|My highly sensitive very dear, sweet Boxer x boy Robbie - |
who wasn't so sweet when he arrived in my pack,
he was a badly misunderstood dog and an abused dog...
All dogs are intelligent, sensitive beings, but some dogs have an even more acute sensitivity and intelligence - these dogs are what I call 'Heightened Sensitivity' Dogs (HSD) also termed 'Hyper Sensitive' Dogs (HSD).
Highly sensitive tends to be a term that has less negative connotations - at least in North America. Due to the increasingly high volume of children and dogs (in North America) diagnosed as ADHD (attention deficit, hyper-active disorder) the term 'hyper sensitive' tends to have a more negative connotation than the term 'highly sensitive'.
It is my very firm belief - proven by the work that I do with such dogs - that dogs that are being diagnosed (i.e. by veterinarians, behaviorists, and dog trainers) as ADHD are in fact not ADHD - they are instead HSD.
Heightened sensitivity dogs, like all dogs, need structure, adequate physical and mental exercise - no more or less so than any other dog. The HS dog does require that their human communicate with true clarity and they require a diet that supports optimal health as do all dogs. They do not require chemical-based medications such as Reconcile (Prozac for dogs).
Heightened sensitivity can be found in many species - including 2-leggeds, humans! These individuals are called HSP...highly sensitive people.
Heightened sensitivity (HS) in both dogs and people can be an amazing gift and an asset that benefits the HS individual and others with whom they come into contact with.
Heightened sensitivity can also led to problems when it is not recognized, understood and positively levereged.
I am an HSP and some of the dogs in my own pack are HSD. The attributes that come with HSP have allowed me to understand and work with people and their dogs to an extent that would not be possible if I were not HSP. Had I not taken control of this ability, hypersensitivity could become a detriment rather than an asset - as over sensitivity can lead to flooding of senses and result in anxiety. Just as a dog can become flooded by over-stimulation, resulting in a state of anxiety and distress.
HS dogs are amazing as they have the ability to learn and connect with people in a capacity that can exceed the capacity of other dogs. These type of dogs in particular offer a great gift to the human that is willing to learn from the dog...
As Edward Hoagland said...
"In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely try to train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog."
I work with many dogs that exhibit over-threshold behaviours yet when the dog is given the opportunity to be effectively, respectfully communicated with and directed in a truly logical and patient manner the dog will usually choose to accept the direction provided. Positive leveraging.
The basis for my work with people and their dogs is teaching people to see what is really occurring and not what they assume is occurring, to teach them how to take positive control by communicating effectively, to teach them how to create a supportive structure for themselves and their dog(s). Real understanding, real control from a place of self-awareness, self-discipline, self-restraint and good communication - deliberately positive creators and communicators.
As John Lubbock said "What we see mainly depends on what we look for".
My experience working and living with dogs has shown me time and time again that dogs do exactly what their human tells them to do…the problem is that the human may have a very low level of self-awareness. So for example if you communicate to another human or a dog from a state of frustration, ire or anger what you get back usually reflects your own state. When a human is emotional and reactive and they create emotion and reactivity in others. Pure logic – and dogs love logic even more than humans do becasue dogs are better communicators than most humans today.
I cross-post so many beautiful dogs that are no different than my dear Boxer cross 'Robbie'. Sensitive, intelligent dogs that end-up in high-kill 'shelters' because the dog's people did not understand how to effectively communicate. So many wonderful souls lost to a death they did not deserve.
So is Your Dog an HSD?
- Is not a disorder;
- Is not a disadvantage when recognized, and;
- In fact it can be a valuable gift and advantage - which simply presents another layer of intelligence...for example:
- An HSP or HSD can quickly read the mood of another person (human/canine); can pick up the scent of illness, sense the onset of a seizure before it occurs, be extra attentive, etc.
Some signs that your dog (or you!) are hypersensitive are:
- Heightened levels of awareness/sensitivity to:
- Physical stimuli, i.e. sound, sight, touch, smell ;
- Emotional Stimuli, i.e. emotions of others;
- Easily over-whelmed - 'flooded' by too much stimuli.
- A person or dog that is hyper sensitive is more likely than a non HSP or HSD to suffer from:
- Allergies, asthma, skin conditions such as eczema.
Dogs that are HS may show acute signs of hyper-active behaviour if good leadership is lacking in the dog's life.
An HSD does not require more physical exercise than a non-HS dog;
- In-fact over stimulation with non-structured exercise will create more hyperactivity as the dog is not presented with the opportunity to reconnect with its natural inclination to relax and go into a calm and restful state.
The remedy is to provide:
- The dog with the structure it needs to be a fulfilled well-adjusted being;
- An equal balance between appropriate quantity of physical and psychological exercise;
- A truly good diet, which includes sufficient levels of nutrients such as Omega-3 Fatty Acids, which when lacking in the diet can create serious impediments to optimal brain and body function.
An example of the positive attributes of HSP/HSD
I am an HSP...
- I see my hypersensitivity as a great gift is it allows me to work with dogs and their humans in a manner that others cannot;
- I can sense things that a non-HSP would not be able to sense;
- I can alert to a person's thoughts and read them as a dog does;
- I can read/sense a dog more as another dog would;
- I can from personal experience understand how a dog get's flooded by stimuli;
- I can sense and work intuitively to shift my methods in the most subtle of ways to better suit the individual dog.
If you want to see an example of:
- A hypersensitive dog;
- The extreme damage that can be done to the dog in the absence of intelligent leadership, and;
- The impact of giving that dog proper leadership;
HS dogs offer the human the opportunity to learn and grow into a better human being. I learn from dogs everyday - each dog is an individual and each dog has something new to share with you...but that can only happen if you open your senses and expand your awareness.
Dogs are one of the few animals that have a similar muscular facial structure to humans, dogs do smile and express many emotions in their facial expressions - dogs use all of there senses to communicate...when a human only uses their voice backed-up with unrestrained emotion your dog will listen to you and do exactly what you are telling them to do - be emotional and reactive.
The last word of this article goes to George Bernard Shaw...
"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place".
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