A Deeper Look at Ourselves, Mirror Neurons in Dogs & Humans
You may have heard that your dog is a reflection of you, or how you feel.
Scientific Evidence has shown us that many animals posses "mirror neurons" neurons that fire in an observer when they watch another take a specific goal oriented action.
In an article published by Scientific American, scientist Vittorio Gallese argues that,
“Only through the activation of mirror neurons can we grasp the meaning of others' behavior from within.” In other words, mirror neurons give us the ability to empathize- to understand each others actions or goals in relation to our own.
Science is still finding concrete evidence for the presence of motor neurons in dogs, but has countless findings of dog's ability to mimic one another and their human counterparts.
What I absolutely love and find fascinating is when our intuition (inner knowing), lines up with scientific evidence!
You may have experienced your dog catching feelings from you, but didn't have the concrete proof that this was really happening. Maybe you took a deep breath, and then your dog did to- connection or coincidence?
It looks like science is finding more and more that there is a connection between our behavior and our dog's behavior. It may even be hard-wired into our DNA!
Dogs are observing us all the time, and learning how they can make their environment work for them, or how they should react in their environment.
However, this is not to say that the only reason your dog does things is because they are reflecting you. Although, often times our dogs still show us helpful things about our behavior, because our behavior will of course affect them to.
This goes way deeper than dogs simply reflecting us.
For example, your reactive dog reflecting your fear when they are approached by another dog. This could be a reflection, or it could be a learned pattern for your dog.
Chances are (if you're human) in a situation like this, you get tense, your palms get sweaty,
So how can we gain better mental and emotional control in tense situations?
In my experience the best way to become more self aware and present in any situation is to start by practicing daily meditation in a quiet environment. Get to know how your mind and body operates when there is nothing all that pressing going on.
Once you get good at this you can start to bring this presence and awareness with you into every moment of your life. Over time you will get better at creating space between your thoughts, emotions, and then therefore your actions. You can then bring this skill with you into that tense, scary moment with your dog!
Ok - so this is EXACTLY how I train dogs! I follow a program that teaches your dog to become more self aware in a quiet situation like your home and over time we gradually raise the challenge stimulus. I also teach dogs to think and feel differently about the world throughout this process so that once they are self aware they can learn how to transmute those tense or anxious feelings into relaxation.
Did you know your dog is going through the same mental and emotional resistance as you in these tense situations, and that you can help them "meditate" through it?!
It's the coolest thing ever, I absolutely love watching this magic happen.
Have a dog you're struggling to understand? Share your story below or send me an email!
Realize that challenges are only put in our path to teach us something about ourselves, and when we overcome those challenges we are gifted with gratitude, peace, joy, and more connection with the people and animals in our lives-
and our dog's desperately want us to have this gift so they are always keeping us mindful!
Valerie & Lewen