Teaching Your Dog Relaxation
Teaching a dog relaxation is something that a lot of owners don’t realize needs to be taught. Which is interesting because being able to relax is a skill that a lot of us humans struggle with too!
It isn’t very different for our dogs, day to day living can add more stress to our dog’s lives than we realize and cause them to act in ways we don’t like and don’t want. Unfortunately this often creates a loop of behavior that is echoed both buy human and dog, which gets passed back and forth, ultimately escalating the problem.
It’s a sad cycle that not only makes a lot of unhelpful focus on the wrong thing, but also generally makes it more difficult to start doing the right things. How long a dog and human can tolerate this pattern varies, but falling into a pattern like this is a very clear red flag that something has to give, and if you don’t know what that something is, then getting training help should be on the horizon.
What if you could replace a habit you don’t like your dog doing with them relaxing instead? For many owners dog relaxation is a life changer and removes a ton of unnecessary stress with their dog.
Breaking Down Dog Relaxation
Without training on how we want our dogs to deal with any given situation, they’re going to make their own choices on it, whether we want them to or not. These choices are often driven by the dog’s emotions; if they feel threatened or uncomfortable, they will react accordingly. Same with if they are frustrated, curious, frightened, etc. This very quickly becomes a pattern and dogs attach how they’re feeling about a thing to that event or trigger.
This is a big reason why reactivity can seem to come out of the blue and also why proper socialization is so important. When we also back that socialization up with things like relaxation training, the dog is much more steady, stable, predictable, and much more able to recover from emotional upsets.
That might seem all fine and good, but how do we actually break down dog relaxation? Step by step of course! We start in an environment where we know the dog will be likely to have success, as well as being very thoughtful with the rewards we use and when we use them. It’s no good choosing the wrong place where the dog is likely to be too excited, whether about the goings on, or about the rewards. On top of this it’s no use asking a hyper dog who doesn’t know how to relax, to do so during a time when it’s clear they actually need to get some energy out first.
We build on these small steps little by little, and have dogs who can relax in a wide variety of scenarios in no time. This step by step approach is not one to be rushed (one of the most common mistakes dog owners make!) and instead moves very much at the abilities of the dog. By doing things this way and taking our time, we make sure we’re actually getting the successes we want and teaching a much more reliable skill.
Using Tools for Dog Relaxation
Dog relaxation can be taught without any sort of tools, but is easier with some in the picture. This creates clarity for our dogs and thus moves the process on even more quickly. Platform training, is one way to do it, using a long line opens up your options outside, and of course using treats is highly important as well. After all the goal is relaxation, not stress or fear, so punishment of any sort has no place here.
Our attitudes play a part as well. Training at the wrong times, while frustrated, anxious, or otherwise struggling with something like that doesn’t set you up for success. Nor does it allow us to empathize with the dog and truly view the training problem objectively. Emotional training isn’t great and doesn’t help with dog relaxation.
Tools absolutely can be useful and can make things easier when teaching relaxation, but they’re not 100% necessary. The end results can be achieved with or without, although the path you take and how exactly you get there, will vary.
As a skill for dogs, relaxing is very valuable. It gives your dog not only knowledge of what to do and how to do it, but also a skill to fall back on in situations they might be unsure of. This is much better than a default of fight or flight, and a good deal less stressful for everyone involved.