Freya and Eva recently spent some time at the farm (doggie rehab) since I still needed help with Freya, and had also reached some sort of (albeit manageable) plateau with Eva. Kevin’s prescription for us: DOWN. That was basically it. He said, “If you don’t have a down, you don’t have anything.”
He also said it’s going to look like a lot of obedience work. Which normally, NDT is not focused on obedience, although eventually you do get the standard obedience behaviors from working the five core exercises.
The problem I had was that I loved the active exercises: the bite, the bark, the push. But I loathed the collection and could not settle myself long enough to relax my dogs into a rub-a-dub. I believe my nervous system has been fairly out of whack (on screech) for a good many years. That means I’ve been stuck in fight or flight, and in avoidance of the freeze response. Collecting and relaxing feel much like freezing (to me), and the reptilian brain only goes into a freeze response when unpleasant things are happening. So it’s understandable why someone with unconscious trauma may avoid these types of collection exercises. And it’s not that I had avoided them altogether, it’s just that my collection work was way out of balance with my projection work.
As a result, I’ve been overstimulating my dogs. So when we got back home, I set up “Leah’s Sober House For Owner Addicted Dogs” (and dog addicted owners). Eva and Freya were on bed-rest. Meaning, they were crated much of the time. After a couple days of protest to her crate, Eva settled into long naps full of guttural snoring. She was catching up on years of sleep (as was I). But they spent the sunny hours of the day taking turns relaxing in the yard. I’d look out at them in the yard and I’d have to check if they were still breathing, because I’d never seen them so relaxed before. Sometimes Freya would be sunbathing, and if I looked closely, I could see her nose working the air, just the muscles of her shiny black nostrils analyzing her environment.
The little training we did consisted of working the down, walking nicely on the leash, and evening massages before bed. This was the antidote for all the surging I had allowed in the years prior.
And it worked. I was no longer using my dogs to express my unconcious trauma. I was just letting them be dogs. It also reminded me of something I’ve heard Kevin say: “Up fixes down, down fixes up.”
So I would say what I have learned from all this that it’s not neccessarily that the down is the key to all of it (although in my particular case it was) but that if you don’t have balance, you don’t have anything.
And also, if you are a type-A, “too-sensitive,” over-achieving perfectionist, you may be unconsciously over-training your dogs in one way or another as an outlet for your unresolved emotion (which is basically fight or flight energy that never got discharged). You could very well be stuck in a load/overload cycle of addiction, even if your drug of choice is dog-training. Give yourself and your dogs a break. Un-training is the new training!