Updated: Jul 2
Is your dog a bit hyper at home and you don't know how to calm him down? Or do they follow you around the house all day? Don't seem to settle?
Here are 6 activities to help your dog settle down in and around the house!
If you're calm, your dog will be calm
Look at different moments of the day. Do you get all excited when you get home? Do you instantly go and play with your dog? This means that every time you come home, you set an expectation for your dog that something fun is going to happen. Even though it might be hard, when you get home. try and be calm yourself.
2. Reward the Zen Dog Mindset
This is all about making good choices! We want a dog that can behave nicely without us telling him what he has to do all the time.
Do this: Give yourself 50 treats.
You can put them all in your pockets or maybe put a few in different rooms or spread them around the family members. Every time you see your dog doing something calm you like, reward that! Lying down nicely, here's a treat. Sitting quietly waiting for food/toy. Reward that. The more you reward all the behaviours he chooses to do of his own free will, the more often they will re-occur.
All you need to do is pay attention to your dog. To make it extra successful you could pick 2 or 3 goals for yourself to take extra notice of. For exaomple lying down when you're watching a movie. Or moving away from the kids when they play with legos etc.
By giving yourself 50 treats to handout, you create 50 spontaneous low effort training situations.
Ensure that you're super calm when you give the treat. You don't have to say anything. If you are excited about it, your dog will get excited and the moment will be gone.
3. Sit on the dog (but not literally!)
It's super easy and low effort. This is what you do:
Put your dog on a leash. Then sit or step on the lead (or tie the lead to something), allowing him just enough space to lie and sit down. Then ignore your dog for 30 minutes. That's all.
It's perfect to practise when watching tv, working on the computer/working from home.
If your dog does anything for attention. Ignore him. If he climbs on you, chews the leash, anything he shouldn't be doing, grab the lead and put a bit of downward pressure on the lead. No talking or touching allowed! The 30 minutes start after your dog settles down. For some dogs it takes them 30 minutes to settle down alone, that doesn't count towards the exercise. It will take a while in the beginning, but soon enough your dog will settle quietly at your feet. Now he learns that sometimes when he wants attention, he will just have to wait. This exercise practises self confidence, self control and 'zen' time. It teaches him to calm himself down by choice.
4. High & Low Game
Here we work on mindset and switching in between being super excited and being calm. If your dog can easily switch from high to low arousal they will have an easier time controlling themselves.
Here is how you can do this:
Start playing with your dog. It might be a game of tug, throwing the ball. Whatever your dog enjoys doing. It'll be beneficial for your dog to be on lead for this but you can let the lead drag in this part of the game.
Suddenly stop playing, grab the lead and tell your dog calm. You start by very slowly petting and massaging your dog. Make sure your voice is calm, your movements are calm. Start near the neck and shoulders on 1 side and slowly work your way back. Once you get to the hindlegs your dog might sit automatically. That's great! At the beginning accept any level of calmness.
Once your dog has shown he's calmed down (less panting. Sat down, lying down, standing relaxed not focused on the ball or tug, anything that looks calmer) you pick up the toy and give your play command 'Let's play!', you play for a few minutes again.
Back to calming down! Grab the lead so your dog can't run away and keep playing. Restart the massage. Wait until your dog is a bit calmer than last time. You slowly want to build up to more calmness, have stricter criteria but you build to that slowly! Once you're satisfied. Restart play!
Repeat Play - Calm - Play - Calm cycle a few times per training session.
5. Relax on a Mat
This is a variation of 'Sit on the dog'. You need a mat, towel or pillowcase. Something portable and preferably something your dog doesn't know yet.
Put down the mat on the floor and scatter some treats on the mat. Go get your dog and put your dog on a lead. Your dog will find the treats and the first impression will be a good one!
Sit yourself down near the mat with your dog on a leash with enough space to stand up, sit, turn, lie down. You can hold the leash or step on it. Don't loom over your dog. We're not interacting with him. He's 'invisible'.
Every few seconds drop a few treats on the mat around his front paws. Your dog will wonder, why are treats falling from the sky? Drop the treats, do NOT hand them to your dog.
Look for any less intense behaviours to reward. For example sniffing the mat, sitting down, yawning. Anything that's not focusing on you, or whinging. Reward those by dropping a treat near his feet.
The more you reward the calm moments, the more often they will start repeating these.
Next step = avoid dropping treats when your dog is staring at you.
Now that your dog knows = less activity = treats raise the bar and only reward when he's sitting.
Then raise the bar to only giving treats when he's lying down and by reducing the amount of treats you're giving.
If your dog gets up from the sit or drop, stop feeding treats until he makes the right choice to sit/lie down again. Remember to not tell your dog. The goal is for him to learn to calm himself, not you to tell him. They need to learn that calmness = gets him treats.
Once your dog has lied down and seems more relaxed, you can be more random with treats and slowly start fading them away all together.
Supercharge it: Practise a few times in a row. Once your dog settles, get him back up. Start over again. Repeat 3 times if you have the time. Finish session with a clear ''All Done'' or another word.
6. The 7 Day Petting Challenge
This one is almost harder for the humans than for the dogs. It teaches our dogs that they won't always get attention or even have to show polite behaviours before they do. It's quite simple. You can only pet your dog when they are sitting or lying down.
Day 1 to 4: Only pet your dog when they sit or lie down. Stop petting when they get up. Pet them slowly and deliberately. No roughhousing etc. If you pet calmly, your dog will respond with calmness in return.
Day 5 - 7: Only pet your dog when they lie down. So now we also eliminate sitting as well. Which behaviors will your dog start showing more? Will they become less dependant or demanding of your attention?
After the challenge: It's up to you what you do afterwards. If the results are good, what keeps you from stopping this routine? You may become a bit less strict, but there is no reason to not continue. If you do stop it, I hope at least you will be aware what effect limited affection can have on your dog.