged. Your dog will thank you.
Carol Sumbry, CPDT -KA, Certified Professional Dog Trainer
*http://4pawsforability.org/seizure-assistance-dog/ http://dogsdetectcancer.org/ http://www.petplace.com/article/dogs/behavior-training/understanding-your-dog/how-do-dogs-sense-oncoming-storms