Does your dog struggle to stay calm in your home? Maybe they follow you everywhere or tend to be running from room to room looking for family members. Teaching your dog to relax is often overlooked, but it is such an important factor in having a happy and calm dog.
Giving your dog a space where they feel safe is paramount. This can be in the form of a crate (canvas ones work really well), a bed in a quiet corner, or a den made of pillows and towels/sheets. This place should be a totally positive place for your dog, so NEVER use it as a punishment by sending them there if they exhibit any unwanted behaviour. To reinforce that this is their safe happy space, feed them meals in the space and give them lots of rewards here.
Dogs can often bark if they sense any form of danger, be that a noise in the home, if someone passes your window or if your neighbours are being loud. This is only natural and if I asked you to sleep at home with the doors/windows unlocked you would be on edge too! Dog’s do not know that your doors are locked and the garden is inaccessible to strangers, so they are always on guard. This isn’t a bad thing, if something did happen in your home (touch wood) you would want them to alert you. However, how you react when they to bark is really important. If you raise your voice or shout at them, you are showing them that anxious behaviour is the right reaction. If, however, you calmly walk into the room your dog is in, say ‘thank you’, look at the ‘threat’ and then leave the room, your dog will feel that they have done their job in alerting you of the potential danger. The reason I suggest you use the word ‘thank you’ is because it’s really hard to say this in a harsh tone. After a few times practicing this method your dog will end up barking just once and then making eye contact with you to check you have made it safe.
On the topic of eye contact, this is a really important communication method, however if overused it could lead to a dog being unsettled in the home. By giving your dog eye contact you are inviting them to interact with you, this is great if you are initiating training, walk or even just a cuddle. But if you are always making eye contact, your dog may be constantly asking itself ‘what do you want now?’ and following you around the home. I’m not saying to stop staring into your gorgeous dog’s puppy eyes, we all know that’s impossible! But try and be mindful that if your dog is looking relaxed, let him/her be.
Finally, to ensure you have a happy calm dog make sure your dog is stimulated each day with exercise and training to enrich their mind and body. If your dog has lots of energy at the end of a day because you missed their routine walk then don’t beat yourself up about it, we all have long days. However, spend some time in the home training with fun games to mentally stimulate them. Sometimes an intensive training session in the garden can tire your dog out just as much as that hour long walk.