How fearful dogs feel
A fearful dog experiences physical and psychologic tension, is not in harmony with his surroundings and therefore cannot feel flow. A typical reaction of fear is that dogs cannot eat, their system shuts completely down. In times of biggest stress they cannot even eliminate. That is the moment when dogs tuck their tail in to instinctively cover all body openings.
What is flow?
Psychologist Csikszentmihalyi describes it as a state of complete obsession in an activity. Dogs sense flow when hunting and bringing prey to ground. When chasing prey, dogs feel weightless and totally in sync with their environment. An ecstatic hunger to contact that prey arises and shifts to a physical hunger to eat it. There is no more feeling for time and space. All live energy is centered in the heart, the dog feels happy, complete and fulfilled.
Since the modern dog is not allowed to hunt (or even run free), he is very rarely in flow. But he easily develops stress from physical memories of situations which did not move to completion. The dog cannot reduce that stress in a natural way anymore and stores it as fear in the gut.
How to help your fearful dog
It is actually very esy. Fear will not disappear over night, it can only be reinforced. To help your fearful dog you have just one solution: Turn his fear into hunger! Let him feel weightless and fulfilled, help him to experience flow! But remember, flow only happens during an ecstatic activity! It will not happen during a learned activity as obedience, trick training or agility.
Target of all fear training needs to be that a dog finally loves what he was afraid of.
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