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Filling Your Dog's Emotional Bucket

dog emotions emotional bucket Nov 13, 2019

Each of us has our own personal emotional bucket.  And so do our dogs.

When your bucket is full, you feel positive, confident, and productive. But when your bucket is empty, you feel drained and negative. 

So it is also with your dog.

 In How Full Is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Don Clifton, the authors explain that we all have the choice either to fill or to empty our emotional buckets.  We also can fill or empty those of others.  

You can fill up your dog's emotional bucket and make him stronger, healthier, and happier. When you do that, you fill your bucket, too.

But you can also dip into his bucket with negativity and drain it drop by drop. Yet, draining his bucket doesn't fill yours.

The book further describes bucket-filling strategies.  Here are three of those strategies that work equally well for dogs and people.

"Shine a Light on What Is Right"

Show your dog that he can control the results of the choices that he's free to make. He'll feel empowered because he can cause good things to come his way.  Be generous and consistent with reinforcers for the behaviors you like.  Sharpen your awareness of "what is right" so you can "shine a light" of love and attention where it will do the most good.

"Eliminate Bucket Dipping"

Being unpredictable, ignoring your dog, depending on negativity for communication, and training with punishment are all "bucket dipping" actions. Don't drain both your bucket and your dog's by depending on "no!", "leave it", "bad dog", or using your dog's name as a punisher.  Instead, include your dog in family activities, play games, set your dog up to succeed and reward his success, be emotionally predictable so that your dog can trust you. 

"Reverse the Golden Rule"

The variation on the Rule goes like this:  "Do unto others as they would have you do unto them."  Ask what your dog needs from you.  How does your dog want you to treat him?  Would barking, digging, chasing, sniffing, running, playing, and hunting fill his bucket?  Would unconditional attention and loving words be exactly what he wants from you?


So much of what we think we have to "control" about our dog's behavior is just normal dog stuff.  Expecting a dog to be "un-doglike" imposes a lot of unfair pressure to measure up to unrealistic standards - and it drains the bucket.

Here's a wonderful graphic for you that you're going to love. It depicts a Dog's Emotional Cup and you'll want to refer to these principles whenever you sense that stress is draining your dog's bucket.  Download and share your graphic:

What will you do today to fill your dog's bucket?

Sensitive Dogs want to be heard, not trained. When you recognize the emotion behind the behavior, the behavior changes.

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