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Creative Ideas for Daily Living

Crazy to Calm

Crazy to Calm

      307018_577101452701_1959066480_n A few years ago I went to college to study dog training. Since then I have been doing a variety of jobs involving dogs including some private dog training consultations. So far the most common question I have received is “How can I get my crazy dog to calm down?”

There are many ways to encourage your dog to be calmer in the house. Start by looking at how you are interacting with your dog and what your general energy level is. If you are frequently getting up and moving around, very excited, or constantly talking to your dog in a very fun loving tone, it is likely that your dog is synchronizing with you. If this is the case simply changing the way you interact with your dog or being aware of your own energy may help you calm your dog. Does your dog get crazy when you walk in the door? If your dog is loose in the house and they have access to the door you are coming in try opening it very slowly and not completely opening it until they are sitting. If they are in a crate ignore them at first when you come in and wait until they are calm to let them out.

Some breeds of dogs have more energy than others and just need more exercise. If you have a very high energy dog and just can not seem to give them enough exercise perhaps you need to look into different types of exercise. All exercise is not created equal and, if you can not find more time to exercise your dog, you may want to explore different types rather than providing more of what they are already getting. I once worked with a hyper active Labrador retriever who could play with other dogs for hours and never get tired. She was so active that the other dogs would be tired out and she would still try to jump on them and initiate play. This became an annoyance for the other dogs. I decided to give this lab some individual play time and taught her how to catch a Frisbee. She became very good at chasing the Frisbee, jumping, and catching it in the air. I came to the realization that 20 minutes of playing with the Frisbee with her would actually tire her out. Her owner came back the next day wondering why she was suddenly coming home so much more tired than she had been in the last few months that she had been attending day care. It seems that dog sports that include physical exercise combined with mental exercise work the best to tire out an active dog. Another example of an activity that includes both physical and mental exercise is agility. This sport includes jumps, weave poles, tunnels and climbing obstacles that the dog has to do in a specific order, taking directions from their handler.

Some dogs have simply never learned how to relax. These dogs may benefit from massage or perhaps Doga which is yoga for people with their dogs. Specific tricks are great to teach dogs self-control. Dogs will benefit from learning to sit, lie down, put their head on the ground and lay on their side. Working on stays and systematically increasing the amount of time they are required to stay in one place is a very good activity to help a dog learn to relax. For example, if your dog is sitting you can give them a treat every second that they remain in a sit position and then increase the time to 2 seconds and then 3 seconds and then 4 seconds until pretty soon they are staying for 1 whole minute. You can also encourage your dog to lay on a certain mat or bed using shaping. For example when your dog sniffs their bed they get a treat, then when they put one paw on their bed they get a treat, then 2 paws, then a few steps later they sit on the bed and then finally they lay down and they get a jackpot of treats.

Look for situations when your dog decides to relax on their own and reinforce it. At first it may be that they are just standing still even for a second. Let your dog know that they are doing a good thing and give them a treat. If they lay down go up and pet your dog calmly to encourage them to continue doing the behavior that you like. Keep in mind that giving your dog attention may be an award for whatever behavior they are currently offering. So give your dog attention when they are doing anything that you approve of. Pretty soon your dog will be looking for ways to be calm so they can get your attention.

Sharon (31 Posts)

I have a passion for dog training. My Golden Retriever, River and I enjoy embarking on fun adventures! We enjoy learning new and fun dog sports and participating in doggy activities. I particularly enjoy teaching River tricks and he particularly loves anything that has to do with cookies, chasing squirrels, playing and generally having a good time. I am also an artist who enjoys painting, photography and other creative mediums.


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