Up & Down
First off, I want you to smile. Just smile.
(OK, stop now, you look weird!).
When you are feeling down smiling can actually help you feel a little better. Your brain and your behaviour interact plus smiling might cause you to think of things that make you happy, so smiling can help you feel better.
Today we are going to start with teaching our dog’s body how to look more relaxed – just like with smiling, we can get this calm behaviour first and with practice the feeling of calmness will follow.
It’s important to note here that we want to teach the dog to choose more relaxed behaviour – you will not be helping your dog develop calmer behaviour and feelings if you coerce or force your dog.
You probably wouldn’t feel too much better if I physically made you smile or forced you to do it.
And what’s more, by associating the behaviour of being calm with something the dog likes, we can increase the pleasantness associated with being chilled out.
(Imagine I gave you your favourite treat food every time you smiled – yep, you would be smiling a whole lot more and you would be feeling a whole lot better too!)
Practice for 1-2 minute sessions and then take a break. Have a few sessions today.
Try fitting each short session into your routine; for example, while you wait for the kettle to boil, during the ad break of your TV show or while you wait for the computer to start up.
Kids are often great dog trainers. Teach each child how to lure 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:
Work on settling exercises when your dog is pretty relaxed and chilled. Wait for the entire household to be quieter and practice exercises when it’s easier to be calm.
You will need:
- Training Mix
- your dog’s calm-mat
Using your dog’s calm-mat
Use your dog’s new towel/mat/blanket as the calm-mat for these exercises.
Your dog’s new calm-mat is going to become a sign that signals your dog to chill out so we need to use it carefully.
At the start of training only have your dog’s calm-mat out and available during training. It’s important that your dog’s mat isn’t out when your dog is excited or when exciting things are going on, for example, guests arrive or it’s time for walkies.
Beginner Level Games:
Teaching your dog to lie down is the first stage toward giving them behaviours that help with calming.
For this exercise, this week, we don’t need to get lying down on a verbal cue (great if you already have it or if you work that far this week!) but instead your dog’s mat will become the signal for your dog to be calm and lie down.
First task is to teach your dog to lie down on their new mat.
We practiced lots of luring last week and now we can apply that here too.
Practice working on this behaviour on your dog’s calm-mat. With plenty of practice, your dog will soon start to lie down on his mat, without you needing to ask him.
At the same time we are teaching our dog to lie down, we will also teach our dog to get up and go about his business again.
Once your dog lies down on his mat, reward him four times, one food reward after another, in position by feeding him in between his front legs.
Say your release cue (it can be anything you like such as ‘go’, ‘OK’, ‘all done’ etc.) and then roll or toss one food reward off the mat to encourage your dog to get up.
Advanced Level Games
Does your dog already lie-down on cue? Try laying out your dog’s mat and ask them to lie-down on it, reward and repeat five times.
If that goes well try these games:
Find your mat
After practicing down and releasing your dog increase the challenge. Lay your dog’s mat out and wait for your dog to get onto the mat, without asking him – if you are lucky your dog might lie down straight away, but if not don’t worry.
Try to build toward this instead:
- dog stands on the mat, reward off the mat – repeat x10
- dog sits on the mat, reward off the mat – repeat x10
- dog sits on mat, reward by luring into a down (then reward three more times between his front feet and release) – repeat x10
- wait for your dog to come back to the mat and wait – if he lies down reward x4 and release and repeat
- if he doesn’t lie down, repeat the luring step
When your dog is lying down on his mat, offer the first reward by luring your dog’s head slightly to one side. This will encourage your dog to flop over onto one hip – this is a more settled position.
Reward your dog with three food rewards between his front legs and then say your release cue and reward off the mat.
That’s a great first day of this new week done – more tomorrow!