“Cool your jets, Fido!”
Teaching calm behaviour to your dog is as essential as walking on a loose lead, coming when called and being confident in the world. For some dogs this comes naturally. They’re temperament is a sweet and gentle soul, calm behaviour is as natural as breathing. This is not of all dogs. For some, moving and running and doing is the natural behaviour. Being calm and settling is more difficult for these dogs and they need help.
Below are three strategies to help reinforce calm behaviour in your dog. They can all be used together as part of your training plan.
Daily Exercise to Encourage Calm Behaviour
Physical exercise plays a role in helping dogs to rest and settle. It is difficult to settle when you have a bundle of energy. Giving your dog a chance to run and play burns of energy. It allows them time to run, be free and be a dog.
Physical exercise can take many forms. A walk around town or through the bush. If you have a social dog then perhaps a trip to the dog park or the beach where they can run and play with other dogs. A good run while playing tug or fetch in the backyard. Settle up a fun obstacle course or participating in a dog sport is also great exercise.
All of these helps to tire out your dog. This makes it easier to settle down for extended periods of stillness.
Teach Calm Behaviour to Your Dog
All around the world people are teaching their dogs to be calmer. As a result trainers have developed all sorts of strategies to help people. For me there are two stand out strategies that come to mind.
Suzanne Clothier’s “Really Real Relaxation Protocol” is an easy to learn strategy that teaches your dog to chill out with you. There is information available online but I highly recommend getting the information direct from Suzanne Clothier’s website.
For teaching your dog to relax in specific situations Karen Overall’s Protocol for Relaxation is a detailed training exercise. The protocol teaches dogs how reinforcing relaxing can be. This is also extremely useful as a foundation skill in all other area of your dogs training.
There are a lot of strategies out there for teaching calm behaviour to your dog. The main thing is find one that works and then practice. If you get stuck, reach out for help from a qualified dog trainer.
See it, Reinforce it
Throughout the day it is likely your dog is taking time to rest and lay down. If they aren’t taking this time it is indicative of a different behavioural concern and you should talk to your vet or professional trainer. A great way to train calm behaviour is to capture it when the dog does it naturally. So, here’s a game for you;
1. Count out 30 treats – can be your dogs dry food if they like it
2. Place these treats in an easy to reach location. Your pocket is perfect!
3. When you see your relaxing, give them a treat. See if you can get through all 30 treats each day.
It is not uncommon for dogs who lay down to get up once you’ve given them a treat. Just go back to what you were doing and the next time you see them relaxing, give them a treat. They’ll soon learn they are being treated for just chilling out.
Provide an Activity to Encourage Calm Behaviour
Provide an interactive toy or game which encourages your dog to sniff or settle down to chew for a long period. Go for a walk around the block and allow your dog to sniff. Whatever they want for as long as they want. A scatter feed outside in the yard – tossing some dry food or treats into the grass for your dog to sniff out.
A long lasting chew is great. This could be a bone, antler, rawhide or bully stick. There are also interactive toys like Kong which can be stuffed with all sorts of yummies. All dogs have their own likes and dislikes when it comes to chewing, Experiment and see what you dog likes to chew.
Sniffing and chewing helps your dog channel their energy into a calmer activity.
It will take some experimenting to see what works for your dog. Remember each dog is different and a training plan will always need to be customised to suit your individual needs. So, try an enrichment activity and then observe. Do they interact with the activity? What is their behaviour afterward? Are they resting and settled or doing crazy laps around the backyard? Those activities which they enjoy and help them to settle are the keepers.
Teaching calm behaviour to your dog has a lot of benefits. It teaches them to relax and settle, impulse control and restraint. It is part of teaching your dog to be well rounded, happy and confident. Join the conversation on my Facebook page @activatedogtraining