When a dog is misbehaving, what’s the one common element, no matter what the problem is? Think about the misbehaviors: jumping on people, pulling on the walk, barking too much, peeing in the house, chewing things up, being aggressive, being fearful… They all sound like a lot of different issues, don’t they?
After all, the same thing can’t possibly make one dog aggressive and the other fearful. A dog won’t bark for the same reason that it pulls on the walk. Right?
Yes, and no. The behaviors are very different, but they are all signs of one particular thing being out of balance. And this is probably no surprise: The exact same thing is true of people and their misbehaviors as well. So what’s behind it?
A dog cannot be balanced unless it is calm. Elevated energy in a dog is the fuel that’s required to keep all the other bad behaviors running. The way that energy expresses itself varies from dog to dog — anxiety, aggression, destructiveness, hyperactivity — but the mechanism behind it is the same.
This is why it’s so vitally important to keep a dog’s excess energy drained through exercise. The mind cannot focus until the body is relaxed, and the body cannot relax as long as it’s overloaded.
A calm dog is a balanced dog — but there’s more to the lesson, because exactly the same thing is true for people, although it’s also a little more complicated for us because our psychology is more complicated.
Think of how people misbehave. They can be rude, impatient, violent, or aggressive. And while the following might not sound like misbehaviors per se, certain issues like anxiety, uncertainty, and boredom can also be caused by the same thing… an inability to relax and become calm.
Why do things like road rage happen? Because a driver is not relaxed, and their impatience can turn into a violent outburst. Why are people rude to each other? Because they’re worried or frustrated or otherwise focused on some imagined bad outcome and lash out defensively — or offensively. Why are people bored? Because their body wants to be really, really active while their brain has nothing to do.
If people could relax, fidget spinners would never have become a thing!
Well, people can relax, but we just have to learn how to do it. To get a dog to calm down it’s easy. Take them on a long walk and exercise it out of them. To some extent, we can calm down a little bit through exercise or meditation. However, for humans, relaxing can be more difficult because there can be so many more things to deal with mentally or emotionally. Our dogs don’t have to worry about anything, after all. But we do — or think we do.
But there are tricks that can help you become truly calm.
You might think that the song from Frozen, “Let It Go,” would be good advice for learning to be calm, but the key is actually in a much older song, by the Beatles: “Let It Be.”
Letting it go leaves “it” unresolved and creates something in the past you can still obsesses on or feel regret over. Letting it be allows you to stay in the moment. It also allows you to accept that you might not have control over something, and let go of both regret and worry.
As part of the process of learning to let it be, it really helps to reconnect with Nature in whatever way you can. Especially if you live in a big city, even if it’s just to go walk in a woodsy urban park, getting back to Nature and metaphorically “out of town” is the best way to recharge your batteries.
Remember: Humans are animals, too. We’re just animals who have invented things and wear clothes and have artificial dens. But we need to be attached to the planet as much as animals that live in the wild. We need to remember that our real home is not a physical address, but in the intersection of our hearts, minds, and bodies, and the earth itself.
We need to learn to listen to the rhythm of the planet and tune out our own anxieties. We need to learn to live in the moment. Fortunately, Nature has given us these wonderful creatures called dogs as a living example of how wonderful life can be if we just learn how to slow down and relax.
Stay calm. Always.