Dog Training for ADHD Humans: Find the Good

I’ve decided to train my ADHD using the same methodology I am starting for my dog. There are a lot of parallels worth exploring such as: he is neurotic, I am neurotic; he loves cheese, I love cheese; he hates laundry, I hate laundry. Potato, tomato- we’re all the same!

If you want a primer on Finn’s situation, please read my previous post “My Neurotic Dog is a Mirror of Myself“. His anxiety was becoming unbearable, so I desperately emailed a local dog trainer for help. Reading my email with my 20/20 Hindsight Glasses on, the situation wasn’t as bad as I’d expressed, but with ADHD sometimes it’s really hard to not get swept up in these stressful situations that end up making you feel like your entire life is out of control. She emailed me back in a soothing tone with messages of hope peppered throughout, and ended the email with some action items which included an invitation to meet up. As Finn barked relentlessly beside me causing my ears to ring, I felt the sky open just a little, bathing me in a warm sun beam of hope. I may or may not have been standing in my living room, but that doesn’t matter.

Figure 1. This totally happened.

We emailed back and forth, and she sent me some really excellent resources to dive into. We also met up and had our first 1.5 hour private session where she assessed the home and helped me to identify Finn’s triggers: washing machine, an open front window, knocking, people walking by, etc. Looking at things that make Finn go off the rails made me wonder about my own “triggers”. After a preliminary mental skim of my day-to-day activities, I figure that hunger, clutter, piles of dirty clothes, and persistent over-commitment seem to be mine. Using some insights from my ABCs of Explosion Avoidance post, I can see where the downward spiral of self-doubt, overwhelm, and anger starts. The identification of these triggers can also help me avoid the build up of stress leading to a meltdown over the course of a day. *insert praise hands emoji*

Figure 2. The dining room window is open and we’re all going to die.

The next step is to seek out, recognize, and reward good behaviour. I want to catch him while he’s in a relaxed state while laying on the ground or happily chewing on a bone by himself, and reward him with a head pat and a treat. This ensures that a connection is made between being a good boy and getting attention- not only getting it when he’s acting up. This is relevant to my ADHD because my self-talk is loudest when I’m scolding myself- “You forgot this important meeting, you are a BAD GIRL. No, no, no”, and so on. The subconscious and repetitive nature of this negativity can become the personal narrative over time, which I (obviously not an expert) assume contributes to overall low self esteem.

So here is what I propose: let’s change the narrative. Let’s go out of our way to seek out, recognize, and reward good behaviour in ourselves. Let’s take notice when we remember a meeting, task, or birthday. Let’s treat ourselves to kind words and love whenever possible. And let’s make it a habit to notice the good in others and actually speak up about it.

(Finn, that last one was not for you. No more speaking up from you ever, kthx).




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