Episode 217: Understanding Emotional Regulation In Dogs To Create Calm

Episode 217: Understanding Emotional Regulation In Dogs To Create Calm

2023-07-12T21:26:43+00:00July 12th, 2023|35 Comments

Do you know how your dog or puppy self-regulates or dysregulates? Or how your dog self-soothes? Most dog owners don’t, and it could be the root of behavioral challenges around your home. Dogs show dysregulation or self-regulation much like humans. Your dog’s responses aren’t the same as choosing right from wrong but a reflection of emotional regulation. Today I’m breaking down what healthy self-regulation looks like and how to recognize and help your dog’s coping mechanisms for a happier, healthier co-existence.

In the episode you'll hear:

  • What you need to know before a visiting dog arrives in your home.
  • How to recognize self-regulation and dysregulation in dogs.
  • The definition of canine self-regulation.
  • That dogs don’t choose right from wrong.
  • What dysregulation looks like in dogs.
  • That resilience to stress is a byproduct of healthy self-regulation.
  • That puppies or rescue dogs cannot self-regulate instantly.
  • The possible signs of dysregulation puppies and dogs display.
  • Factors that contribute to canine dysregulation.
  • About my own puppy’s and rescue’s dysregulation.
  • How environment impacts self-regulation.
  • About normalizing certain conditions to help dogs.
  • What “destructive” dogs are really communicating.
  • The ways puppies and dogs naturally self-regulate.
  • About canine self-soothing behaviors and coping mechanisms.
  • How co-regulation facilitates self-regulation for dogs.


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  1. Molly May 21, 2024 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    My dog was licking so I used the mat idea and that worked a little. but now she’s chewing fabric – toys or her blanket – thankfully I have it at least to her own items and not my blankets, but what can I do to get her to self-regulate less destructively? Toys are expensive to replace.

  2. Virginia Heitman February 19, 2024 at 4:55 pm - Reply

    Definitely interested in learning more. My 3 year old Maltipoo has always been more interested in scenting than anything else. He now spends a lot of time self grooming, frustration barking, and sometimes he will just sit and quiver. He has recently started licking everything…rugs, blankets, furniture, our clothes, and any exposed skin. I have been feeding him on a lick mat for a couple of months but the licking on everything else hasn’t diminished. I started picking the lick mat up when he was finished eating because he would pick the lick mat up (yes, it has suction cups on the bottom) and carry it around and chew on it. I am certain he will eventually chew a piece of the lick mat off and eat it if I leave it on the floor. He has bully chunks to chew on but I’ve not found a toy he is interested in licking, chewing or sucking on.

  3. Lisa February 8, 2024 at 6:54 pm - Reply

    Please share more about that topic!
    My one year old rescue is learning to chew to regulate inside. The licking mat helps, too. He has a hard time settling when there are too many places to go or things to fetch (crate helps!). Sometimes he rubs his sides on walls which is some sort of self soothing (and frays his harness or gets the wall dirty :/). When he’s stressed or tired he sometimes lunges towards cars.
    But what really bothers me are his aggressive zoomies. Sometimes “just” tugging on the leash with all his might without being responsive to me. But sometimes jumping on me or my company, biting arms, legs, clothes and it hurts! I know he does not bite as hard as he can – I guess for him it’s just play biting – but he is able to give us real bruises. It’s hard to get him out of that state, he just continues and jumps, growls and bites harder and harder no matter what I do. I’m journaling about it and it really seems to be an issue with his emotional regulation because it often occurs in stimulating environments or on long walks.
    I really hope he will become an emotionally stable and reliable dog who is able to deal with stress and tiredness in good ways. Growing his confidence and our relationship through Homeschool the Dog definitely helps! Thank you.

  4. Chris December 4, 2023 at 7:01 pm - Reply

    Hi Susan, I would love to learn more on how to help my 2 year old border collie, self regulate. He is constantly whining, and whilst I was watching the podcast was running around, jumping up to watch, whining all the time

  5. Karen November 17, 2023 at 11:54 am - Reply

    My rescue (7ish year old terrier mix) vocalizes A LOT. We have been able to determine when he is just “talking” to us, and when he is dysregulated, and over time we have learned together how to help him help himself. However, on days when there is trigger stacking that I can’t control, how can I help him find his peace? Thanks

  6. Melissa September 27, 2023 at 7:52 pm - Reply

    I would like to hear more about this because I think my 17 mo beauceron pup is struggling to self-regulate. She’s showing son fear aggression and anxiety around my other dogs and also has trouble finding her off switch.

  7. Nena Bauman September 2, 2023 at 4:23 pm - Reply

    I am interested in more on this topic. My dog gets the zoomies every time we do agility training.

  8. Susan August 8, 2023 at 2:56 pm - Reply

    I would love to hear your protocol for Belief greeting people. I have a 2 year old Chesapeake who has an extremely enthusiastic greeting style for all people, friend or stranger.

  9. Vicki August 3, 2023 at 7:25 pm - Reply

    First. Nice to know I’m not the only one with a pooch who has oral stuff going on. I have a 3 year old Aussie who has licked since she was just a few weeks old. She licks the floor, tile or sheet goods, people’s legs abs feet.
    I can’t see a particular time she starts it, but it’s every day and for very long periods of time.
    I can’t think of how I could get it going, but the luck mat sounds wonderful.

  10. Vicki Russell July 26, 2023 at 3:00 pm - Reply

    I always enjoy your podcasts and learn so much from them. I am interested in continuing to learn more about how to promote self-regulation in dogs.

  11. Angela July 18, 2023 at 4:16 am - Reply

    We have a rescue dog that self regulates by sniffing obsessively. He gets a great dopamine hit from doing this and breaking through this behaviour to get engagement outside is very difficult. I’d love to grow our understanding of how to manage and change this behaviour so we can have a better time with him outside.

  12. Teresa K July 17, 2023 at 4:45 am - Reply

    Yes, I would like to know more about the subject of regulation. I have found thru the years that I am an enabler and somehow I seem to become part of many of my dogs rituals. I saw it as a way to bond with them, and as long as it was not destructive I saw no harm in encouraging it. However, it made for some very catered canines, where only I knew their little secrets, so they did not do so well when other people took care of them. Plus, I would like to learn ways for my dogs to be more independent so they can soothe and calm themselves.

  13. Sue July 17, 2023 at 2:37 am - Reply

    Susan, I would LOVE to know more about how to help my dog self regulate in a positive fashion. She has extreme anxiety (currently on meds), and after watching your podcast, I believe that her licking of her paws, belly, legs, chewing on her paws and legs is a method of self regulation for her that’s obviously not positive, since she gets bare spots. Another of her self regulating behaviors (I think?) is getting in our face…she will put her paws on us when sitting on the couch and with mouth wide open, attempt to start licking our faces. Clearly not a positive form of self regulation. We’ve been working with IYC and Treat Diving and have found that her impulse control at those times is better. I’d love to hear how we can help her more with being able to positively self regulate. Thanks!

  14. Rob&TK July 16, 2023 at 7:49 pm - Reply

    Are zoomies a dog in dysregulation? This is something I can count on to happen almost every morning as my husband and I get settled for starting out workday (we both work from home). interestingly, I can’t recall zoomies at the same times on the weekends. I would love for our 7-month old AmerAkita to choose to self-regulate instead of the co-regulation we engage in (redirecting his energy, or playing until he tires himself out).

  15. Sue Rault July 16, 2023 at 9:33 am - Reply

    I would love more info on this topic. I kept 4 bitches from only litter I had with my bearded collie Potty. I know it’s not ideal but I could not find the right homes for the 2 I was not planning to keep. We have lots of issues – one is now on thyroid meds to control her aggressive behavior and it is working well. The one sister she hates and I have to keep them separate was on thyroid meds for a while but I eventually weaned her off it as it did not seem to be really help her. She now seems very anxious rushes off to hide in places and growls and barks at the slightest noises, then she shivers like mad and her teeth chatter. The other sister does not know how to regulate her emotions when we go to agility training she got so excited this week that she got sick in the crate in the car. At training she’s always over the top. So yes some more info on how to get them to regulate themselves better would be greatly appreciated.

  16. Mel July 15, 2023 at 9:06 pm - Reply

    We have a 2.5 year old airedale terrier who barks frantically whenever any person or dog walks by our house. We have been trying DMT and recalling him away from the window but it works only about 50% of the time. He can go on periods of barking for 10 minutes when we aren’t home according to our neighbors. Any information would be greatly appreciated!

  17. Debbie July 15, 2023 at 3:59 pm - Reply

    Leroy is now 10 years old and has a real problem with separation anxiety. He has been living with us since my daughter rescued him at 16 months, but yesterday went to live with her. His problem is severe, severe separation anxiety. He is a Maltese mix and absolutely screams when he even thinks someone is leaving the house, anybody, doesn’t matter who, even when others are at home. Today, my daughter had to go to work, and had to leave him screaming. I’m worried he will have a heart attack! Anyway, I know there are no easy, quick fixes for this problem, I’ve researched them all, and when not everybody in the home will cooperate that makes it very difficult for the dog. We’ve read differing views on how to treat separation anxiety, and I thought this podcast explained it very well. What is your advice?

  18. Marsha Martin July 15, 2023 at 2:12 am - Reply

    I should add she can have absolute moments of brilliance and she is so sweet and loving!

  19. Marsha Martin July 15, 2023 at 1:59 am - Reply

    I would LOVE more info on this topic. I have a 5 yr old lab that has had issues with this all her life. She had bilateral stifle surgery at 8 months and now has arthritis in both knees. I’m working very closely with my vet to manage that. She’s had OCD issues from the beginning, though. She gets so excited training and just getting a treat for anything. When I get things ready to do training she starts panting and “singing “ so loudly that neither one of us can focus. When I give her a treat she holds it in her mouth and goes off to find something to lick and mouth. It’s much better with toys but sometimes toys just don’t work and she gets so excited she can’t let go of it. I really want to help her with this. We’re doing lots of IYC and recallers games but this is completely different. Thank you for all you do.

  20. Diane July 15, 2023 at 1:34 am - Reply

    I would love to learn more. I have a 5 year old poodle who is high energy. She has developed a habit of pestering my 10 year old WPG by jumping all over him and nibbling on his ears to the point that he yikes. She just won’t leave him alone. This behaviour mostly happens when I bring them up from the dog run onto our deck or first thing in the morning. It also happens sometimes when we are out on an off leash walk. I’ve tried bringing my older dog up from the run first which is better for my older dog but then the poodle screams as though I am beating her. Not sure what to do. I know I’ve let it go too long.

  21. Katherine July 14, 2023 at 11:47 pm - Reply

    PS: I forgot to mention that Windsor has been examined by a vet and cleared for any painful injuries or conditions, and he is being treated for allergies.

  22. Candy mcking July 14, 2023 at 11:21 pm - Reply

    Yes! I would like to know more about self-regulation. My high energy Airedale Terrier is easily spun up. Anything starts it. I have noticed it happens more when I am with my family. When we are at dog events he behaves pretty good.

  23. Katherine July 14, 2023 at 9:42 pm - Reply

    Hi, I would like to learn more about the strategies you’ve used to go through the stages of helping your dogs through dysregulation. For the past 4 years, Windsor has had difficulty settling down at nearly exactly the same time each evening, 5-6 pm, just as my husband and I are settling down for cocktails and a chat before dinner. He begins his anxious behavior about 5, about an hour before we actually sit down. He paces, pants, and gets into mischief (to get my attention and asking for help), and he will finally settle just about the time we are going in to dinner, almost as though he has the timing in his circadian rhythm. I’ve used various strategies suggested on other of your podcasts (settling him in my lap and giving gentle rubs, setting up a HZ next to me and offering treats and a chew toy), and after many months of working at these, they appear to be working. But, I’m not satisfied that I’ve done all I can for him to ensure that he feels regulated long term. Thank you for the podcast and the offer to help us all further.

  24. Hannah July 14, 2023 at 8:31 pm - Reply

    I would love to know more! I have a 4 month old puppy that is very destructive around the house, even when she is very tired. I just can’t get her to sleep/relax outside her crate, I put her into her crate or pen when she is tired and she’ll be asleep in less than a minuite but if loose around the house she’ll be running around with toys or trying to chew EVERYTHING.
    We’ve done place training, but unless i’m giving her a cookie every couple minuites for staying on a bed she’ll be off trying to do DIY around the house.

  25. Rosie July 14, 2023 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    I would like to know how to co regulate or teach my dog self regulation when she barks. She is very vocal when we walk to the beach to play ball she will bark all the way. When I start to get dressed she will bark in anticipation of going outside to play ball. When we visit friends she knows she barks upon arriving and departing. bark bark bark.

  26. Deb Byloff July 14, 2023 at 2:15 pm - Reply

    My dog is reactive and very anxious. One of her coping strategies is pooping and eating her poop when she is anxious. She also barks and is can be snippy. I have worked with her using many different strategies and she has made progress but we still have a way to go. Any help from you would be awesome.

  27. Anna Brown July 14, 2023 at 10:12 am - Reply

    Hi! I would love to know more about this!
    I have working cocker spaniels, they like to pick up toys (and shoes) and walk around with them and hold them.
    My younger dog will sometimes fall asleep with the toy in her mouth when she is around me.
    I’m fine with that.
    I have another question is emotional dysregulation behaviours the same as displacement behaviours?
    my younger dog will sometimes go and do laps of the garden sniffing the ground if she needs to calm herself down after a training session, but she can’t do the same behaviour when we are out and about so can’t calm herself down as effectively..
    She’s always been a highly strung and quite anxious dog, I would really like to be able to help her regulate herself more x

  28. Kathleen July 14, 2023 at 1:59 am - Reply

    Hi Susan, I would like to see more about self regulation. My dog stands outside by the screen door and whines for long periods of time. He will also chase and bark at any dog up to one street away. He growls and barks. He also starts barking at a higher pitch when we drive up to the groomers or if he’s in the parking lot of the vet. He just barks in distress and nothing we can do will soothe him. Last time this happened I just waited quietly for him to stop. It took a long time.

  29. Beth July 13, 2023 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    Susan I would like to see more. My puppy sleeps when she is left alone. We did have a puppy that would pleasure himself every evening. That was awful.

  30. Trina Brown July 13, 2023 at 1:23 pm - Reply

    I would love to know more! I had a dog that would lick us obsessively. Drove me crazy. My husband and son would let her like their legs for 20 minutes. She has passed but my new little girl. (14 months) destroys her toys and create pads. Tears the stuffing out.

  31. Margaret Volak July 12, 2023 at 7:06 pm - Reply

    Yes! Some more help would be great. He’s always grabbing his leash and biting that and now I know that when he grabs his bedding maybe it’s a soothing technique. What else should we do?

  32. Julie July 12, 2023 at 6:52 pm - Reply

    Would love to learn how to help my dog self regulate. MY dog is noise sensitive, and he zooms, and digs his bed. He mostly does this at night after supper, then he will go to sleep. Would love to help him.

  33. Cindy Tier July 12, 2023 at 6:36 pm - Reply

    I would like to know more about self-regulation.

    Thank you.

    I love your podcasts.

  34. Lisa K-W July 12, 2023 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    I want to learn more about co-relation qnd desirable self regulation!

    As I listened to this podcast, my 11 month old Australian Shepherd decided he was going to try to chew on the corner of a shelf ti self regulate. He has already chewed the corner on two nightstands, the footboard of a bed and bottom molding corner of a dresser. I should work harder to crate train him, so he doesn’t have as much access to chew.

    He chews, rips apart, and (worst of all!) eats rugs, plushie dog toys, rubber kongs, cardboard, tissues, paper towels.

    He also digs into our couch and bed. But it does not seem to be nesting behaviors, just straight digging to remove the bedding or couch covers.

    When he is chewing, I try to redirect to chewing to a nylabone, and usually ended up holding it for him until he takes it away from me.

    My biggest concern is the eating of inedible fibers. I worry about them causing an obstruction eventually. We are trying to manage the environment right now, (no more bath mats in the bathroom!)

    I would love to teach him healthier and safer ways to self regulate.

  35. Judy coles July 12, 2023 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    Definitely interested in this topic! Our BC needs something in his mouth when he gets excited – ie a toy or stick or ball. The problem is that it then turns into something that winds him up if he has it too long, but he never wants to give it up. I’ve noticed Swagger often had something in his mouth so would be really interested to learn more about that

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