If you can’t relax, how can you be expected to stay calm when faced with the things that makes you anxious or aggressive? Humans do not go through systematic desensitization programs without being taught how to relax and then using those skills in behavior modification. However dogs don’t understand how to relax on cue or command until we teach them.
There are several ways to teach your dog to relax.
- Teach your dog to “watch” or “focus”, to “settle”, or to “go to your mat”
- Practice long down stays on his or her mat.
- Massage or T-touch may be used.
- Many owners have had success “clicking” and shaping their dogs behavior to reward them when the dog takes a more relaxing position. It is even possible to work working towards “marking” their slower breathing patterns in a down stay.
- Once the dog is anticipating what you want and is relaxing to get a treat, you can attach a cue word just prior to asking him or her to sit/down, or how ever you are initiating the training sequence, etc.
- Practice these exercises in a variety of non-threatening context, over time adding more challenges
For more on how to teach your dog to relax, building a treatment plan and many other tips on how to treat aggression, check out the K9aggression E-book available for purchase.