• Erica Tibbetts


Updated: Dec 6, 2018

Boris practicing the art of being calm.

Six years ago my dog Boris unexpectedly showed up in my life as a simple rescue transport from a foster home in LA to an adopter near my home in San Diego. Long story made very short, that adoption did not go through and Boris had nowhere else to go.

Fast forward to me having no clue how to deal with a fearful, insecure, dominant dog that was not above having panic attacks or afraid to use all of his 120 pound frame or teeth, if push came to shove. Enter Alicia Bloomfield, dog psychology trainer and now beloved friend.

I quickly learned from Alicia how to calm my own energy, how to use spatial pressure rather than touch to move Boris and most importantly, how to help Boris create a pathway to his own calm state of mind. Within two weeks of practicing these techniques daily, Boris was a totally different dog and our relationship was becoming one of partnership.

Over the years I have watched Alicia hone and master her craft of teaching dogs to find their own calm state of mind through her Conditioned Calming Response Workshops.

In the CCR workshops, dogs that would normally “cycle up” into heightened states of stress, anxiety, fear and reactivity learn how to “cycle down” into a calm state of mind. Just like meditation, the practice of these techniques can actually teach a dog how to find their own calm state of mind. When a dog is in a calm state of mind, they can create space between decisions rather than being immediately reactive.

So for me these techniques are a meditation practice for dogs. Yet, it is so much more than that. It can be a life saving tool for dogs whose anxiety or fear reactivity is so severe that euthanasia has been recommended by a vet or trainer or both.

In less severe cases, these techniques are tools that can be used to simply better the life of your dog. Who wouldn’t benefit from being skilled at remaining calm or being able to quickly calm yourself down after a stressful or triggering experience?

What is so amazing about these techniques is that once a dog has properly and successfully learned them, they have their own self balancing tool and can learn to make a choice between cycling up into stress, anxiety, fear and reactivity or they can choose to cycle down into a calm state of mind.

In this sense CCR workshops are beyond condition based training as it is teaching a dog a life long skill, that even when alone, a dog can refer to.

From a neuroscience perspective, dogs who only have brain patterns that follow a heightened neuropathway only have one choice, to "cycle up" into stress, anxiety, fear and reactivity. Where dogs that have been taught to "cycle down", create a pathway to a calm state of mind. The more you practice these techniques with your dog, the more that pathway to a calm state of mind becomes the dominant pathway. When we combine only rewarding a calm state of mind, a calm state of mind becomes the most rewarding and socially acceptable choice.

When a calm state of mind becomes the dominant choice, it can actually become a positive survival skill that allows a dog to contribute to not only its own state of mind and sense of safety, it can contribute to the collective state of mind of the pack.

The mental, emotional and physical health benefits of practicing a calm state of mind for you and your dog are endless.

Thank you Boris!

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