When we hold space for someone, it means that we create a safe environment for someone to express themselves. We are present for that person without judgement.
How would we do this for our dogs?
Create a safe environment for them.
Dogs thrive in an environment where their needs are met and where they can safely exhibit natural behaviour. A safe environment starts with an adequate diet, clean water, shelter, and health care. Then we need to look at mental and physical well-being such as enrichment, exercise, channeling their natural behaviour into appropriate activities, training and of course, being treated with kindness.
Accept that they are individuals.
We forget that our dogs are an entirely different species and their needs and wants, can be very different from what we think it is. We have to remember that they are animals, and they are going to do species-related things. We can be quick to think our dog is being spiteful, stubborn or guilty of something, but these are human qualities, not canine qualities. It is difficult not to see them as little humans because they are so understanding but this type of thinking can lead to creating a very unfulfilled life for them.
How present are you when you walk your dog? Or when you take your dog to the dog park or even in a training class? How often do you disengage to scroll on your phone? Dogs know when we are mentally present, and when we are not. A big shift happens in our relationship with our dogs when we become more present with them.
You can start today, to be more present during an activity with your dog. Like everything, it takes some practice, but before you know it, you will become more mindful without even trying. A great way to start is to look out for good behaviour. When you see your dog doing something you like or appreciate, tell him/her and reward the behaviour.
Here are three things you can start doing today, to become more present with your dog.
Reward your dog for checking in with you during his walk;
When your dog is settled and calm, reward him;
When he keeps his feet on the ground instead of jumping up, reward him