Sometimes living in New England is hard. Don’t get me wrong, I love, I adore living here. I like seasons. I like winter. I like fall. Spring and summer I can handle because they mean winter and fall will then happen. But I totally understand why so much of a dog trainers spring is seemingly endless phone calls that go something like, “My dog is suddenly barking and lunging at everything and everyone! Help!” Yea, it’s called Spring Wake up aka Sensory Overload.
I live with Sensory Processing Disorder. It means I get Spring Wake up reactivity myself. This past week, after a couple of weeks of warmer weather and able to be outside for long periods of the day, we got 2 days of snow, followed by 2 days of sunny glare, followed by a day of pouring rain. Which for me equals trapped in the 4 walls of my house for days. Needless to say this morning, when I woke up to a gorgeous spring day my nervous system is going bat shit crazy.
A friend and I took our dogs for a walk in the park earlier today. Her dog has a habit of a high pitch whining scream as we get closer to our outing destination. Then a habit of barking happily to tell all the world that we have arrived for about 5 minutes as we begin our walk. It took every thing I had not to fall prey to the noise reactive response my CNS was demanding I have. The helicopter going overhead was, to say the least, not helping. So, to not take my discomfort out on my friend, her dog or my dogs for that matter, there was a quick increasing of distance between us, an increased rate of rewarding and focusing on my dog’s delightful behaviors and then when I found myself no longer forcing myself to smile and breathe as to not scream at the universe to “Shut the hell up!”, the walk became enjoyable.
Now, as an adult human who has lived with SPD for a number of decades now, I know in a couple of more days the hyper sensitivity will abate to more manageable until the next time the weather dictates I be locked inside for a week. But to all those dogs out there who experience the spring wake up overload after a New England winter of sensory deprivation- I feel your pain, I get it, and I hope your people can empathize with you too.
(side note: If you are experiencing the stresses of spring wake up with your dog, please seek out the assistance of a qualified behavior professional. The IAABC has a great listing of certified behavior consultants across the globe. And a great way to help limit the adverse effects of an annual spring wake up is ensure you continue to train and practice in novel environments as sensory rich as your dog can successfully handle throughout the winter season. Happy training.)