Tag Archives: settle

Weekly Woof from the Web

More woofing to make up for the lack of Woofs last week!

The fantastic Jessie is still looking for her forever home!

Detail of an amazing piece of work, run by Morris Animal Foundation since last year, involving 3000 Golden Retrievers and their owners hoping to shed more and more light on genetic disease, particularly related to cancers in these dogs, all dogs and people too: San Jose dogs, owners join DNA studies to help find cures

Bloat or GDV, is a scary and often fatal condition particularly affecting large dogs (especially Great Danes) and one long surrounded in mystery. Works commissioned in the last few years is progressing to provide more information on the possible genetic basis of this and related conditions; a summary of this fascinating and not yet published work here.
Never heard of bloat or not sure what it looks like? Check out this piece on identifying the signs of bloat.

Hopefully we haven’t scared you too much about bloat, but here are 8 ways your pet can help relive your stress
And certainly the pet-person relationship can be beneficial for all-round health; read this heartwarming story about a 90 year old woman (who) declines chemotherapy, chooses to spend her final days travelling with her dog. Both Ringo & Norma are lucky to have one another, for however long.

Teaching your dog to settle on a mat is a vital skill; here’s a great starter clip:


Here a couple of ideas for YUMMY homemade treats: Easy-peasy 4 ingredient dog treats and Homemade frozen peanut butter banana dog treats

Dogs who are trained for the highly stressful and difficult job of being an assistance dog are very carefully selected, produced, reared and trained – this is not a job that any or every dog can do; read the ups and downs of such a journey here.

Losing a beloved pet is never easy (in fact, it downright sucks!) and grieving is an important part of the process: After pets pass and What you need to know about grief & losing a pet
And if you have to make that awful, hard decision here are 5 tips for preparation.

When we keep dogs as pets they are living in a foreign land; take some time to learn a little about their communication behaviour (I am sure that you have noticed that they can read humans pretty well!):


And for a more indepth covering try here and here.

Despite our shaky grasp of DOG, your dog thinks you’re perfect just the way you are!

Some pretty neat ideas for puzzle feeders for cats in here, and they may be suitable for some dogs too!

The Subaru ads never disappoint dog lovers: Dog Tested and Do more of the good stuff (search their channels for more!)

I really hope that this is true and KLM really do this..!

Apparently today (4/4) is World Rat Day – check out these fabulously trained pet rats!

And your daily d’awwwww:


Have a great week!

Just be

What ever happened to doing nothing?

I can’t remember what I used to do when there was any sort of lull in the action before I had a smartphone.
Anything other than constant stimulation and I am reaching for my iPhone…


The movie Bolt struck a cord when I saw it a few years ago.

It’s about a canine star of a TV show, Bolt, who plays a dog with super-powers saving his person Penny from the Green Eyed Man, week in, week out.
Except, that nobody told Bolt it was just a work of fiction and that he isn’t really a super-dog.


When the cameras stop rolling Bolt is kept in a permanent state of readiness, to fend off attacks by his enemies.

What about pet dogs? 

We certainly invest lots in teaching them to do lots of stuff, to increase their responsiveness, to build their love of learning and interaction.
And we put lots of energy into keeping them active, getting them moving, in the hope that a tired dog is a good dog (but is it?).

When do they get to just be?

‘Just being’ doesn’t necessarily come easily

Pretty much every type of dog was developed for some sort of job and in modern pet-dom most dogs are unemployed.

Our efforts in guiding dogs from wild to pet, whether intentional or not, selected for characteristics such as wariness, reactivity, inquisitiveness, attachment and activity.

Our pets’ lives, just like our’s, continue to become more and more sedentary with us substituting real-life pursuits for those that are easier to participate from a seated position – even sport is a less serious outlet for pretty serious behaviour.

Without outlets for our behaviour, it is channelled somewhere else – I have a Smartphone but what do our dogs have?

Would we know a dog ‘just being’ if we saw one?

It can be tricky to spot a calm, chilled out dog.

With great access to knowledge you might think we have a better handle on canine signalling, but unfortunately our awareness (or lack thereof) is affected by popular media’s interpretation of “calmness”.

Shutdown is not the same as calmness

A dog who is overwhelmed by a situation and can’t use behaviour to escape something they find unpleasant, will often show signs of ‘shutting down’.

This happens because the dog is unable to escape and his requests for relief have gone unheard/unanswered. This is typified by a very still dog – the absence of behaviour is not calmness.

Shut down dogs interact minimally with their environment, their body may be still and tense, if they are moving their posture may be low slung, they will often be frozen, you may see them yawn, lick their lips, and squint and blink (outside of normal contexts for these behaviours).

Eileen Anderson’s clip gives you a run down of some examples, mistaken for calmness:


Calmness myths and mistakes:

  • The absence of behaviour is not calmness (nor ideal)
  • Stillness because there’s no way out, ain’t calmness
  • Stillness through restraint ain’t calmness
  • Lying down through uncomfortable handling or contact ain’t calmness
  • Compliance because they can’t escape ain’t calmness
  • Compliance due to the application of training equipment or techniques (that the individual finds aversive) ain’t calmness
  • “Settling” due to exhaustion, ain’t calmness (is a tired dog, a good dog?)
  • Less behaviour is not necessarily better than more behaviour
If you want less behaviour, maybe the one in the middle ain’t for you…

What does a ‘just being’ dog look like?

A chilled dog is loose, breathing deeply, he may still be monitoring the environment but not really on his tip-toes, he may still be responsive but not in an overly enthusiastic way – but the biggest difference?

The chilled out, calm, ‘just being’ dog is choosing to chill, be calm and be.

Back to Eileen Anderson for her ying to the yang clip:


Teaching a dog to just be

Start by helping your dog to learn that settling, and being calm is excellent!
Check out Week 2 training games from our Train Your Dog Month here.

From ‘excited-by-everything’ to just-be

This dog needs help coming down from the highs, and to better control his swings from up to down.

  • play games with rules:


  • make play training and training play


  • play jazz up/settle down


From ‘let’s go go go’ to just-be

This dog needs help learning that they don’t need to be ‘on’ all the time – good things happen when you’re doing nothing too.

Both in training sessions, and in life, mark and reward doing nothing – even if it’s only a split second – the more you reinforce nothing, the less frantic behaviour you will see.

  • make sure to put behaviours on stimulus control – this means that the dog learns to offer behaviours when you cue them only, rather than as soon as he thinks there might be a reward or he thinks it might be time to work


  • teach calm-focus exercises rather than laser-focus-on-the-task activities

Week 4 of our Train Your Dog Month program

  • make doing-nothing your new job


  • take a break/breath



Hanging out

When we might only have limited time with a dog, whether that be because we are visiting, working long hours or the dog is in a rescue/kennel environment, of course we want to make the most of our time together.

But, a dog who hasn’t been getting too much human attention will be pretty wound up and anticipatory waiting for it. Sometimes, it’s better just to hang out with them – this gives them the opportunity to calm down, bond and be.


Just be…a dog

Don’t forget, that before the dog can just be, he must have an outlet to just be a dog too.


Training Game 2.3

Parking Your Pup


Parking is a great tool that can be used in lots of situations. This clip from Learning About Dogs shows some of the applications of parking:

We are going to use parking with our dog’s calm-mat to help with calming and managing your dog’s behaviour in potentially exciting situations.

Today’s Games

Time Allowance:
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.

You might settle your dog for a long period too – and that’s great!

Family Participation:
It’s better for adults to practice today’s games as it is not safe for children to stand on the lead to restrain a dog.

Top Tip for Today’s Training Game:
Use the Jazz up/Settle down game to give your dog the opportunity for a little crazy before you expect your dog to settle down while you are busy or occupied.

You will need:

  • Training Mix
  • your dog’s calm-mat
  • leash, collar/harness
  • Kong toys – stuffed or lined

Beginner Level Games:

Park your pup:

  • have your dog on a lead attached to a flat collar or harness
  • give your dog a chew or lined Kong toy to work on (if it’s too exciting and your dog can’t settle first, hold his collar or harness with one hand)
  • hold the lead with one hand and allow the slack of the lead to pool on the floor
  • stand on the lead at the point where it is taut to your hand, but there is slack to your dog

Use your dog’s calm-mat for this one and practice in different rooms of the house.

Advanced Level Games

Park your Pup, on the road:

For your walkies, bring your mat and a frozen lined Kong toy. About halfway through, lay out your dog’s mat and see if he can lie on it.


Don’t worry if he’s not ready for that just yet!

Hold the Kong toy under one foot on your dog’s mat. Park your Pup with your other foot and allow your dog to work on their yummy treat.

This lapping action, taking some time and encouraging your dog to settle will help your dog to flip his off switch, even on an exciting adventure.

Maybe your dog can only work on their Kong for a few seconds or maybe he finds it difficult to be too interested in it at all – these are really likely at the start of your training program. So don’t worry too much – there are things we can do:

  • practice this in a really quiet spot
  • allow your dog to check the area out first and sniff every inch
  • use the absolute most amazingly yummy filling to line the Kong
  • practice toward the end of your walk, closer to home – if at the start this works best when you get back to your front door, or even inside the house that’s ok and is your starting point – work backwards from there

You can play this game at home too!

Try this game with your calm-mat to really test your training:

Jazz Up & Settle Down

This game teaches your dog to better control his excitement and allows him to practice bring himself down from that high. We are basically helping your dog install that ‘off’ switch.

  • using a toy, a game and an excited tone of voice get your dog all jazzed up – remember to use your cue for getting a game going
  • jazz up for a five count


  • immediately stop and lay out your dog’s mat
  • if he doesn’t lie on it, you may need to remind him by cueing or luring
  • you can use food rewards at the start of this game – reward your dog with one food reward after another
  • settle down for a ten count


  • get your dog all jazzed up again and repeat

As your dog improves with this exercise you should see him settle quicker – now you can begin to increase the length of each jazz up and each settle down period.

Always make sure that your dog is settled for at least twice as long as they are jazzed up.

Start and end each game with a settle down; having a longer settle down at the end.


Day 3 done – well done 🙂

Training Game 2.2

Capturing Calmness

IMG_1285Your dog’s on switch isn’t on all the time – sometimes your dog is calm and sometimes he is not.
But most dogs will swing between extremes: the crazy to calm continuum.

Observe your dog on a normal day and try to pin point when he is at his calmest. What does that dog look like?

Now, think of him when he is at his craziest – what does that dog look like?

You might see your dog go up and down this scale over each and every day. For the most part, the closer his behaviour resembles the calmer end, the more acceptable his behaviour (to humans) will be – the easier he is to live with.IMG20120825_005

Today’s Games

Time Allowance:
This is an all day game – instead of individual sessions, when you think of it, watch your dog and catch him doing the right thing!

Family Participation:
Fun for all the family – kids might like to help out and be detectives for this game!
Always supervise child-dog interactions and make sure children learn to leave the dog alone while he works on his puzzle.

Top Training Tip for Today’s Training Game:
All you need is Training Mix today. Distribute little pots of your dog’s regular food around the house so that everyone in the family can participate and reward your dog as soon as they spot him being calm.
But, make sure to keep this food well out of his reach!


Catch your dog doing the right (relaxed) thing!

Today you will work on simply observing your dog and assessing how calm and polite he is.

Capturing means to catch the dog doing the behaviour we want and rewarding him – think of it like taking a photograph of what we want.

If you spot your dog being calm at any (and every) time today, approach him quietly without eye contact, praise him calmly and softly and feed him a couple of food rewards. Use pretty boring food rewards for this one to avoid getting him all excited.

The first few times you do this, your dog will probably follow you, nag you, want to get into training mode and play the game again.

Calmly and quietly ignore his protests – turn away from him, busy yourself, don’t give eye contact or talk to him, maybe stroke him a couple of times with long massage-like strokes down his back and then break away. And wait…

Wait for your dog to calm a little again and reward.

If your dog wants something like attention, or to go through a door, or his dinner, take a look at how calm he is. Wait for him to calm and reward him access to the things he wants.
Again, you may need to wait a bit…

Don’t ask your dog to calm down or offer polite behaviours – this is about him developing self-control – he needs to do it for himself. Just wait…


Doggie see, doggie do

Not only is your dog’s calmer behaviour important here, so is yours.

If you shout, force, or get excited your dog will find it more difficult to calm down so move slowly, don’t move your arms about, talk calmly, take deep breaths and sigh – all of this will help your dog to chill too (and it helps you to calm as well!).

Training Game 2.1


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!)


Today’s Games

Time Allowance:
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.

Family Participation:
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 ‘down

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.


Well done!

That’s a great first day of this new week done – more tomorrow!