Sensitive Is The New Smart - A Very Biased Opinion
How My Sleepless 7-Month Old Related To Your Reactive and Fearful Dogs
When my daughter was around 7 month old, my husband and I jumped on a call with Dr. C, a psychologist who specializes in sleep training the babies. While I was listening to her teaching us how to sleep train our daughter, I cannot stop comparing it to my dog training methodologies and some specific training homework. I will surely talk about this even more in the future because it’s just so profound.
During the session, Dr. C mentioned that one of the reasons our daughter has such trouble sleeping for longer stretches as well as fighting sleep so hard is her temperament. That my daughter is a very “sensitive” little human.
She would fall asleep in our arms, but the moment we put her down in the crib, she would wake up and start screaming. My husband told me that she was down one night, then he walked around the bed and the floor squeaked, and our daughter just lit up again. She’s kinda of a light sleeper we would call, a noise from the TV or one of us talking could wake her up.
My husband and I just like, okay, we know we have a little trouble maker in hand, and “sensitive” is usually not a nice word to describe someone.
Then Dr. C continued, sensitive is more of a neutral word just to describe her temperament, there’s no good or bad in it, in fact, Dr. C told us babies who are “sensitive” are usually also more observant, and able to notice the littlest things that we easily ignored, and they tend to have good memories - I certainly like the sound of this.
The sensitive babies would pick up tiny things off the floor that you didn’t even know it’s there (my mom told me I picked up little lint off the floors when I was little, lol); they are good at interpreting other people’s facial expressions and mimicking them; they’re also very “opinionated” and good at expressing their needs and especially when they’re “unsatisfied.”
Trust me, there’s no way you can miss my daughter’s dissatisfaction, and she has a great lung-function to help make her unhappiness clear with loud cries and screams. I happened to notice the other day that she didn’t like one of the toys, she would “sneakily” follow that toy with her eyes when I moved it and make sure her toy is not “being spooky” without her knowing.
Short story long, after the doctor gave some insights, all I could think was my daughter is just a very inquisitive and smart baby that loves to stay “alert” and see the world all the time, and that’s one of the reasons she’s having some troubles with sleep.
During this entire session with the psychologist, I just couldn’t stop thinking about how the similar insights I’ve applied in my dog training and especially when working with very challenged dogs.
Taiwan dogs’ unique temperaments definitely comes to mind, though they are fearful and sometimes could be really reactive, mainly caused by fear.
The strong impacts of Taiwan dog’s temperament plays a huge role in how they react to certain stimuli, this also applies to other breeds of the dogs as well.
Unfortunately, their way of communication with others (humans and dogs) is being ignored or downplayed by the conventional training, hence, the conventional training focusing on obedience or “controlling end behaviors” are failing them miserably.
At the same time, Taiwan dogs are also very alert, sensitive, and observant. And I bet you would agree with me, that they’re very smart dogs. If you happen to have a very reactive dog, they might inherent similar temperament traits as well.
Naturally, working with them by recognizing their unique temperament and working with their unique builds would not only help you to communicate with them more effectively, more so, once you learned how to communicate with them, and coach them to relax and even self soothe themselves, they can stay alert and observant but not overwhelmed.
As I’ve always said, the reactivity will reduce significantly and the skills of relaxation being taught and acquired by them will stay with them, so the training results will not regress.
Fun fact, Dr. C pointed out that sensitive babies would benefit even more from sleep training and usually produced even better results, as those “inquisitive and busy minds” require a lot of refuel and rest, to keep their mind even sharper. So once the sensitive babies get the benefit of a good nap/sleep, they would enjoy “not fighting” sleep anymore and would stay asleep for a longer period of time.
It is very similar in training your fearful, reactive, and sensitive dogs, they might be “very hard to train” compare to those “easy going dogs”, but once you learned to work with them, you will enjoy your fruitful results in no time and have the relationship with your dog that you’ve always hoped to have and more.