Relax My Dog! How To Get Your Lab To Chill

Relax my dog! How to get your dog to chill

To relax my dogs I use a combination of training, reinforcement and exercise. Labradors and the other working breeds that share my home with are incredibly active, busy dogs. They will follow me from room to room, jump straight up every time I move and can find it hard to just chill out.

Today I’ll share my tried and tested methods for getting your dog to completely mellow out. I will share a quick and easy technique to help your canine companion to be a more relaxed dog around the home.

High Energy Dogs

Working dog breeds find it hard to relax because they have a lot of energy.  Exercise and amusement on a daily basis are essential. But some dogs find it hard to chill out at home, even after running for miles.

If this sounds like your dog, then read on. In Relax My Dog we are going to look at how you can train your pooch to relax more frequently throughout the day.

Some young dogs are quite difficult to live with simply because they never really switch off.

An inherently calm temperament does help to create a relaxed dog. But a lot of the hyper and excitable behavior we see in well-exercised dogs is learned. In other words, the dog has found that restless and annoying behavior works for him in some way. And has never learned (or has forgotten how) to switch off and just chill

Fortunately there is much you can do to influence your dog’s ability to slow down and ‘watch the world go by’ for a while.

A relaxed dog is a happy dog. Here are some tips to help you

Why won’t my Labrador calm down and relax!

All too often we inadvertently reward and encourage excitable and attention seeking behaviors in our Labradors. We spend a lot of time thinking about how to stop dogs being bad.   And sometimes forget to notice when they are being good.

When your dog has been driving you mad and pestering you all day,  your understandable reaction to his temporary air of calm, is to tiptoe past and ignore him. We do this with kids too. Dishing out attention for naughtiness and ignoring calm and peaceful behavior. It’s only natural. We do it because we are worn out and want some peace. But all too often, it has the opposite effect.

Happily, you can teach yourself to reverse this approach.  And here is how

Relax my dog – the technique

You are going to ‘catch your dog in the act’. But instead of catching him in the act of being a pain in the butt, you’ll catch him in the act of relaxing!

Relax My Dog is a quick and easy way to help your dog chill

The only equipment you’ll need is a small pot of treats. This needs to be an open topped container that lives permanently on a high surface that your dog can’t reach. Put some fresh treats in it each morning, ready for the day ahead. If you keep the treats in a tin or in the fridge, your dog is going to be leaping around with excitement each time he hears you rummaging about for his reward. That’s not what you want

Relaxed dog – act now!

Your job is simply to capture a moment in time when your dog is lost in his own world,  totally at peace. He could be lying on his back in his zippy bed with a look of bliss on his face.  Stretched out on his side in the sun in the back yard.  Or snoozing by the fire whilst you watch TV in the evening. All behaviors that in the past you would ignore.

Your dog may appear to be doing nothing, but this is still a behavior,  something he has chosen to do. And all behavior can be encouraged and increased if you reinforce it using rewards.

Using a reward marker

Ideally, you should quietly place a treat between your relaxed dog’s paws or by his nose without any fuss at all. But if you find it impossible to do this without him leaping all over you, you can use a reward marker, so that your dog knows that he is being given the treat for relaxing. Don’t reward the dog for leaping up when he hears you approaching unless you have first marked the point in time when he was laying quietly.

How to teach your dog to relax like this labrador
With a bit of practice, chilling out will soon become second nature

If you forget to use the marker, just put the treat away.  There will be another time. Your marker can be a simple word like ‘Good’. Say it quietly and calmly. And only when he is relaxed.  The idea is to avoid getting him excited or worked up. Remember only use the reward marker if you really need to, and only when he is fully relaxed. Follow it as quickly as you can with the treat.

He’s racing around again!

And yes,  when you first start this training,  your unexpected generosity may have the opposite effect.

find out how to relax a dog

It’s possible that your dog will get really excited after his treat and start zooming around again.  You may feel as though your peace has been shattered – for now. But you need to be persistent. Ignore any silliness, and simply wait for the next time he relaxes, then try again. In the long run,  overall,  the more you reward him for relaxing,  the more often your dog will relax.

Relaxing in different places

The ability to relax outside the home, even when there are interesting things going on around him can also be taught to your dog. You should start this training at home, then progress to park benches, outdoor cafes and so on. You’ll need some free time, a leash, some treats, and a good book.  Just put your dog on the leash, sit in a chair with your book, and read while you wait for him to relax.

Once he has given up on you and laid himself down, head on his paws, place a treat next to his face and go back to your book.  Treat the dog at intervals, and after a few minutes more, get up and carry on with your walk, or whatever you want to do next. Always begin this training in quiet locations, and work your way up to busier ones, once the dog has learned to settle as soon as you sit down.

Relax my dog – a summary

  • Plan in advance, to catch your dog in the act of relaxing.
  • Deliberately reward your relaxed dog with a small treat.
  • Ignore any silliness that follows.
  • Be persistent
  • When teaching your dog to relax in public, use a leash to begin with.

Are you ready? Next time you are about to tiptoe past your sleeping Labrador,  pause  instead,  and drop a tiny cube of cheese or a bit of that leftover bacon from breakfast under his nose. Give it a try for a week or two and let us know how you get on.

More information on helping a dog to calm down

Excitable dogs can be hard work. There is plenty of information on this site to help you. Try the following:

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson(paid link)

For a complete guide to raising a healthy and happy puppy don’t miss The Happy Puppy Handbook.

(paid link)

Published in April 2014, the Happy Puppy Handbook covers every aspect of life with a small puppy. It will help you prepare your home for the new arrival, and get your puppy off to a great start with potty training, socialization and early obedience. You can buy The Happy Puppy Handbook from Amazon by following this link(paid link). If you do, The Labrador Site will receive a small commission which is greatly appreciated and won’t affect the cost to you!

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The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website


  1. Would like to know how to get my lab Lucy to relax in. The car She is 3 & she paces.back & forth sits a few seconds The from window to window sometimes barking at on coming traffic or animals in a field Help!

  2. Need Sadie to stop knocking down my husband.
    Sadie followed my commands, but not Jim’s (husband).
    8 days ago I had a complete hip replacement, it will be some time before I would be able to get in the dog acre.
    Right now he follow commands through the sliding glass doors

  3. We have 3 labs….3 generations. Prada the second gen female is the most dominant. Since of late she has become extremely aggressive towards the other two and sometimes it is blue murder. Hence they are all separated and not allowed to mix. Pl advise.- Rohan