Calming our dogs naturally.
Watching our dogs using only peripheral vision quickly has the effect of helping ours dogs to be calm naturally.
Watching our dogs affects us, it makes us happy. We have them in our life to enjoy what they look like. We love watching their antics, we simply adore just watching them sleep. However, the more we directly look, the more our dogs will respond with undesirable behaviour. Dogs do not look at each other unless there is a really good reason eg. they are about to fight. Direct eye contact has to mean something and for us dog listeners we want that to be positive eg. Calling them to us. If you continue to constantly watch them directly they believe we are trying to communicate something but they don’t know what. You will see their energy levels go up. Take your eyes off and they will calm back down again.
I used to be completely unaware of what peripheral vision meant to my life. I was also unaware of how I completely ignored this incredible way of being able to see animals.
In the 1990’s I was teaching in Zimbabwe which meant I had a lot of holiday time to go on Safari. I was always the last to spot game. The best guide I went on drives with was Nick who could drive a Series 1 land rover, smoke a cigarette (different times!), talk to us sitting behind him AND spot game we couldn’t see for looking. He was in tune with movement and shapes in the bush that we were blind to. He is now my husband and he still has incredible peripheral vision. He could look at the track to drive and still see a lion twitch an ear in the shade by the time we were at right angles to it. We had our head on swivels staring straight at the tree and he still had to explain where the lion was!
Stand still and stare at your hands held at arms length in front of you keep your eyes staring forward, then move your hands away sideways, when can’t you see them? Then do the same moving your hands below your eyes. This is your peripheral vision.
This is how much you can actually see your dog without looking directly at them. Our dogs do not relax when we look directly at them. However, we can enjoy their antics very happily by using our peripheral vision. As humans we struggle to stand upright and balance without it, in fact its what our brain sees first before whats in front of us. This side vision was what kept us alive on the plains of Africa when we evolved. Its what stops us now stepping out in front of a moving vehicle.
I teach new dog families to read a book when they are doing toilet training. This keeps eyes focused on something then they must use their peripheral vision either side of the book to be able to see when the puppy is about to squat so they can reward. We need our puppies to be calm and relaxed outside so they feel able to quickly relieve themselves.
When I had finished my first two day dog listening course with Jan Fennell back at home I put my new knowledge into practice. I sat at a table in our large sitting room reading a book and not looking at the five dogs I had with me. One by one, instead of leaping around like loons they lay down on their sides, let out a deep sign of relief and went to sleep. It was as if I had drugged them and all I had done was begin to learn to use my peripheral vision to watch them.