Ted Talks: Life Hacks "your Body Language Shapes Who You Are"

Discussion in 'Off-Topic & Chit Chat' started by brodys_mom, Apr 8, 2014.

  1. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I watched this on Netflix a few nights ago, and really enjoyed it. The idea behind the talk was "Fake it until you become it." The speaker presented some evidence on how body posture can affect your thinking and behavior. She talked about an experiment where subjects were asked to hold either a power posture (picture Wonder Woman with a wide stance and hands on her hips, chin high and steady gaze), or a timid posture (arms and legs drawn in, eyes downcast) for two whole minutes before going in for a job interview. The interviews were recorded and viewed by people who knew nothing of the experiment but were asked which people they would hire. Unknowingly, all of them chose the subjects who had done the power posture. Turns out, the power posture boosts testosterone (confidence) and lowers cortisol levels in the bloodstream. The timid posture causes the reverse effect. She ended the talk by encouraging people to change the outcomes of potentially stressful situations where they lacked self-confidence by taking the power pose for two minutes before hand. Not a bad idea!

    It got me thinking about Brody (and other fearful, shy dogs) and how we can affect this same result. What kinds of games or exercises cause more testosterone to be released, therefore giving these dogs more confidence in stressful situations? I've tried some Google searches, but nothing turns up. Anyone have knowledge on this subject?

  2. running_dog Honored Member

    What about heel work with eye contact?

    Zac always looks ready to take on the whole world when he does that.
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  3. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I was wondering whether this might be the basis for the Natural Dog Training method (heated discussions on other threads, not wanting to stir things up!), so I googled "testosterone natural dog training" and got a link to a very technical article that I could not understand. I consider myself fairly intelligent and well-read, but Kevin Behan is waaay over my head!
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  4. brody_smom Experienced Member

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  5. MaryK Honored Member

    Very interesting subject. I've always found that when dealing with animals, a calm, confident manner definitely helps the dog/horse feel calm and confident.

    Having dealt a lot with horses as well as dogs, I would never let certain people around my Stallion or my own mare as both were very well mannered but reacted strongly to nervous people ie the people who loved horses but were scared of them, because if I did both horses would play up, behave in a very 'naughty' manner, never aggressive but oh boy, they took full advantage of the person's fear! Dined out on quite a few funny stories about their respective antics.

    We too are animals, so it makes sense that our body language interacts with that of other animals other than the human ones. So it stands to reason that it's in our interests to watch OUR body language as well as that of the non-human animal.

    Thanks for the url, very interesting and informative video.
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  6. MaryK Honored Member

    Same with Leaf!!!!!!! Eye contact is very important, in my opinion anyway. Plus both my dogs know when I look at them whether they're being good or naughty:) The eyes sure do play a large part in body language!
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  7. running_dog Honored Member

    I don't think they were smarter than you. Us communicating with dogs and other animals using our body language is fairly common. For instance I accidentally discovered years ago that I can turn Zac into a gibbering wreck if I walk in a closed power pose. And communicating confidence is what the brisk cheerful exit with the "Let's go" cue is all about in dealing with reactive dogs. There are lots of examples if you look for them.

    I'm just a bit wary about this power pose idea anyway, unless I'm missing something it seems a bit more on the quick fix personality ethic side of things and I'm more into the concept of sustained change through the character ethic. This goes much deeper to actually build the character that will as a natural consequence give off the body language that we need.


    Your idea of trying to develop a confidence building pose for a dog, now that is REALLY interesting.

    The thing with heel work with eye contact is that the eye contact pulls the dog into a tall pose, walking on it's toes almost. Similar to the swagger of a top dog approaching another dog. You can see it in this video from Kikopup. Although there are LOTS of obedience heel videos this one (which is actually about teaching a Schutzhund turn) is always the one that comes to my mind... such a tiny dog thinking SO tall.
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  8. brody_smom Experienced Member

    I don't know if you had the chance to watch the whole video, but she does go much deeper into the idea of small steps that build confidence. Her personal story is quite moving. She gives it toward the end.

    That Schutzhund turn looks fun. Not sure how the mechanics would work on leash, though. I guess leashes aren't used in Schutzhund. Yesterday's lesson in"Walk in Harmony" teaches the "Around", but hasn't yet gone into use as a turn. I haven't worked on it yet, but I will on the weekend. Now, whether it alters body chemistry is another question. Captain Cortisol could sure use a testosterone boost at times.
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  9. running_dog Honored Member

    The difference with the character ethic is that it would look at why a person was feeling like they did not belong someplace and affirm and build their character from the inside out not from the outside in... if that makes sense? The direction and determination that the character ethic builds internally leads to a more powerful body language externally.

    Does Brody already do heel with eye contact?

    I don't think it makes Zac less confident to curl up. But he obviously won't lie down by choice if he feels threatened or stressed, so does that say something about it being the opposite of a doggy power pose? He wants to stay standing and alert... so maybe we should keep our dogs in a stand rather than a sit or down if we want them to feel more powerful?
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  10. brody_smom Experienced Member

    He will do a decent heel with eye contact in the house. I have never worked on this specifically for long periods to really get it solid. I don't have it on cue. Outside, we have a real hard time. He will look at me and hold for up to 10 seconds when in a sit, but when moving, as soon as he takes his treat, he turns to look forward almost immediately. I have been working on this a bit more lately, just in our yard and on the front driveway as part of the online course we're doing.

    I taught him "around" yesterday. He picked it up very quickly, and I was able to use it in our retrieve game. I need to watch that video on the Schutzhund turn a bit more to memorize the mechanics. I thought I had it, but when I tried to do it, it ended up just being a regular turn. I guess I need to be turning in the opposite direction.

    For the character building exercises, I kind of equated these to the idea that teaching tricks to dogs with low confidence helps them realize that their behavior can affect their environment to a degree. The more tricks they learn, the more tools they have. Then when you switch from luring to shaping, the rise in confidence can be staggering, because they are now using their own intelligence and not just blindly following a lure. That's like the "fake it until you become it" idea. Whether this has anything to do with testosterone or cortisol, I have no idea. But we definitely see these different postures in dog body language. The dominant dog raising its hackles, standing tall, holding its head high. The submissive one lowering its head and tail even offering that belly, as we have seen in those videos of the wolves.
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  11. running_dog Honored Member

    Please are you saying luring is like faking and shaping is building character? or trick training is like faking? :confused:
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  12. MaryK Honored Member

    I agree. I read/heard somewhere (cannot recall where) a long time ago that some dog's don't always like learning the 'drop' position because it puts them in a more vunerable position than the stand position.

    As with everything, we need to study our dogs, watch their reactions, they really can teach us so much about how they feel and react as individuals to certain situations.
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  13. brody_smom Experienced Member

    Maybe that's a bad comparison. I was inspired by your comment about building character from the inside out, rather than from the outside in. It got me thinking that luring is like faking a behavior to get a reward in the same way as standing like Wonder Woman for 2 minutes is faking confidence in order to increase your chance of success in a stressful situation. It's not something you would have thought of on your own, but if it works, you'll keep doing it. Shaping, on the other hand, is having the confidence to try something you thought of yourself, knowing you may fail, but also knowing you may succeed. But the luring had to come first otherwise you wouldn't even know where to start. When I first started training Brody, I had read about luring, shaping and capturing. I tried all three. Of course, capturing was the hardest, but shaping was very frustrating, because all he would offer was barking and pawing at things. He had no foundation of acceptable behaviors to draw from, so we were stuck. I went to straight luring for quite a while, just to give him some ideas of what kinds of behaviors could earn him a click/treat. Once he had the confidence to offer me things, he wasn't as quickly frustrated by a failure, he would try something else. It is my opinion that shaping is a superior method to luring because of this and the mental work it requires of the dog, but I think luring is essential for a beginning trainer and/or a dog who lacks confidence.
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  14. running_dog Honored Member

    I'm still here but I'm short of time, all being well I'll get back to this tomorrow :).

    In the meantime I randomly wondered if confident children (and adults) are more likely to sleep like starfish (power pose?????) and timid children are more likely to sleep curled up. I asked 3 under 10 year olds I know, the child that appears most confident (would talk to a new person in the presence of a trusted adult while the others were too shy) slept like a starfish more often than the others (sometimes starfish, rather than mostly/always curled up). Coincidence? Anyone you can quiz? If you could sleep in a power pose...
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  15. brody_smom Experienced Member

    That sent my thoughts to some strange places! It got me thinking of how you could make someone sleep in a star fish pose if it didn't come naturally, then I thought you'd have to handcuff their feet and hands to the bed posts! Sounds like torture! Might have the opposite effect!
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  16. MaryK Honored Member

    LOL starfish sleeping pose is very comfortable, it's the only way I can sleep with ease. I doubt though you could get any one to sleep like that if it didn't come naturally to them.
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  17. running_dog Honored Member

    LOL, No I didn't mean that :D. I was just thinking that if 2 minutes of posing in a power pose or the reverse could have such an effect then what about when we spend hours in comparable positions when we sleep? I used to always sleep curled up, now I often sleep star fish, yesterday something happened that knocked my confidence in my ability to handle things and my instinct was to curl up really small when I was going to sleep. I suppose that the positions we take up when we sleep might not just reflect but also reinforce the way we feel? However I'm well aware that there are a lot of other factors that affect what positions we find comfortable to sleep in.
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  18. running_dog Honored Member

    I think I see what you are saying but my brain is working slowly this morning :(. I don't think I'd make luring purely into faking but I see what you mean about when a dog is actively thinking into shaping as requiring a level of existing self confidence to be built upon. The capturing end of shaping can start to build the dog's confidence in itself though.

    Tricks for building confidence can also be about paradigm shifts. So when a dog is scared of things and we teach it to "touch" objects there can be a kind of paradigm shift. The dog starts to see a confusing and scary world in a new light - as a series of objects to touch. Whether there is an element of faking initially I don't know.
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  19. brody_smom Experienced Member

    Yes, like weather! I know for myself, I love to sleep all curled up in the winter, because I always have my window open, no matter how cold it is outside. In the summer, I can't stand it to have my legs and arms touching each other, so it's star fish all the way!
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  20. brody_smom Experienced Member

    It's like you were saying in our other thread, about letting yourself be covered in crickets for money. If the money kept coming, could you see yourself starting to REALLY enjoy the creepy-crawly sensation?

    I started walking Brody daily when I got him, because that is what responsible dog owners do. He was terrible almost the whole time, reacting to everything (it was February, and very wet and windy), nipping at me, pulling and lunging at water rushing down drains, etc. Anything novel would set him off: a trash can left out, a realtor sign blowing back and forth, someone on a bicycle, skateboard, scooter. When we came back home, he would continue to be reactive for hours. At some point he would start racing around like a crazed animal, snarling and barking and spinning in circles. I had heard about the zoomies, so I thought this was normal. It also made me hyper-vigilant about making sure he had enough exercise, as I was warned about the dangers of a Border Collie with unspent energy. I would take him to our school grounds and play fetch for 40 minutes every morning. After we got home, and had eaten breakfast, he would jump up on the sofa next to me and bark wildly in my face. I would tell him to get off, at which point he would race around barking until I put him in his crate. I should add that I always had pockets bulging with yummy treats on our walks, and fed him as much as he would take when he was reacting to something. I would reward him for sitting calmly at a distance from these "scary" things, and bring him gradually closer until he could touch his nose to it without freaking out. I thought we were making progress as he seemed calmer on our walks, but his crazy behavior in the house continued.

    Fast forward to last November. We had a real cold snap at about the same time I was recovering from injuries when I fell while walking Brody. I decided to skip a couple of walk days and just play with him in the house A LOT. Guess what? No racing around the house, no snarling, no zoomies, no jumping up and barking in my face. I decided to experiment, since the weather was really lousy, and NOT walk him at all, but just play in the house or yard. All of those daily behaviors have disappeared. All of them. He was able to lie calmly on the floor or even cuddle up on the sofa beside me after his meals. But the day before yesterday, I had been really busy helping my son move back in from college, and Brody had been crated more than normal as we were gone for long periods, then coming in and out of the house with his belongings. I hadn't had the chance to play with him all day, so I decided to take him for a good long walk. It had been raining a bit, so there was the swish of cars passing. It was also windy, and we passed a real estate sign outside an apartment building. It had several small signs hanging and it was blowing back and forth. I spent quite a bit of time with Brody, letting him approach if he wanted, backing off when he wanted, feeding treats for not barking at it, etc. When we got home, he was back to his old antics.

    I know people say that with reactive dogs, exposure to environmental triggers will lessen their reaction over time. I am not convinced of this with Brody. I believe he may be faking calmness because it earns him food, but the cortisol is still there. Maybe I haven't persisted long enough, but his behavior once we are back in the house is evidence that not much has changed. My interest in this research stems from the need to find ways to reduce cortisol and increase testosterone, exactly what the power poses are able to achieve.
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