Learning how to settle is important for you and your dog. A dog who is on the go all of the time and doesn’t have the chance to relax can be over excitable and embarrassing. Imagine this: your dog jumps up at a table resulting in a bowl of soup being knocked over, dripping all over the table, down onto the floor and dripping inside the strangers bag. The stranger then takes out their scarf, infuriated and waves it in anger, resulting in your dog, yanking on the lead, jumping up at this chicken stew infused dangly toy resulting in holes as well as soup in the stranger’s scarf. This may sound like something out of the film Marley and Me but it can easily happen, resulting in being banned from a cafè!
If you are consistently on the go and do not have time to relax and do nothing you may find it hard to switch off too. If your phone’s your watch, your phone is your alarm and you’re consistently available then you may find that you are restless, unable to concentrate and have trouble being in, and enjoying the moment. Many dogs spend endless hours at day care and are consistently on the go.
As a dog it is important that they learn to relax and simply do nothing as part of their life (as well as having exercise, companionship and enrichment). Otherwise it can make it hard for a dog to just sit quietly in a café or in a restaurant. This can impact your life as you’ll want to spend time with your dog – they’re your mate! Obviously, if they are jumping up and counter surfing, grabbing a croissant and being a life sized hoover in a café it can be stressful, embarrassing and even dangerous – there is a lot of food that is toxic or even lethal for dogs to eat. Moreover, they may find their own entertainment in the café and chew on furniture and act on impulse – yanking towards someone and leaving your Frappuccino on the floor!
Actionable things you can do to help your dog
As a puppy, allow them to have time alone to to simply do nothing. It’s imperative that dogs have lots of sleep so their brain grows and they can consolidate information and all their new experiences.
Breaking up a walk to include sniffing, training and playing rather than intense non stop, high impact play is sensible.
Have a designated resting spot that your dog can settle and relax on.
Teach impulse control exercises such as leave, drop, stay and wait and generalise these tasks to different areas. The proof is in the pudding.
Have an awareness of your dog’s age – if they are in the adolescent period they have an influx of hormones which makes it difficult to listen, as excitability is high.
Reward your dog for calm behaviour that they show by providing some eye contact.
Ignore behaviour that you don’t want but look at the situations that trigger this behaviour and plan to set them up for success and introduce them gradually.
Create an activity budget to look at what your dog is doing on a daily basis to see if they are getting too much stimulation in one area.
Teaching your dog, a relaxation protocol such as Karen Overall’s skill of teaching a dog to take a deep breath, can be helpful.
To help yourself, remember to take a deep breath, pause and remember your dog’s behaviour is what they do not who they are. Things can get better.
Would you like more support?
Check out the references below for more info.
Overall, KL, (2013) Manual of Clinical Behavioural Medicine for Dogs and Cats.