Does your dog follow you around the house? Do they pant, pace or have difficulty settling when the family is up and moving around? Then this article is for you....read the following training protocol below.
Dogs are capable of relaxing, in fact, once we teach them how to do it, they start offering the behavior on their own.
Dr. Karen Overall, (BA, MA, VMD, Ph.D; Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and director of the Behavior Clinic at Penn Vet for over 12 years), created a behavior modification program on which trainers and owners could build further desensitization and counter conditioning practices on. This protocol is considered the foundation to a happier, calmer and less reactive pet.
To begin, gather your training treats of choice. This should be something that is highly desirable by your pet, such as freeze dried liver, cubed chicken breast, diced string cheese, FreshPet Chicken or Turkey Bacon Treats found at your neighborhood grocer (https://www.freshpet.com/where-to-buy) or cubed hot dogs (with a high preference to beef).
Make sure your treats are about half a thumb nail size. If your dog is not interested in treats, this exercise will not work -- the reinforcement will not be desirable enough to modify your pet's behavior. Stay posted for an article on how to reset your dog's food drive.
Next, find a comfortable mat. blanket or dog bed (something that doesn't have high sides) and place it on the floor. Toss a few treats on it if your dog begins orienting (noticing with their head) to the mat.
The next step is to get your dog to sit calmly on the mat or blanket. Please refrain from asking your dog repeatedly to "sit", this will only stress your dog or make it likely that they will learn to ignore your requests. Instead, place the treat in your hand. Using a gentle, upward motion toward your torso, raise the treat up while you ask for a "sit". When the dog sits, say "yes" and reward with one food treat.
Stay in a sit for a while. Rewarding good, calm "sits", and ignoring, or walking away from, any behaviors such as whining, jumping or pawing. In the beginning it can be helpful to release the dog from the "sit" cue and then recue them to sit on the blanket or mat. This will help them understand what they are working toward.
Next, after you have reinforced lots of calm "sits", you will lure your dog into a "down". For some dogs, they may already know "down". For those that don't, try placing the treat in a closed fist. Using a slow, sweeping movement toward the dog's paws, you will watch for the dog's head to follow the treat. Mark and reward these small head movements (the idea here is -- if the dog's head moves down, then he will eventually follow the treat down to his paws and lie down to get it). After rewarding downward head movement, next bring the treat in your closed fist between his paws. First, try moving your fist back, towards his paws. If he lays down say "yes" and give him a treat. If he is having difficulty, stay patient. He's still learning. Continue to try this method, if you are still struggling, try using your closed fist to swipe away from the dog's paws so that he now has to follow your hand away from his body. For some dogs, this instantly puts him into a down as he follows the treat. For others, their butt pops up and you're back in the standing position. No one said dog training was easy, but the patient and persistent will persevere.
If you're feeling frustrated, likely so is your dog. Take a break. Come back to it when you have the time and calm energy to be patient and persistent.
Once your dog is successfully doing a "down" on his bed or blanket, reinforce lots of calm behavior he exhibits while in the "down". Avoid reinforcing any panting, pawing, or body shifts. Look for calm, relaxed facial expressions and loose muscle tonation. Now you can follow these videos to streamline you and your pup to learning how to relax in a variety of situations.
The most important thing to remember while completing these videos is not to rush. You will not be "successful" if you push your dog to compete the series of videos faster than they are ready .Take your time. A slow and steady pace is the best approach to a more solid foundation in behavior modification and a more relaxed and calm dog.
Now, happy training! You can do this.