With the holiday season in full swing, it brings lots of excitement and hustle and bustle, here are some of our top tips to help your dog with calmness during this busy time
Is your dog receiving adequate rest? Dogs need lots of chance to rest PROPERLY. If you live in a busy household, your dog may get the opportunity to sleep here and there, but do they enjoy uninterrupted rest?
As part of your calmness training believe it or not, proper rest will help! Dogs that are tired can be in a bad head space and make bad decisions.
Set up a quiet place for your dog to settle and sleep away from the action; a pen, a crate or a room for example. Your dog NEEDS the time to rest away from everything and everyone!
Dedicate a Room to Calm
Picture this: It’s the end of a long day, you want to snuggle up on the sofa, perhaps with a glass of wine, but your dog has other ideas! Your dog has gone to fetch his favourite toy and he has placed it at your feet eagerly waiting for you to engage in a game. Sound familiar?
To help create calmness, rehearse what you want in a room dedicated to calm. Often this room is where you like to sit, chill, read a book or watch a movie.
So, to help your dog, when you are in this room, do nothing that will lead to your dog thinking that it is the place that training, games or exciting things happen. Dogs are very clever at predicting what happens in particular environments, so if you train or play in the same space as where you wish your dog to also be calm, you can see why they might sometimes try to engage in a game with you – as that is what you sometimes do!
Now, we’re not saying that you have to totally ignore your dog when you are in your calm space! Absolutely go ahead and calmly massage your dog, interact and relax together! Think calm engagement rather than high excitement!
And finally, absolutely train in your house but dedicate rooms for that away from your ‘calm’ space.
We often say ‘catch your dog doing something right’ and let them know! So in the context of creating calmness, when your dog is relaxed and semi-snoozing, calmly walk over to where they are mark with a calm ‘yes’ or ‘nice’ and place a piece of food down on their bed. What you are doing is capturing what you want and reinforcing it.
We all know how reward based training works, right?! What you reward you ultimately get more of! It is important to look at creating calm as training, and some dogs needs to learn the art and skill of calm through training.
Now, what may happen after you have walked over and rewarded your dog for essentially doing nothing, is that they may get up. We often get asked; haven’t we just rewarded our dog for getting up? Think of it this way; you mark what you want and the food gets placed at the moment when your dog is doing nothing, so that is the bit that has been reinforced.
If your dog is extremely sensitive to your movement, set their bed or yourself up where you can perhaps lean across and calmly place the piece of food down. Slowly build this skill, don’t over-do it to begin with as what you don’t want to create is a ping-pong dog!
Chewing & kongs
Do you give your dog the opportunity to chew? Chewing is a great way to promote calmness. Chewing is something all dogs naturally desire to do, especially when they are young so we really are massive advocates for ensuring dogs have adequate time to chew (on things that are appropriate!).
We also love stuffed kongs to help promote calmness too, however, we want to share the steps we take when first introducing stuffed kongs:
- Start off with something your dog finds easy to get out, like kibble, for example.
- Then move to something squidgy, like mashed sweet potato or sardines. But don’t pack it too full!
- Once your dog is proficient at that level, increase the difficulty by packing more in the kong!
- Then finally when your dog is a pro at emptying a packed kong, try freezing it before giving it to your dog.
Increasing the level of difficultly gradually is crucial, if you make emptying the kong too hard before your dog is ready they will find it EXTREMELY frustrating. Extreme frustration is detrimental to the point of using a kong, after all, we are trying to promote calmness, right?! Build the tolerance to frustration of emptying a kong slowly and only move to the more advanced levels when your dog is ready.