Teaching Your Dog How To Relax and Remain Calm?
How to train a (high energy) dog to relax? This blog will educate you about natural relaxation exercise techniques that you can use to calm your dog.
There are many relaxation techniques that we can use to reassure and calm a dog. They can be used as an extra in behavior modification therapy. Or as a tool to improve certain situations. Even to help your dog enjoy a moment of calm and quiet with us.
This blog will educate you about: Natural dog relaxation exercises
Why Should I Teach My Dog To Settle Down?
Many behavior problems have a component of fear, anxiety or excessive arousal so that retraining cannot begin until a calm, relaxed state can be achieved on cue. Training should focus on both the behavioral response (sit, down, walk, stay on your mat) as well as the emotional state (calm, relaxed). In fact, until you can get your pet to focus and relax on cue in the absence of the stimuli that evoke anxiety or arousal, it is not practical to attempt to get your pet to relax in the presence of these stimuli.
"A good place to start is with a new set of cues that help both the pet and you to understand what behavior is desired."
Once the dog has learned to settle on cue, it should be possible to begin exposure to gradually more intense stimuli (see Desensitization and Counter-Conditioning). The settle command could be used to achieve a focused response when the dog is overly excited or anxious such as when greeting family members, strangers or other animals. It can also be used when dogs become anxious as the owners prepare to depart or become overly excited when company arrives or when preparing for a walk.
During relaxation exercises, the dog learns to look at their owner when he/she is unsure and doesn't quite know what to do. In other words, a relaxation exercise gives the dog predictability and confidence. Technique can be used to support therapy/training, as well as habituation and counterconditioning. In addition, it is excellent for the bond between dog and owner.
Dogs let you know what they think of people, places and situations with their eyes, ears, tail and other body parts. Recognising and understanding your dog's body language is therefore an important part of communicating with him.
This is especially important if your dog's behaviour or body language suddenly shows that he is no longer happy but is feeling stressful, anxious or lonely. Sometimes a dog's body language or behaviour can indicate that he is not happy with his current situation.
8X Natural Exercises: For Relaxation by Dogs
Exercise #1: Doga, Yoga For Dogs
We currently find many different yoga techniques, such as acroyoga or yoga for dogs, better known as "doga". It consists of practicing this physical discipline with your dog and is a different experience for each person who practices it. It is suitable for people who enjoy doing yoga and have some skill, so they can incorporate their best friend into their daily activities. In addition to improving the dog's mood, the doga improves our bond with our pet and helps us work on nervousness and excitement.
How? You can find doga sessions in different places in your city, although you can also train yourself through watching YouTube videos, for example. You will only need to include your dog in the different postures that you practice.
Exercise #2: Sniffing Walk
During a sniffing walk, the dog is allowed to determine the pace and the route. He then literally follows his nose. Sometimes he will sniff a blade of grass for a minute, but that doesn't matter because the purpose of this walk is to relax. Sniffing triggers the production of endorphins, dopamine and oxytocin. Endorphins have a stress-relieving effect and dopamine and oxytocin add to that and give a feeling of happiness. How simple can it be? No complicated therapies or training sessions, just go outside with your dog and enjoy both.
Exercise #3: Music Therapy For Dogs
Music therapy for dogs consists of using music (or elements thereof) to achieve therapeutic effects in the dog, in this case relaxation. It is indicated to treat complementary disorders such as separation anxiety, hyper-attachment or excitability, but it is also useful for lowering stress levels. It also improves the quality of life of the dog patient and stimulates them mentally.
To use music therapy with your dog, follow this step by step:
- Discover what their favorite song is! Although at first you should usually bet on classical music for dogs, there are other genres that they may also like;
- Play the chosen music in their usual resting place, such as the living room or dining room, and wait for the dog to unwind naturally;
- Do not force them to lie down or place them in any particular place, you should not use obedience, they must do it for them-self;
- Once lying down, try a very light or soft touch;
- This should be a daily session, of about 5 minutes, for example before going to sleep. However, it will also be interesting to use music in other circumstances, so that they generalize it and don't associate it with a particular moment of the day;
- You will know that the dog has associated music with relaxation when, by simply putting it on, they lie down and begins to relax.
Once the dog is quiet with just listening to music, you can start using this technique so that the hours you spend alone at home are more bearable. It will also help you improve their well-being and channel their anxiety levels.
Exercise #4: Massaging Your Dog
Massaging your dog is an excellent way to bond with your pet, while also uncovering potential health problems. Think about tumors and sensitive spots that you can spot before they get out of hand. Massaging a dog is not the same as massaging a human. Instead of firmly kneading the muscle tissue to loosen the muscles, the idea is to make gentle movements that allow your dog to relax, and feel at ease. Consider accompanying the massage with a trim, so your dog will feel healthy, happy, and loved.
Exercise #5: Learn Your Dog a Settle Down Position
How do I teach my dog to “settle” in a down position?
Another exercise would be train the dog to lie down in a relaxed position, on its belly with both hind legs on the same side. In some cases it may be useful to have the pet put their head on the ground as well. This could be accomplished using food lure training;
Gradually progress to longer down stays in a variety of environments, and then gradually increase the background noise and distractions. Progress gradually to longer duration and increased relaxation;
It may also be useful to teach “settle” in a sit position for training while on walks.
Exercise #6: Creating The Perfect Arousal
One good place would be arousal. Without realizing it, we enable our dog’s hyperactive lifestyle. For example, our dogs bark out the windows, fence fight, and go to dog parks. The chemicals released during arousal stay in our dog’s system for up to twenty-four hours. Then, we wonder why our dogs can’t calm down.
Here are a few ideas. For dogs that bark (read more about barking by dogs) at everything that moves outside the house, you can use baby gates to keep the dog out of that room with the big picture window, close the blinds, or put up a window film.
If you know that there are certain times when your dog is aroused –when the bus drops off kids after school or the trash trucks make their rounds –you can also put on classical music or a white noise machine to block out some of the commotion. Instead of going to dog parks, play fetch or tug or set up a playdate with one compatible “friend”. Look at our handout on dog parks for some options. Now, back to helping your dog learn calming behaviors.
Exercise #7: Default Behaviors
Default behaviors are what your dog does when he isn’t sure what else to do. To teach a default behavior, like sit or down, have pea-sized treats at home in your pocket or treat bag or stashed around the house. Whenever you see your dog do something you like (let’s say sit), out come the treats. Remember that you aren’t cueing your dog to sit. You are rewarding a behavior that your dog does on his own.
Your dog will start sitting a lot because he has been rewarded for doing it. At that point, the treats can become random, and, once it’s clear that sit is your dog’s default behavior, you can start replacing the food reward with a belly rub or toy.
What’s so great about sit as a default behavior? Think about it: How often have you seen a dog “over the top” while sitting? Sit is what we call an “incompatible” behavior, and it’s the first step toward relaxation.
Exercise #8: Institute Nap Time
- Invite your dog on the sofa or into your bed;
- Cuddle them and, if they enjoy petting, give them a light massage on their shoulder blades;
- Take a nap or watch a movie with your dog by your side. Not across the room or on a dog bed, but next to you;
- Breath slowly, pet them with long, calm strokes;
- Believe it or not your breathing and touch and can rev a dog up or calm them down. Its all in your energy.
Key Points to Remember When Doing Relaxation Exercises
- Calm behavior can be taught;
- Arousal makes over-the-top behavior more likely, even hours later;
- Take breaks during excited play to teach your dog how to transition to more relaxed behavior;
- Clicker training is particularly effective for teaching calm behavior, since the clicker lets you catch that moment of quiet and reward it;
- Have treats with you or stashed around the house, so you can catch and reward your dog for sitting, lying down, resting on his mat, or other calm behaviors;
- If you reward a behavior you like, your dog will repeat it;
- If you reward a behavior you don’t like, even inadvertently, your dog will repeat it;
- Managing your dog’s environment can keep him from barking out the window or running around with your shoe.
- Teaching your dog skills like Leave It, Wait, Drop It, and Watch Me will help your dog learn impulse control;
- Your dog’s mat can be used as a relaxation tool, and it can be carried anywhere.