You may wonder why a dog like Tommy who loves to snooze needs to learn to chill out? Well as an anxious high energy dog Tommy rarely truly relaxes. He's always listening out for a change in situation such as people leaving and arriving. Any knock on the door or loud noise is reacted to. As Tommy settled in with us over the past 5 years we've noticed this behaviour get worse and consulted a behaviourist for advice. The first stage of what we have been advised to do is simple; teach Tommy to chill out. This is easier said then done when all Tommy wants to do is run around all day!
One of Tommy's favourite things to do is run around in the woods! photo by Emma Bearman
The technique we were told to use was to get a mat located in an area of the home where it wouldn't normally be. Tommy is encouraged on to the mat with food and given food to stay on the mat. Just before each time Tommy is given food a clicker is used to signal correct behaviour. Then the gaps in when the food is given are lengthened. This stage really showed us how much Tommy struggled and he winged and barked for attention (and the food!). As soon as Tommy barked or moved we were told to calmly say 'wrong' and move away for a second or two. Then Tommy is encouraged back into position and given more food closer together.
Tommy on high alert, not relaxed, body stiff and concentrated on where the food is
Then as Tommy gets better at staying in one place (and not barking) the gaps between getting food are increased further and we have been able to start leaving rooms without Tommy moving. We have also used this training method when getting ready to go out as Tommy gets so excited and barky. So while we get ready, Tommy has to relax on the mat and is regularly given food for staying in one spot
Tommy chilling out a bit more notice the 'side pop' to the hip so the body is less tense
To progress to the next level of chill out training we all have to patiently wait. This part of training can be done with a collar and loose lead to help keep the dog in position. This is known as self settle training and is something we're going to work on a lot more to work on Tommy being better when visitors are around. This is a simplified overview of chill out self settle training and is worth leaning more about if you have a high energy dog like Tommy! It's always worth finding a dog behaviourist to help show you the correct technique for you dog. Let us know if you have tried any training like this?
Tommy finally gets his head down but still has some work to do to fully relax