I am finding myself using this word often these days.
What is resilience in dogs and why am I using this term so much?
dictionary definition: the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness
When working with dogs, this is a term that I use when a dog can “bounce back” from something happening. Their “recovery” from a stimulus. Something “scary” happens, but their return to “normal” is how I view a dog’s resilience. Or how focused they are in a training session when something unexpected happens. Resilience can also been seen as a dogs ability to keep working through repetition.
Why do I care?
When I am working with a dog, resiliency gives me information about how the dog is feeling in that particular moment. Can’t focus on me when a person and dog shows up next door? That’s probably okay. What about if they show up at 100 yards or if 3 people and dogs show up? This gives me information about where my training plan needs to go for this dog to be successful in life. Maybe we need a quieter training location, or a busier training location depending on how quickly the dog recovered.
It also gives me information about the dog is processing the environment. Does this dog flip out like a ninja when they see the 3 dogs 100 yards away or are they calmly watching and taking food from me? Flipping out like a ninja is not a happy state of mind. Flipping out is not processing the environment. It means something needs to change.
How can you create Resilience?
Exposing your puppy to as many strange things as you can will help them understand, then world could be weird but weird is okay. Even older adult dogs can benefit from the confidence building that comes with interacting with strange things. Taking the moment to encourage a sniff or a touch on an object that caused some feelings can help dogs realize things may not always be what they seem. Encouraging interaction with safe objects while out and about should be part of every outing for you and your dog
What does that look like?
When I am out with my dogs I always ask them to interact with objects in a way that is safe for them. At the park, I ask them to jump up on fallen logs or on the park benches. If we are near the school or the ball field we take a few minutes to walk over the bleachers or jump up on a picnic table. In the hardware store we put our feet on chairs, or overturned pots or climb on the bags of mulch. On a walk in the neighborhood i might spend a few minutes interacting with lawn ornaments or walking across the sewer grates. Each interaction gets lots of cookies, and praise and lasts only a few seconds unless my dog is telling me they feel some kinda way about the object.
Learning to use their body effectively and how to manipulate objects, helps them understand that they can also manipulate the environment to have some control over how they interact with things. This helps build confidence to recover from the times that might be more than they were ready for.