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Training Blog

February 20, 2022

How to Achieve Calm and Relaxed State Before Rehab

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Written by: Bob Guere
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How to achieve a calm/ relaxed state with your dog before beginning rehab.
Training Post!! Hey guys, we talk a lot about getting dogs to a calm, relaxed state before beginning any actual training, or in most cases, desensitizing. But most people are unaware of how to do even that. So in this example, let’s say that we have a very excited golden retriever, who has no aggression, but no manners or ability to follow basic rules. He also likes to chase his other brother golden around (all in fun) but it drives the more submissive dog crazy. So before we begin teaching him manners and boundaries, we have to start with basic relaxation. We will use this same dog for further training posts later…

Most of the time a dog like that is simply wanting attention, meaning that will be his main motivation. That is why no food is needed for this exercise, and if brought out could actually make things much more difficult. Food tends to cause excitement for all but the most self controlled dogs, and for this exercise you want him to be calm, that is your end goal. Start with the dog outside or in a crate. Reach out to open the door and if they move towards you, put your hand down immediately. As soon as they back up or look away, start to move your hand towards the door handle again (or crate handle). Keep this up until you are able to open the door. As you start to open the door, if they stick their nose in or try to come in, gently but firmly shut it. After they back up, look away or sit, open it a few inches….keep this up until the door is completely open. As soon as you have the door open, back up a little. If they start to come out of the kennel or in the door, shut the door completely. As soon as they back up or look away or sit down, open it completely again. Keep this up until you have the door fully open and you are a few feet back. Then start to move towards them. Again, if they start to come out, shut the door completely. As soon as they back up or look away or sit down, open it completely again and move forward. At this point your goal is to put a leash on your dog with them sitting calmly outside or in the kennel. (best bet is have the leash ready this whole time) Once the leash is on, back up and start over until you can move forward again with the leash in your hand, but still don’t invite them in/out. At this point they should be FULLY focused on you and your next move. Once they are in that state, walk them inside or out of the kennel. If they BOLT out, put them back and do it again until they can walk slowly a few feet to you and sit calmly.

Done!! You have created a calm, relaxed dog and you can reward his calm behavior by a gentle pet on the head. Don’t PAT, or talk, that will get them excited again, just a gentle swipe of the hand across his head or under his chin. Or a very quiet “Good Boy” with a down vocal inflection is also ok, usually. Then proceed with your next goal, moving him to a new spot, usually a dog bed. Once you start moving, if your dog is trying to drag you around, (you should be inside your house at this point) simply stop all movement until he stops moving and hopefully sits or looks at you then move forward again. If he jumps on you, relax the leash but turn your back quickly, keeping your feet grounded, avoiding eye contact. Don’t pull your hands up and away, because they will follow them with their nose…instead, lock your arms at your side, or fold them, until he begins to settle again…Remember his motive is attention, so ignoring this behavior takes all the excitement and fun out of it.

Continue until he is walking calmly on leash inside, no tension. Then your training session is done, or you can proceed to a more advanced exercise, but you want them in that state before you try to teach them anything new! That usually takes about 30 min to an hour and if done each day for a week can settle down just about any dog. ~ Lisa


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