Therapy dogs in particular are sensitive to mood changes and are there to support their owners when they feel anxious or tense in any situation. The reason dogs are one of man's favorite companions is because they are sensitive to moods and underlying tension. Dogs are a comfort to anyone feeling tense.
Signs a Dog is Sensing Tension
Your dog will try to calm you down with their calming behavior, nuzzling and even getting between two people who may be arguing. Your dog may sit at your feet and look up with a reassuring gaze. They will not be intrusive, but rather try to calm you with gentle behavior.
Dogs will attempt to lick the hands or face of a tense crying person. They have even been known to take toys to someone who is upset as a way to comfort them and relieve the tension. If you are the pack leader, your dog will want to please you in every situation. If your dog senses tension in your body language they will become respectful of your tense mood and try to be a support and a comfort at that time.
- Head tilting
- Lip licking
- Sitting close to you
- Putting their head in your lap
- Licking your hands or face
The History of Dogs Sensing Tension
Dogs worked their way into man's home through understanding voice and body language. Today, humans have come to depend on our canine friends to relieve tension through their play activities or just through being a faithful and loyal companion. War veterans have grown to depend on their therapy dogs to sense their tension in difficult and emotional situations.
During a TV interview with a veteran and his dog, the dog was sitting close to his owner and when the interview touched on some emotional issues and the veteran became tense, the dog gently put his head in the veteran's lap to calm him and give comfort. This simple gesture relieved the tension and enabled the veteran to continue with the interview. Dogs have been amazing comforters to the aged and the mentally ill needing affirmation in tense and difficult situations.
The Science Behind Dogs Sensing Tension
A dog called Cali is being used in a high school to detect stress levels in the students as they enter the hall to sit exams. She points her nose in the direction of the stressed student and the school counselor is able to take children aside and help their nervous state. Cali is also used to detect students that may be pretending to be ill and she does not point her nose in recognition of their anxiety if they are not showing signs of tension.
Training a Dog to Sense Tension
Certain breeds of dogs are more suited to becoming therapy dogs because of their innate temperament, their intelligence, and their sensitivity. Dogs used for specialized bird hunting are trained to use their sensitivity to tension through Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy or 'dynamic stillness.' It is a way of storing tension to be released at the right time and is described as the transformation of kinetic energy.
Bird dogs are trained to be able to sense their prey and point for the hunter. They store up their kinetic tension as they are poised to flush out the bird. Hunter and gun dog learn how to share this tense energy as they become a team, watching and waiting for the right moment to flush out the bird. Tension and teamwork are built between the hunter and their dog. The gun dog is so intently focused on smelling the bird that just a slight movement of the bird will cause the dog's head to tilt, but he will not release the tension until the command is given.
The German Short Haired Pointer has a natural instinctive desire to point and alert the hunter, but not every pointer is acutely tuned into the tension that comes between the hunter and their gun dog. This level of pointing and recognition of the tension sensed at that moment takes training and practice.
How to React to Your Dog Sensing Tension:
Remove them from any heated scenarios.
Accept their comfort in times of stress.