Glimmers Not Triggers Is the Answer to Better Dog Walks · The Wildest

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TikTok’s Glimmers Over Triggers Trend Is the Answer to Better Dog Walks

Your daily walks together are a special time for both you and your pup. Heres how to lower stresses and find more joy during your daily routine

by Caroline Wilkinson
12 December 2023
Happy woman playing outside in the grass with dog.
Diego Martin / Stocksy

Glimmers are tiny moments when you feel a sense of awe. They are small details from experiences throughout your day, that by recognising, can help you to be more present, grounded and joyful.

Over the past year, a social trend (‘ glimmers’ has been mentioned over 12 million times on TikTok) has been encouraging us to focus on glimmers over triggers throughout our day. It is a quest for positivity amidst these difficult times, focusing on moments of light rather than succumbing to negativity.

In dog behaviour, we often discuss the impact your dog’s ‘triggers’ may have on them. Triggers are situations or experiences that stimulate your dog’s nervous system – creating a ‘reactive’ response such as barking, lunging or trying to flee. For our dogs, their daily dog walk may mean encountering various triggers such as other dogs, people, traffic or noises, which set them up to be hypervigilant throughout their outside adventure. These triggers can have a knock-on effect for the rest of the day, leaving your dog in a stressed state. 

On the human end of the lead, heading out with your dog knowing that you will encounter these triggers can impact your own mindset, too. Dog walks can shift from a moment of calm and joy within your day to a tension-filled experience. Being constantly on guard for the next trigger will shift your focus away from being present in the moment – something mindful techniques rely upon – to the short-term future, and leave you anticipating a negative experience. Our own hypervigilance can transmit stress down the lead to our dogs.

Creating a sense of balance throughout your week of walks can be really beneficial here. Rather than repeating the same walk where your dog is likely to encounter their triggers, aim to break up the week with some calm walks using private secure fields or a quiet location. Add in a ‘rest day’ if your dog is really stressed, like a day off from outside experiences replaced with activities such as scent work and simple trick training at home. A rest day is like a dog version of a ‘duvet day’ – an emotional detox that allows their cortisol levels (the stress hormone) to deplete. To be clear, rest days arent a day to do nothing and end up with a bored dog – instead youre using the time youd usually walk your dog to play games with them, provide chews or engage in simple scent work. Snuggling up on the sofa for some 1:1 cuddle time also definitely counts as an activity.

When going out for walks where you may be likely to encounter triggers, instead try embracing glimmers. Experiencing a glimmer can be a simple micro moment of joy such as seeing a bird take flight, but this tiny moment should create a small shift in your mood state. The more glimmers you – and your dog – experience, the better you’ll feel emotionally and the less impact the triggers will have on you both. Choosing to navigate life through a glimmer lens empowers us to find strength in the midst of any challenges our dog may be experiencing.

The amazing thing about glimmers is that they can send safety cues to our nervous system and, over time, even strengthen it. This is so important when we’re striving to offer the best support we can to our dogs. It can take some time for you to form a reliable habit of looking for glimmers on walks rather than falling into old habits of focusing on triggers. But the good news is that the more we humans acknowledge and feel the power of these glimmers, the more we’re likely to find them again – as our body is primed to experience them.

While out walking with your dog, look for changing patterns of light; the shifting seasons and colours they bring; a moment your dog does something joyous such as finding what they deem to be the best stick ever; feel the sun on your skin – even if it’s only fleeting; and listen to a happy song. On a cold day, take a hot drink with you and feel its warmth in your hands. Glimmers can be experienced by all our senses, so touch, smell and look around you on your walks.

Your dog can experience glimmers, too. These can allow them to relax, lower their arousal and feel safer. Take them to a new location for a walk so that they can dive into a world of new smells. Here, each sniff is another glimmer. As you’re walking, scatter some treats behind you stealthily in a Hansel and Gretel style trail then send your dog back to find this hidden treasure. They’ll be amazed to find them as they weren’t there when they just walked along that path. Finding an abandoned toy on a walk can be a huge glimmer for playful pups – it might look like a stinky old tennis ball to you, but to them its a jewel among the grass. You can recreate this find by taking a toy yourself on walks and hiding it in some long grass for your dog to discover. There are some glimmers that your dog may enjoy that you might find less sparkly though, such as a lovely roll in other animals poo... if youve ever smelt eau de fox on your dog, youll know what I mean.

You can help your dog come down from a stressful walk by offering opportunities for glimmers at home, too. Move their bed into a sunspot so they can feel the warmth and help their circadian rhythms stay in check. Add different textures of food to their bowl so that they can enjoy a diverse eating experience. Or just sit and be what they need – whether that’s as a stroker or just a reassuring, solid presence. 

For anxious dogs, make sure youre helping them to be able to enjoy the glimmer effect of walks by walking in locations they can cope with. Busy parks or noisy city centres might be too much for them. Instead, choose calm, quiet wooded areas, large fields or book in a professional secure field thats just for you and your dog to enjoy. When your dog starts walking in these calmer spaces, it might initially be hard for them to reduce their arousal and realise theyre safe to explore the surroundings – so take things slowly. Aim to introduce just one thing you know they enjoy at home in these calm spaces and build from there. Over time, like us, they can start to spot more glimmers than triggers.

Obviously, it’s important to keep our dogs safe, and this sometimes can require looking for triggers in order to be able to create space. It’s important to strike a balance between future awareness and being in the moment. Allowing yourself time and space to be spontaneous on walks – to change up a route so you can find something new and enjoyable – will allow you both to benefit from time together outside. It’ll also create a stronger bond between you and your dog as you go on this new journey together.

While we need to start out consciously seeking glimmers, once you start to feel those shifts in mood you’ll see this benefits both you and your dog. Just by setting some time to get out in the morning sun or taking time with your dog to do nothing, you’ll soon realise how glimmers really are everywhere.

Caroline Wilkinson

Caroline Wilkinson is a Certified Animal Behaviourist. As the Founder of digital pet coaching service Barket Place, Caroline has a passion for improving connections between human and hound, with a focus on relationships and reduction of stress for canines living in a human world.

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