Growing Calmness – Part 1
Is your dog in need of more calmness? Are they constantly wanting walks, training, attention from you? Here are our tips on growing the skill of calmness in your dog.
Dedicate a Room to Calm
Picture this: It’s the end of a long day, you want to snuggle up on the sofa, perhaps with a glass of wine, but your dog has other ideas! Your dog has gone to fetch his favourite toy and he has placed it at your feet eagerly waiting for you to engage in a game. Sound familiar?
To help create calmness, rehearse what you want in a room dedicated to calm. Often this room is where you like to sit, chill, read a book or watch a movie. So, to help your dog, when you are in this room, do nothing that will lead to your dog thinking that it is the place that training, games, or exciting things happen. Dogs are very clever at predicting what happens in certain environments. If you train or play in the same space where you wish your dog to be calm, you can understand that they try to engage in a game with you.
Now, we’re not saying that you must totally ignore your dog when you are in your calm space! Absolutely go ahead and calmly massage your dog, interact, and relax together! Think calm engagement rather than high excitement!
And to really set the right mood, we often use oil diffusers with calming essential oils, these work on us and our dogs!
And finally, of course absolutely train in your house but make sure you dedicate rooms for training away from your ‘calm’ space.
We often say, ‘catch your dog doing something right’ and let them know! So, in the context of creating calmness, when your dog is relaxed and semi-snoozing, calmly walk over to where they are and mark with a calm ‘yes’ or ‘nice’ and place a piece of food down on their bed. What you are doing is capturing what you want and reinforcing it. We all know how reward-based training works, right?! What you reward you ultimately get more of! It is important to look at creating calm as training, and some dogs needs to learn the art and skill of calm through training.
Now, what may happen after you have walked over and rewarded your dog for essentially doing nothing, is that they may get up. We often get asked; haven’t we just rewarded our dog for getting up? Think of it this way; you mark what you want, and the food gets placed at the moment when your dog is doing nothing, so that is the bit that has been reinforced. If your dog is extremely sensitive to your movement, set their bed or yourself up where you can perhaps lean across and calmly place the piece of food down. Slowly build this skill, don’t over-do it to begin with as what you don’t want to create is a ping-pong dog!
Chewing & Kongs
Do you give your dog the opportunity to chew? Chewing is a great way to promote calmness. Chewing is something all dogs naturally desire to do, especially when they are young, so we really are massive advocates for ensuring dogs have adequate time to chew (on things that are appropriate!).
We also love stuffed kongs to help promote calmness, however, we want to share the steps we take when first introducing stuffed kongs:
- Start off with something your dog finds easy to get out, like kibble, for example.
- Then move to something squidgy, like mashed sweet potato or sardines. But don’t pack it too full!
- Once your dog is proficient at that level, increase the difficulty by packing more in the kong!
- Then finally when your dog is a pro at emptying a packed kong, try freezing it before giving it to your dog.
Increasing the level of difficultly gradually is crucial, if you make emptying the kong too hard before your dog is ready, they will find it EXTREMELY frustrating. Extreme frustration is detrimental to the point of using a kong, after all, we are trying to promote calmness, right?! Build the tolerance to frustration of emptying a kong slowly and only move to the more advanced levels when your dog is ready.
Make sure you keep a look out for Growing Calmness Part 2 next month where we will be helping you with Training Sessions, Exercise and Rest.
We hope you enjoy these training tips, and just to let you know that we are also offering online classes where you can join us and train your dog from the comfort of your own home. And if you want specific advice on any training issues, check out our Behaviour Consult Calls and Zoom Training Calls. To learn more about how we can help, visit our website, or email us HERE.