The Detox a 3-Day Intensive Stress Vacation for Dogs
Reduce behavior problems and enhance communication between you and your dog
Is your dog driving you crazy barking, lunging, or screaming? Does your dog seem to be almost constantly signaling that there is some sort of problem? Does your dog perform in a dog sport and you want to help him take his performance to the next level? Do you just want to increase your ability to communicate with your dog? Or have you recently adopted a dog and you are looking to forge a fantastic bond for your future?
What is a Detox?
The detox is a three or more day intensive biochemical and emotional rebalancing of your dog. While the detox has not been the subject of formal study, anecdotally it is showing a more than 90% improvement rate of behavior problems.
The detox is not a miracle cure - it is a mechanism which allows you to gain improvements which are sometimes rapid and surprising. A detox will not cure a dog, but it stands to help and often it helps a lot. It is important to note that some dogs need mini detoxes on an ongoing basis to maintain improvements. Also, some dogs require much more intensive detoxes with the longest to date going up to 8 full days.
Canine Behavioral Research
Did you know that dogs are being used as a model for human psychiatric illnesses? This means that researchers are studying dogs to help anxiety disorders. So dogs, like humans, suffer from many of the same forms of mental illness. As a result, just like us, dogs stand to benefit from vacations!
Just like some humans, your dog is emotionally sensitive if he reacts to things (that most dogs do not react to) by hiding or fleeing. A small sound triggers your dog to go hide in the closet. A slight movement of your arm causes your dog to dive under a bed. The sight of a trash bag causes your dog to panic and flee. If this sounds like your dog, then you have an emotional ly sensitive dog. Being emotionally sensitive is typical for feral dogs. Emotionally sensitive dogs are excellent candidates for detoxes.
Does your dog bark at “anything”? Does your dog spit, foam at the mouth, or explode-- he is so angry when he sees another dog? Or does he puff himself up on his tippy toes and display intimidating behaviors when he sees another dog? If yes, your dog is emotionally reactive. Your dog displays reactive behaviors (barking, lunging, screaming) when seeing other dogs or people.
Emotionally reactive dogs can greatly improve as a result of a detox.
How Does the Detox Work?
There are many scientific research studies on how vacations or spas function to relax humans. The detox proposes that these same findings apply to dogs.
In human psychology there is a concept called an emotional baseline. Some psychological studies suggest that most people inevitably return to a certain emotional baseline after circumstantial highs and lows. We are proposing that dogs are the same, that if a dog goes through a very stressful event, or lives in stressful circumstances, he will require an intense period of stress relief in order to return to his emotional baseline or to create a new emotional baseline.
Decreased arousal, increased relaxation, and decreased reactivity indicate a desirable emotional baseline.
Emotionally Sensitive or Reactive Dogs and Baseline
Emotionally sensitive or reactive dogs have a very hard time coming down and returning to a “normal” baseline. So much so, that often they don’t return to baseline and spend their life in some animated “oh-my-death-is-coming-this-second” heightened emotional state. The dog that is experiencing this constant heightened state of emergency is going to be giving off stressful smells and also will be displaying stress behaviors. Other animals and humans are going to respond to these stress signals and in turn may become frustrated or stressed which is likely to increase the stress of the chronically stressed dog, and thus a vicious cycle is born.
The detox is opportunity to break the cycle, gather info, regroup, and start new ways of being.
There are many bio-chemicals that function inside dogs and humans that signal stress. While they are all necessary for survival, excesses of certain bio-chemicals are going to cause problems. The goal of the detox is to rebalance your dog’s biochemistry to a new more functional level.
Different Responses for Different Beings
Pain and emotional sensitivity research shows that responses to physical or emotional pain vary. Some humans are extremely sensitive and others are extremely tolerant of pain. As a result, human responses to stress or emotional pain greatly vary. We theorize that this is the same for dogs. This would explain why some dogs are very traumatized by an event that another dog barely notices. Because of the variety of responses present in dogs, the detox can be a very valuable tool for the more sensitive and reactive dogs.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
For years trainers and behavior consultants worldwide have been describing the signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in dogs. Finally, the US military is now conducting some research that will lead to formalizing the existence of this disorder in animals. If your animal experienced a traumatic event and did not return to his previously normal set of behaviors, he may have PTSD.
8 Activities that Release Stress for Dogs
Regular exercise (a little each day or longer periods every few days) in a non-stressful environment
Fun Scent games – the equivalent of dog meditation
Mom and dad meditation
Deep breathing, capture or prompt with treat
Go for a very quiet walk, be very relaxed and aware of yourself and your dog (ONLY if you can find a remote area where your dog will be free of stress)
Journal about your dog, what is stressful to him and what is joyful to him
Bringing the Stress Vacation Home
Once you complete the stress vacation you will want to bring what you learn from it into your and your dog’s life. Here are some categories that can help you stay on target.
Positive energy – gratitude, appreciation, enter the now
Your Own Thoughts about Your Dog
Evaluate your own thoughts about your dog as living with a dog with issues is stressful for you. Evaluate what thoughts you have, the good, the bad and the ugly, and journal them.
Under each thought write a replacement thought that is empowering to you.
Original thought: Fido is very difficult to live with and I wanted a pet and I got a project.
New Empowering thought: Fido is challenging but I am learning a lot and these skills will help me take better care of him and myself.
What are your feelings regarding your dog’s issues? Name a thought about each feeling you may have such as anger, fear, sadness, frustration, shame or disappointment.
Write down each statement for each feeling you have and then again write down a more empowering statement underneath.
Original Empowering Statement: I feel sad because Fido doesn’t get to live as full a life as I had planned for him and because of his issues he mostly stays at home.
New Empowering Statement: I feel happy that Fido has everything he needs. I know he feels safe at home and doesn’t want to go and have adventures in different locations. He has joy in his life on a daily basis by playing, getting massaged, eating nutritious food, and getting good restful sleep.
Human Breathing Human breathing is absolutely crucial to calming yourself and therewith indirectly your dog. Inhale so that your diaphragm expands, this means your belly protrudes a little. If your chest is rising, you are shallow breathing --which will not be as calming. You can also visualize breathing so deeply that you are breathing all the way into your toes. Yoga is a great way to learn to breathe in a more ideal fashion.
Each detox is customized, however here are some common exercises used.
Games with Objects
Training your dog to identify small or large objects is a very involved project that will take months and that requires lots of generalization training. Ask your dog to apply the large and small concept to a variety of objects, but during a detox you can evaluate which objects he prefers and you can also teach him consistency games such as keep touching the small or the blue object. By evaluating your dog’s preferences and learning styles, you glean valuable information about him which you can apply in your life together.
Another important exercise is the pole weaving. The concept here is for your dog to learn to move her body in a slower, more relaxed fashion in contrast to frantic and reactive moving. You are using the exercise of weaving back and forth through the cones to prompt calm and relaxed walking behaviors. You are also looking for the behavior to be fluid, cleanly transitioning as you move around the cones. While this sounds simple it is not. It takes time and effort, but the result is fun and well worth it.
Another important part of the detox is to assess what types of colors and shapes your dog prefers. Some area rugs or wall colors can actually affect your dog. By observing how your dog reacts to different shapes or colors you can gather valuable life improving information.
Pictured above is a half cone with the image of a triangle on it. You can present three of these and see which one your dog seems to prefer or you can play an associative learning game by pairing one shape with a food treat and then gathering information about how fast your dog is able to learn which shape leads to the treat. Of course your dog will end up using his nose too, especially if he is a hound, but this is not so much about how the dog is getting the treat and more about what you are able to learn about him.
TTouch Massage and Body Wraps
Above you see an anxious dog with a head wrap. One way to get him to stop frantically panting is to wrap an ace bandage around his head. The pressure, as it is to most anxious beings, is comforting and prompts a relaxed emotional state. This relaxed emotional state can then be rewarded and will thus increase in frequency.
Another option is a full body wrap as shown here on a stuffed dog. Starting at the chest you crisscross one time on the top of the dog’s withers then a second time under his belly then fastening the bandages with Velcro or tying a knot on top of the dog’s side. Again, these types of wraps will prompt a relaxed emotional state which you can reward and then grow into more frequent relaxation.
Shown above is how the wrap that is on the stuffed dog was started.
How Relaxed is Your Dog?
A very important part of the detox is to read your dog’s body language and positions. Pictured above is a somewhat relaxed dog. We can read her emotional state in her body because of how she has placed her body in the down position. A fully relaxed down would be on her side with all extremities looking very heavy. Instead here you see a dog not fully committed to relaxing. Her shoulders are somewhat pivoted toward the camera as if she may roll onto her side, but her hips are in an upright position. This position was not a transition, it was how she had decided to settle - this is important as reading transitional momentary shifts is not nearly as important.
You can also note that the corners of her mouth are slightly pulled back creating a slight wrinkling below her eye, a telltale sign of anxiety. The picture is not clear enough to attempt to assess the tightness of her facial muscles, but our guess would be that her face is not fully relaxed, again indicating some tension.
Finally her head and neck are cocked but not in a relaxed position, such laying on her front legs looking very heavy. This positioning confirms the conflict that she is feeling and her inability to fully relax.
The Awareness Walk
Another important part of your detox may be an awareness walk. The point of this part of the detox is to go for a very relaxed walk in a soothing environment.
As part of your detox your dog will be placed on a special diet of a bland meat source and brown rice. This is to evaluate how your dog is processing nutrients. It is very important to share with your facilitator details regarding your dog’s detox diet, such as if he likes it, if he wanted more, or if he lacked appetite.
Clue in the Poo
The size, shape and color of your dog’s poop is very important. Let’s start with the size of the poop. A dog that is not digesting all of his food will have a very large stool. This is an important clue as some health problems cause lack of digestion. Very small poops are usually a sign that the food is being well absorbed so this is also important information.
Shape of poop is also very important: pudding type consistency is a sign of a problem; unformed sausage like poop can also be a problem. The ideal shape is well-formed. The color should be a rich dark brown. Light color or black or blood in your dog’s stool is a definite sign of problems.
Be sure to share size, shape and color of your dog’s poop with your trainer and most importantly with your vet!
WHY THE FINAL ANALYSIS IS SO IMPORTANT
One of the biggest challenges we have as dog training professionals is our ability to clearly communicate to our clients the necessary action and commitment required to help them change their dog’s behavior. More importantly how this action and commitment will look as a plan and a road map toward our future success. How many times do we felt dejected and let down when a lack of our perceived “client commitment and compliance” leaves us feeling helpless and wondering “if only”.
As one who continuously asks, “what could I have done better”, I have to believe that we do have some very powerful tools available to us if we avail ourselves to them. We have the power of communication and this alone can impact the lives of hundreds of dogs that pass through the front doors of our training facilities each year.
I believe communication is our most powerful ally. It is our trump card and a tool in our kit that needs to be readily available, fully flexed and always ready to go. If we do not have our ally alongside us and we are not able to have meaningful, engaging and impactful communication with our clients, then we will never be able to create shared meaning around our philosophy, our goals and our ideas. This lack of shared meaning is the crux to many of the problems that manifest themselves as client's lack of commitment, compliance and understanding. So our avenue to success is communication.
...basically what a veterinarian would ask you to do if your dog were sick. I consider distress, acute stress and chronic stress as a type of sickness, definitely dysfunction and working with the dog from the inside out helps them to start to enhance mood, feel better, and be positively energetic, to be more responsive, feel safe and to trust again. Confidence is restored through other elements in the process. More details on digestion follow the basic diet and the reasoning behind the diet.
One protein - chicken, turkey or halibut. On all three days of CED - how much? small dogs 1/8 to 1/4 cup each; medium 1/4 to 1/2 or 3/4 cup each; large dogs 1 to 1.5 cups each; extra-large can be up to 3 cups each meal. All is based on satiation so adding more or decreasing portion depends on what you are seeing in the individual's CED.
NOTE: All contain varying amounts of tryptophan, but that is not the reason for these meats, although anything that helps the dog to reach a state of deep sleep is worthy of trying - the meats are usually readily available in most areas. If you are in Australia, lamb would be in good supply so you may default to that - whatever is available and focus on organic (as ideal), no antibiotics, hormones etc. (as very good), and minimally processed (as okay). Quality of food is important for dogs as it is for humans.
One fiber every day- brown rice (more nutrient dense therefore absorbed by the body better than white and it has B vitamins); quinoa; steel cut oatmeal – preference in order as written
Day 1 - pumpkin 1/8 to 1/4 cup - plain, organic canned (no flavorings) or cooked, mashed from garden pumpkin.
Day 2 - add to above 1/8 to 1/4 cup mashed, pureed or juiced carrot or beets - preferably organic
Day 3 - remove carrot; add to main meal 1/8 to 1/4 cup greens or broccoli or Brussel sprouts or cauliflower - also preferably organic
Portion size for vegetables is the same for all dog sizes.
FEED 2X per day all size dogs.
On morning after CED - go back to regular meals.
FACTS and DATA on Canine Nutrition
In all, the entire digestion process, from the time a dog bites into his food to the time waste is produced, can take anywhere from around 10 hours to a couple of days.
A dog’s stomach will work on breaking down food for approximately eight hours before passing it into the small intestine. The broken down food will remain in the intestine for about two days, depending on how difficult it is to break it down. Whatever remains when small intestines is finished is passed to the large intestine and processed in a few hours.
BENEFITS OF DIGESTIVE DETOX along with emotional
Cleans out body waste deposits, so dog isn’t running with a dirty engine or functioning with the brakes on.
Behavior starts to change because actual cell make-up has changed.
Digestive tract is cleansed of accumulated waste and fermenting bacteria.
Excess mucous and congestion is cleared from body.
Mental clarity is enhanced, impossible under chemical overload.
For dogs who
Are Emotionally Sensitive or Reactive Dogs
Have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Are Hyperactive or Hyperalert
Have Anxiety and/or Fear
Your dog learns to
Think even though stressed, excited or aroused
Play Fun Scent games – the equivalent of dog meditation
Enjoy being touched