After a long day at work, all you want to do is relax with your dog, right? Some dogs are happiest when snuggling on your lap while you binge-watch your favorite show. However, many dogs need help calming down. Here are a few tips to help your tireless dog rest when you need to unwind.
Make sure you’re meeting your dog’s mental and physical needs. Too often, folks expect their dogs to chill out when they return home from work when their dogs have been alone, often sleeping, all day. Unfortunately, that’s an unfair expectation. For some dogs, a neighborhood jaunt sufficiently provides what they need to nap while you eat dinner and catch up with your partner. However, some pups need a much longer walk, a hearty game of fetch or tug, or training. Tricks, games, and exercise are great ways to burn energy AND have fun with your dog, so he’s more likely to sit around with you.
Teach your dog to relax.
Some dogs don’t naturally know how to relax—they always need to be doing or into something. So, it’s your job to teach your insatiably curious canine how to do nothing when you need it most. For your busy-bee dog, practice the Do Nothing Game, so he gets rewarded for, well, doing nothing (a variation on Sue Sternberg’s the Nothing Game).
Step One: Grab a handful of non-smelly treats (broken into teeny tiny pieces) and your smartphone. Pull up the clock application on your phone and click on the stopwatch. Next, start the timer and place your treats behind your back. If your dog is not barking and not jumping for five seconds, say “yes” and treat him. Repeat at the ten-second mark, repeat at the 15-second mark, and continue for one to two minutes.
Step Two: Assess your dog’s capabilities. Was Doing Nothing for five-second increments easy for your dog? If yes, then begin treating at the ten-second mark and in ten-second increments the next day. If the exercise was extremely difficult for your dog, use less exciting treats, and treat him in two-second increments. Now you see why I suggested TEENY TINY treats, don’t you?
Step Three: Increase your dog’s time to Do Nothing, based on his personality and capabilities. You’re not in competition with anyone, and every dog is different. If it takes an entire month for your dog not to dance around, not tap his paws, not nudge you, and not bark for ten-second increments, it’s time well spent because you’re teaching him to do what you want—relax.
The longer it takes for your dog to learn this game, the harder it is for him to relax, and the more important it is for you to practice.
Be proactive before you sit back. If you’ve had a crazy day and can’t walk or train your endless energy dog, give him something to occupy himself before you sit down for the night. Providing a hearty chew (supervised, of course) or a frozen Kong prevents begging for attention, chewing up shoes, and barking at every neighbor who passes your home. If you’re giving your dog many bones and toys to prevent naughty behavior, please revisit the first section. Your dog may need more mental or physical exercise.
Never reinforce unwanted behavior.
One of the easiest mistakes to make is sitting on the sofa, ready to relax, and your dog barks, so you grab a bully stick from the pantry to occupy him. Unfortunately, giving a chew toy at that moment will reward your dog for barking. Don’t wait for your dog to act out to give him a busy toy. Give it to him as a preventative tool before you sit down, and before he barks.
Not all dogs love relaxing and napping. However, you can teach your perpetually peppy puppy to hang out with you without always needing something to do with practice.