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Teaching Settle and Relaxation Cues for Calm Behavior

Teaching Settle and Relaxation Cues for Calm Behavior

Mastering the Art of Calm: A Dog Owner’s Journey

As a devoted dog parent, I’ve always been on a mission to help my furry companion find her inner Zen. You know, that elusive state of being where she’s not constantly vibrating with the energy of a hummingbird on espresso. Well, my friends, I’m here to share the secrets I’ve learned on this journey – the art of teaching settle and relaxation cues for a calm, well-behaved pup.

Understanding the Importance of Calm Behavior

Many of us dog owners dream of that picture-perfect scenario where our canine companions can just chill out, you know? Whether it’s greeting guests at the door, waiting patiently while we fix their dinner, or joining us on a trip to the vet, the ability to maintain a state of calm can make all the difference. And it’s not just about our convenience – teaching these behaviors can actually have profound benefits for our dogs’ overall well-being.

You see, when our pups learn to relax on cue, it’s not just an outward display of calm. That physiological state of relaxation starts to become a conditioned response, helping them truly find that inner peace. And let me tell you, a calm dog is a happy dog. They’re less likely to get stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed by everyday situations, and that means a healthier, more well-adjusted furry friend.

Laying the Groundwork: Setting Your Dog up for Success

But before we dive into the nitty-gritty of training, let’s make sure your dog’s basic needs are met. After all, it’s pretty darn hard to expect a calm, cool, and collected pup if they’re dealing with things like boredom, overstimulation, or underlying health issues. So, make sure your dog is getting enough physical exercise, social interaction, and a balanced diet. And if you notice any signs of discomfort or distress, a quick check-in with your veterinarian can help rule out any underlying problems.

Once you’ve got those basics covered, it’s time to start laying the groundwork for your calm behavior training. The folks over at VCA Animal Hospitals recommend starting with the “Coaching Calm Game” – a simple but effective exercise that teaches your dog to associate calm behavior with tasty rewards. And the best part? You can do it right in the comfort of your own home.

The Coaching Calm Game: Turning Your Dog into a Zen Master

Here’s how it works: Grab your dog’s leash (not the retractable kind), some high-value treats, and a chair or other spot to sit. The goal is for your dog to learn that calmly lying down near your feet is the way to turn on the “treat vending machine.”

Start by walking to the chair, sitting down, and quietly observing your dog. Whenever they show signs of calm, like looking away, sniffing the ground, or just plain lying down, calmly toss a few treats on the ground between their front paws. You want them to believe that the area around your feet is a magical place where treats just appear when they’re being cool, calm, and collected.

As your dog starts to get the hang of it, you can begin introducing the “down” position as the way to activate the treat dispenser. Use a treat to lure them into the down position, or just wait for them to lie down on their own (as long as it takes less than 15 seconds). The key here is to stay cool, calm, and collected yourself – your pup will pick up on your vibe and start to mirror that serenity.

Expanding the Cues: Go to Mat and the Touching Game

Once your dog has the Coaching Calm Game down, you can start building on those skills with the “Go to Mat” and “Touching Game” exercises.

The Go to Mat routine is similar to Coaching Calm, but with the added step of having your dog go to a designated spot, like a mat or dog bed, before settling down. When they step onto the mat and sit or lie down while remaining calm, start dropping treats onto the mat. Over time, you can gradually increase the distance between the mat and your chair, always rewarding that calm, composed behavior.

The Touching Game takes it a step further, teaching your dog to stay relaxed even when you’re interacting with them physically. Start by petting and touching different parts of their body while they’re calm, and reward with treats. Gradually increase the duration and types of touch, making sure to keep things positive and keep an eye out for any signs of discomfort.

These exercises not only help your dog learn to stay calm in all sorts of situations, but they also lay the groundwork for things like vet visits and grooming, where being able to stay relaxed can make a world of difference.

Putting It All Together: Mastering the Settle and Relax Cues

Once your dog has a solid foundation in Coaching Calm, Go to Mat, and the Touching Game, you can start introducing the “Settle” and “Relax” cues. The Whole Dog Journal explains the difference between the two:

  • “Settle” means your dog will relax while lying down on one hip for an extended period of time, often several minutes or longer, on a mat or rug.
  • “Relax” takes it one step further, teaching your dog to lie flat on their side for even longer stretches of time, to the point where they may even fall asleep.

The key with both of these cues is to go at your dog’s pace, using lure-shaping techniques to gradually build up the duration and difficulty of the behaviors. Never try to physically force them into the desired positions, as that can create negative associations and make the whole process much harder.

As with the earlier exercises, be sure to practice these cues in a variety of environments to help your dog generalize the behaviors. And don’t forget to reinforce the calm, relaxed state with plenty of praise and high-value treats. Before long, you’ll have a Zen master on your hands, ready to chill out wherever life takes you.

Embracing the Journey: From Vibrant Pup to Serene Companion

Phew, that’s a lot of information to digest, but trust me, it’s all worth it. Teaching settle and relaxation cues to your dog isn’t just about making your life easier (although that’s certainly a nice perk). It’s about helping your furry friend find that elusive inner peace, and setting them up for a lifetime of calm, confident behavior.

So, grab a comfy chair, pour yourself a cup of tea, and get ready to embark on this transformative journey with your canine companion. Who knows, you might just end up learning a thing or two about the art of relaxation yourself. After all, as they say over at I Have Dogs, a calm dog is a happy dog – and a happy dog means a happy human.

Happy training, my friends!

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