I recently saw a meme that said, “All dogs are therapy dogs, some just get commission”. This is true! A family dog has the potential to teach you about love, patience, responsibility, and emotional regulation. Have you ever considered that your dog could be a therapy dog, too?
Dogs are typically are aware of their own nervous systems, something us human could learn from. We can physically see signs of dysregulation in a dog: panting, pacing, retreating, and change of posture to name a few. As we get curious about our dog’s signs of not being regulated it is interesting to think about our own. Do you have any in common with your furry companion? A second learning piece a pup may offer is what to do with dysregulation. Dogs naturally do what their body needs to help regulate such as chew, scratch, move rooms, lay on cooler surfaces, run and jump, just to name a few. Do we give ourselves permission to take care of ourselves in the moment like dogs are naturally driven to do?
When you or your child are dysregulated emotionally (tantrums, panic attacks, emotional breakdowns or feeling sad/angry), are you taking advantage of the comfort your dog can provide? Here is a list of activities that we can mindfully do with our dog to either connect or shift the energy within our own bodies. I challenge you to do a body scan before and after the activity to develop a deeper understanding of how the activity uniquely impacts you or your child.
4-3-2-1: What are 4 things you can see on the dog, 3 things you can feel, 2 things you can hear, and 1 thing you can smell?
Walks/Runs: Not only do you get physical activity but you also get some fresh air.
Breathing: Depending on the breed of your dog, their repertory rates may be slightly slower or in close range to yours. Take a moment to match up your inhalations and exhalations with your dog.
Grooming: Brushing your dog may seem like a chore, but this repetitive activity can help you slow down, shift your thoughts, and just be with your dog.
Throwing a ball/tug-o-war: These are great in times that you have a lot of energy in your hands and arms.
Teach them a new trick: An awesome way to bond with your dog, but also a break from all of clutter in your head because you have to focus on the dog and yourself in the moment.
Anything you do with your dog can be used as a regulation tool, if used intentionally, but the tools above have the compounding effects of both affection from your pup and emotional regulation.