In “Relax My Dog” Pippa shows you a really quick and easy technique to help your Labrador to be a more relaxed dog around the home.
Labradors have a lot of energy. Obviously, you’ll need to make sure your high energy dog gets enough exercise and amusement on a daily basis.
But some dogs find it hard to chill out at home, even after a five mile walk. If this sounds like your dog, then read on.
In How to stop your Lab pestering you we looked at getting your Labrador to lie peacefully while you relax during the evenings, instead of poking you or even barking at you.
In Relax My Dog we are going to look at how you can train your Labrador to relax more frequently throughout the day.
Labrador energy are high energy dogs
Some young Labradors 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.
Why won’t my Labrador calm down and relax!
All too often we inadvertently reward and encourage excitable and attention seeking behaviours 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 behaviour.
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!
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.
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.
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
- How to stop your dog pestering you
- How to cope with an excitable Labrador
- Dog zoomies – when dogs run around like crazy!
- How to calm an over-excited puppy
There are lots more fascinating behavior topics here too
The Happy Puppy Handbook covers every aspect of life with a small puppy.
The book will help you prepare your home for the new arrival, and get your puppy off to a great start with potty training, socialisation and early obedience.
The Happy Puppy Handbook is available worldwide.
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