We all need to learn how to slow down, relax and be calm, our dogs included. However, being calm is not necessarily an innate behavior your dog will know, which is why you should teach your dog to be calm.
Puppies are naturally exuberant, playful, and full of energy. However, an over-stimulated puppy can be destructive, naughty, and exhausting. Just like babies and toddlers, it’s essential to allow your puppy plenty of time to rest and decompress. Unfortunately, it’s not just puppies; older dogs who don’t know how to relax or decompress can have many behavioral issues simply because they are constantly over-stimulated.
After any exercise, training, or playtime is an excellent time to teach your dog that it is positive and rewarding to be calm and rest once they have got rid of that excess energy. A chance for you and your dog to spend some time chilling out together.
Dogs Need To Learn To Chill Out
A dog who doesn’t know how to rest or be calm is a dog who is always alert. Being on alert all the time is exhausting and can cause anxiety which can lead to behavioral issues. It also means that you will struggle to relax in your own home, and it is unlikely that you will be able to take your dog out and about as much as you would like to, as the poor dog is constantly on-guard.
Take your dog to your local pub or café and relax with your drink or meal while your dog happily chills out next to you. That’s the dream! The good news is that all dogs can be taught to relax. I have a Siberian Husky, and now if I stop to chat while we’re out, she’ll happily settle herself down to wait – there was a time when I thought that would be impossible. We have even been known to sit outside the pub or café for a bit, and she settles down beside us – bliss!
Teaching your dog to be calm allows you more freedom and choice in your day and has a massive positive impact on your dog’s mental well-being. A dog who doesn’t know how to relax will need attention all day, every day. Realistically this isn’t possible, as we work, have families to look after, and chores to do. So you need to be able to do other things without your dog becoming stressed out.
How Can I Teach My Dog To Be Calm
As with any skill, it will take time, practice, and patience. The main component is that you must remain calm and relaxed while teaching your dog this skill. You won’t be able to help your dog to relax if it can sense that you are not relaxed! The best time to start is after a good exercise session; your dog will have burned off a lot of the excess energy.
You can start this in several ways; it will depend on your dog and how you want it to relax. For example, my Husky is allowed on the sofa or my bed; she also has her bed. You need to decide where you want your dog to chill out.
I started by putting aside some of my Husky’s daily kibble allowance to use as rewards throughout the day for teaching calmness. Whenever I saw my Husky lying chilling out, I would give her a few bits of kibble and pet her. When she lay down at my feet or on her bed, I would give her a few bits of kibble and pet her. I would not speak to her as I didn’t want to engage her.
If I was on the sofa and she came to sit beside me, as long as she was calm, I would give her a few bits of kibble and pet her; again, I wouldn’t speak as I didn’t want to engage her. By providing a reward, your dog will learn that this is a desired action and will be a positive experience. A positive experience will ensure that your dog does it again.
Once your dog realizes that lying down is rewarding and positive, you can add a vocal cue, such as ‘settle down’ or ‘on your bed’ to the action. Always reward compliance; eventually, you can decrease the rewards when the cue and action become a habit for your dog as the relaxation becomes its own reward.
Different Cues for Different Situations
It’s a good idea to have different cues for different situations. For example, at night time, when we want to have space in our bed, we tell our Husky ‘on your bed’; if she’s being restless, we will say to her to ‘settle down’.
In the living room, ‘on the mat’ is the cue to get her to go and lay down, if we are answering the door or we don’t want her investigating someone who has come into our home.
Like all training, it may have to be broken down into steps for your dog, and you should always start in a low-distraction environment and gradually introduce distractions to ensure success. And in each new location, you will have to teach the training steps slowly so that your dog will get used to being calm anywhere you ask them to be calm.
It may take time for your dog to learn to relax, especially if you have a puppy or an older dog who has been on high alert for a while. However, perseverance and patience are essential as the benefits are beyond words for your dog and you. A dog that can relax and decompress will be less anxious and have fewer behavioral problems. This will also allow you to take them to more places and be around more people.
A dog that can relax also makes your life easier at home as you can get on with other things knowing that your dog is happy and resting. In addition, you will be able to relax without getting jumped on and having to get up every 5 minutes to see what your dog is up to.
All in all, life is better for everyone if we can all relax and decompress, dogs included!
I hope you have found this article helpful.