Are you aware of your dog’s energy level? Can you sense when it goes up and down? Can you tell when your dog is “full of beans?” Can you tell when your dog is feeling down and drained of energy?
Most of us don’t pay attention to our own ups and downs, much less our dog’s energy changes. “Am I feeling robust and energetic?” Or, “Am I feeling down and lackadaisical?” Many of us go through energy ups and down every day without realizing it.
But dogs may be different. My dog Callie and I play soccer every night or fifteen to twenty minutes, and, because of that, I’ve become pretty tuned in to my dog’s energy levels. Interestingly, this experience has put me more in tune with my own energy fluctuations.
Our daily soccer match always starts with a burst of energy. Callie tracks me down, usually in my office, and gives me a very intense gaze. Her “look” means, “It’s time for our soccer game!”
I start the game by kicking the soft, under-inflated ball almost the length of our backyard. Callie races after the ball and traps is under her tummy. Then I make a shorter and higher kick, and Callie leaps into the air and “bonks” the ball off her nose. We call it a “noser.” It’s like a header but when you’re a golden retriever your nose gets in the way.
Sometimes we do a rapid volley of nosers. I kick the ball back to her as quickly as possible, and she leaps up and “bonks” the ball as hard as she can. This usually gets her really pumped up for a few minutes.
But invariably, sometime during our game, I’ll kick the ball to Callie and she’ll just look at me, as the ball flies over her head and lands on the grass. It’s as if she’s saying, “What was that all about?” She makes no effort whatsoever to go after it. My next few attempts are likely to have the same result. It is as if she doesn’t care about the game any more.
So now I’m wondering, “Is there a way to get the game back on track?” Another thing I wonder is, “Is she mirroring my energy level?” For the next kick, I’ll run to the ball faster and try to project more energy. Sometimes that works. Callie senses my increased enthusiasm and reflects it with an outburst of harder “nosers” and faster chasing after the ball.
Other times Callie ignores my new energy level and the ball flies over her head, and, once again, she looks at me like I’m crazy.
Another trick I’ve tried is to “fake” an end to the game. I kick the ball back to our starting place and put it back on the chair where it sits when we’re not playing. Sometimes Callie tries to play “keep away” so I can’t pick the ball up. She’ll put a paw on the ball, for example, or trap it under her tummy, or position herself between me and the ball.
After the ball has been back on its chair for a few seconds, I pick it up again and ask Callie if she wants to play. Usually by this time, she’s stationed herself in the middle of the yard and she’s giving me that “let’s play soccer” look again.
So, starting over, I kick the ball toward her and she goes scampering after it. Usually this works, and it re-energizes her, at least for a few minutes.
Sometimes I think this interaction is just about a dog’s energy level and enthusiasm for the game. At other times, it seems like she’s reflecting my energy — or lack of energy. It probably also has something to do with focus and concentration — both of which, I believe are closely related to energy expression.
This energy interaction has been fascinating to follow. I’ve learned a lot about Callie’s energy levels as well as my own. There have been times when I was certain Callie was simply mirroring my energy — that her lack of enthusiasm probably reflected the fact that I was distracted or thinking about something else. In these situations, I am able to regain the energy of the game by getting more enthusiastic and putting more into it myself.
Sometimes I think that Callie’s enthusiasm has helped to spark my enthusiasm to a higher level which has led to some really fun “noser” volleys.
Any way you look at it, this “energy exchange” has enriched my relationship with Callie. I understand her a little better — and probably myself, as well.
Try paying attention to your dog’s energy patterns!