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Has Your Dog Learned to Be Calm?

Has your dog learned to do nothing?

To just be calm?

Sitting still and being respectful and quiet is one of the most important concepts to teach a dog, but so many people encourage the opposite.

Think about it.

We’re constantly getting our dogs “hyped up” by talking to them, playing with them, worrying about providing enough “activities” like daycare, running, trips to the dog park, toys, more play time.

Trust me, I’m guilty of this too.

Ever catch yourself thinking anything like this?

Will he be OK while I’m at work?

Does he need more treats in his Kong toy?

Does he need a ‘playdate’ this weekend?

Has your dog learned to be calm

You know what most dogs need?

Some solid down time.

They need to learn that lying down and napping on a dog bed or in a crate is expected of them, without whining and without barking or chewing anything.

They need to learn patience, to pay attention to us, to make eye contact, to fit into our lives.

They need to learn self-control so we can take them more places, so we can trust them to be still and quiet while we take them along to a friend’s house, a picnic or to shop at a pet friendly store.

They need to learn to stay on command and remain staying, with distractions.

They need real exercise.

Yes, believe me, exercise is important and most dogs are not getting enough true exercise either.

But, they need a balance between the two – exercise, followed by time to relax and just be.

Some of my most popular posts of all time on my site are related to topics like:

How do I tire out my hyper dog?” And “How can I relax my hyper dog?” And “How far can I run with a dog?

I’ve found that most people think they have a hyper dog, when truly they have an average dog or even a lower-energy dog that’s under-exercised and encouraged to be hyper.

Most of us are doing two things wrong:

1. We’re not providing true exercise, like long walks or runs or hiking every single day.

2. We’re not reinforcing calm behavior. We’re doing the opposite.

How to help a dog be calm

If you want your dog to be calmer, I would work on these five things:

1. Ask yourself if your dog is truly getting the exercise she needs. If not, provide it.

2. Look for ways to reinforce calm behavior vs. crazy behavior. Do you give him attention when he’s lying on his dog bed or when he’s whining and begging for dinner?

3. Go out of your way to practice calming exercises with your dog every day like “down” and “stay” and “watch me.”

4. Don’t worry about filling every single hour of the day with activities for your dog.

5. Teach your dog a phrase that signals play is over such as “That’s enough.” This is what I use to signal to my dog “I’m done throwing your ball. Please leave me alone.” I am serious when I say it. There’s no negotiating, and my dog understands this.

Those are my suggestions for helping a dog become calmer.

How about you?

How have you taught your dogs to chill out?

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Barbara Rivers

Friday 9th of September 2016

Excellent point - teaching our dogs how to relax and be calm is so important. I found that rewarding calm behavior with a breakfast or dinner jackpot has worked great for my pups over the years - always after exercise, of course. Missy & Buzz know exactly that they only get fed when they are in a calm state of mind.

I've found that many people, particularly vet techs at veterinary hospitals, don't know how to create a calm environment. They are very quick at using high pitched voices, baby talk, and overly excited body language when greeting their patients. Sigh. I've had to ask many to tone it down a notch because I know that it's unfair to expect my pups to be well behaved and calm when being surrounded by crazy energy.

Lindsay Stordahl

Friday 9th of September 2016

Oh you're right about vet techs. They are catering to the owners usually, wouldn't you say?

M.A. Kropp

Friday 9th of September 2016

For a long time after we adopted Lambeau (he was 8 weeks at the time), I thought we had a crazy-hyper dog. I expected puppy energy, but, wow! He was unstoppable! And totally uncontrolled around other people. We took him to two levels of obedience and worked one-on-one with a trainer for a while so I could get a handle on what to do and how to train him to be calmer. He gets a long walk in the morning, play time (tennis ball, frisbee, something like that) in the afternoon, and a not quite as long walk in the evening. And I work with him all the time, whether we are walking, playing, or just around the house on being less of a monster. He does have an "All Done" command for the end of playtime. We have a no exceptions rule of no interaction with him when we are sitting at the table, whether we are eating or not. He'll be three next month, and he is not perfect, but he is better. He knows to bring his ball back, give it to me, and sit and wait for me to throw it again. There are times he tries to pretend he doesn't remember the rules but I don't let him get away with that stuff! When we are at the table, he might come and try to get attention, but when it fails, he will lie down across the room or go upstairs and nap. He knows "Out" when he tries to come into the kitchen while we are working in there, and he sits quietly in the dining room, watching but not getting in the way. He's much better with other people- still excited and wiggly and loves giving kisses, but he doesn't try to jump as often. If I put him in his crate, he usually gets a treat, but after it's done, he just naps until we get home or let him out. But it took two years, between him growing out of puppy brain, and being consistent and working with him all the time. There was a period when I really thought nothing was going to work, but we're seeing differences now. It's an ongoing thing, but like all training, it takes patience, persistence, patience, consistency, and more patience!


Friday 9th of September 2016

I have a 15 month old golden retriever. She's an "only child" and being my first dog and a stay-at-home-mum, I spent a lot of time each day occupying her. She now follows me around all the time with a stuffed toy or ball in her mouth. She has an hour's walk/run in fields in the morning and an hour's less crazy walk (plodding around town) in the afternoon. Last thing before bed, she has a 20 minute "round the block" mooch. She gets little 10 minute bursts of "playtime" say 2/3 times a day, in between. Is this enough? She's become a full time job.

Lindsay Stordahl

Friday 9th of September 2016

I think they're all different. That sounds like a little more than I do with my 6-month old pup, and I know he needs more than I'm providing as I've never seen him tired. I think you're doing just fine. If anything, might want to add some more training, either tricks or general obedience or getting a dog backpack or puzzle toys like Kongs. That sometimes drains their energy more so than the physical exercise and gives you a bit of a break (if you think you need it). Congrats on working with your dog so much. She is lucky to have you.


Monday 15th of June 2015

Those are five great tips! Haley's learned to adjust pretty well to whatever we're doing but calming down can be a big issue for some dogs. I tell Haley to "Take a Break" when I want her to lay down and relax. She quickly relaxes but occasionally verbalizes her feelings with a grumble as she lays down, lol.


Thursday 11th of June 2015

Jake, 2+ yrs, Australian Heeler Mix, is hyper, boundless energy, and has to have me or my husband around. He's a rescue and we've had him for 3 months. He's less hyper than when we got him but has quite a ways to go. We are in our 70's and we are too old for Jake, but husband can't let him go. I've found that putting him in his crate actually does calm him sometimes. I also have to put limits on him and he does not like the h2o spray bottle. I put a tether ball up thinking it would give him a lot of exercise, which it did, but also, made him more hyper. He gets along pretty well with Sadie (4yrs, Pitty, Boxer mix) but wants to play most of the time and Sadie doesn't play until Have tried calming collar - didn't help. I have been lax in getting him more exercise. Need to work on that. I have a backpack with 2 one lbs wts that I put on him with some success. Maybe I need more weight in it. I'm open to any suggestions.