Training Game 2.5

Shaping calmness


We are going to test your powers of observation with today’s plans and zoom in on calm and settle behaviour that we can teach.

What does your calm dog look like?

To shape calmness we will break down the image of your calm dog into little pieces and work on each piece at a time.

Soon you will be able to combine the pieces and have the full picture of a calm dog.

Start with your dog’s calm-mat and wait for your dog to lie on and settle on the mat. Reward as needed.

Watch your dog closely and note the sorts of behaviours you see when you capture calmness; these might be the ingredients in your calm-dog recipe:

  • lying over on one hip, on his side or frog legs
  • head down, resting
  • breathing deeply
  • eyes not watching anything particular or closed
  • ears relaxed and not orienting toward anything
  • feet relaxed so nails pointing straight out, rather than curled over
  • tail still and lying


Can you zoom in any closer? What other ingredients can you spot?

Today’s Games

Time Allowance:
Practice for 3-4 minute sessions and then take a break. Have a couple of sessions today.

Try fitting  each short session into your routine when the household is quiet, for example during the ad breaks of your TV show.

Family Participation:
Kids are often great dog trainers. Teach each child how to lure and deliver rewards safely.
If your dog is mouthy,  jumpy or likely to get over-excited it might be best for you to get the behaviours established and then bring in the kids to help with practice.
Always supervise child-dog interactions and make sure children learn to leave the dog alone when eating his rewards.

Top Tip for Today’s Training Game:
Are you really getting into helping your dog self-calm and settle? Why not incorporate today’s exercises in to a more advanced program: Dr Overall’s Relaxation Protocol (an explanation here).

You will need:

  • Training Mix
  • your dog’s calm-mat


Beginners Level Game

Shaping calm on a mat

Wait for your dog to find his mat. For this exercise you are going to reward him on his mat throughout.

Reward him and wait for him to show some behaviour that is closer to one of the ingredients on your list.

Maybe he stops wagging his tail momentarily, maybe he relaxes his mouth a little, maybe he takes a deep breath – reward it.

The more observant you become the more you will see and reward so that your dog becomes better at becoming progressively calmer.

Your dog may drift off while you practice or you might like to end the session by sitting with your dog for a massage session.

Advanced Level Game

Deep breathing

Taking a deep breath is not only relaxing and relieving for us, but for our dogs too. If we feel a little overwhelmed we can consciously ask ourselves to breathe, to take a deep breath.

We can give our dogs this skill too by teaching them first to take a breath in, to deep breathe on cue and then teach him to take a deep breath in ever more exciting situations.


Settle your dog on his calm-mat and reward on his mat throughout practice.

  • hold a treat between your thumb and forefinger close to your face, away from your dog
  • slowly lower the treat toward your dog
  • watch your dog’s nose carefully – you are looking for a nostril flare, pinching at the side of his nose, closed mouth or keeping an eye on his chest to see it raise with inhalation
  • as soon as you see that, say YES! softly and immediately feed your dog the treat


  • when your dog is consistently breathing as you lower the treat, begin to fade this
  • take a deep sigh before you lower your hand
  • slowly lower an empty hand (as if the treat was still in there)
  • when your dog inhales, YES! and reward from your other hand


  • after some repetition, you will notice your dog taking deep breaths – YES! reward each one without prompting with the treat


  • build reliability in your sighing cue
  • take a deep breath (sigh), just before you think your dog will deep-breathe
  • as soon as he does, YES! and reward


Take a deep breath!

Another super useful training game down – yay!

2 thoughts on “Training Game 2.5”

  1. I love this kind of work. Sue Ailsby calls it “cutting the strings”, which is an elegant description. The videos above are awesome.
    Here’s myself and George working on capturing calm.


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