Feeling Your Way into Empathy

It’s not enough to think your way to being empathetic or compassionate.

It’s not top down.

It’s bottom up.

The emotional experience of pain, grief, rage, frustration and even love, pleasure, play all start from what the body feels first and informs the mind how to act.

The body has a physiological response to a situation and then sends the information up to the brain for the person to take action.

What’s interesting, dogs also have similar emotional systems and have a physiological response to a situation where they are motivated to respond because of how they feel.

Understanding this related ability to our companions gives us the choice to empathize with our dogs suffering and celebrate in their joy because we know how we feel when we experience those real feelings. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2021/11/feature-cultivating-empathy

When we feel empathetic to another, we can then show them kindness and love by providing them comfort when they are struggling physically or emotionally because we can relate to the feeling.

A pet parent shared with me that when she observed another trainer teach a leash walking skill to a fellow student, the student was confused because the lessen being taught was complicated.

She shared, “if I’m confused, my dog will be confused too.”


Not only does this pet parent understand how she feels when observing a situation and knowing herself well enough in how she learns and takes in new information, she also possesses the emotional understanding of how this experience would be on her dog too.

If she’s not clear with the information she’s receiving, she would not be able to effectively teach her dog the steps of what to do too.

She knows that feeling confused can feel paralyzing.

Not only is this pet parent motivated by the desire to have clarity in learning which will travel down the leash and through her relationship with her dog, she’s also motivated to have her dog feel differently about the learning experience.

She desires her dog to enjoy learning.

That’s the name of the game. When we experience the feeling of joy and freedom that comes with having fun, we want the feeling to last and we want more of this!

So do our dogs.

Be curious about what you’re body is telling you because this can open your heart to what your dog is emotionally expressing too.

Curious about how you can deepen your awareness of yourself through your relationship with your dog?

Register for the Virtual Puppy Parenting Retreat for an introduction:

Sign up today

Published by houndbiz

Katherine Porter is a force free, reward based dog behavior advisor and consultant serving clients and their companion dogs worldwide. Her calm and gentle approach in coaching clients in effectively communicating what they want to their dog blends her MSW background into her dog training and behavior practice. Katherine was a behavior consultant for Heeling Hounds after graduation. She opened Four Paws and You Dog Training LLC when the military relocated her family to Fort Sill, OK in 2015. During this time, she volunteered with Rainbow Bridge Can Wait where she provided post adoption consultations to new pet parents. She also developed and implemented tailored behavior modification plans for highly reactive dogs residing at the shelter. She also provided educational programs to military children through interactive workshops at the Fort Sill School Age Center. In 2017, Katherine relocated Four Paws and You Dog Training LLC to Germany. She served the Armed Forces communities in Bavaria. She continued coaching and advising her clients in addressing their companion dog’s fearful and reactive behavioral issues. Katherine takes a Do No Harm approach first and foremost in providing behavioral plans. She is committed in serving clients with gentle and modern science approaches in modifying behavioral concerns such as reactivity, aggression, separation anxiety and fear based responses. Katherine is a member of the Pet Professional Guild. She is focused on integrating a holistic and modern approach in addressing her client’s pet companion reactive behavior issues.

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