Calming your dog can refer to numerous situations: thunderstorms, fireworks, or just any time he shows extreme anxiety about something.
You interact with your dogs in 3 ways:
You look at your dog,
Talk to your dog and
Touch your dog.
How you use your body language, eye contact and tone of voice can make the difference in a dog that is out of control – or a pleasure to live with.
Before I talk about specific human-dog interaction I wanted to make sure you knew that your dog is an “expert” at interpreting every subtle nuance and change in your body language and facial expressions – including eye contact as well as your tone of voice.
They have to be not only good at it, but expert at it, because their very survival depends on it – or at least their survival used to depend on it. Nonetheless your dog still has the instincts that drive how he responds to your interactions with him.
Body language speaks volumes to dogs. In fact, it often speaks louder than your spoken word. Your dog will get confused if your body language contradicts what you are saying.
When this happens, your dog will most likely default to interpreting what your body language says. Remember, your emotions drive your tone of voice and your actions. Your dog interprets your emotions and responds to your actions.
Now let’s talk about how you can use body language, eye contact and tone of voice to teach quiet while also calming your dog.
Create quiet calm if you want a calm dog
Dogs simply don’t do well with yelling, screaming, anger or excitement. It tends to create an unstable environment in which they try to exist. Cultivate a calm voice – both in volume and pitch.
Develop calm departures and calm arrivals – in fact, ignoring your dog for 5 minutes when you leave and return will help to level out your dog’s emotional highs at those times. That means do not look at, talk to or touch your dog for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, calmly call your dog to you, ask for a sit and briefly pet your dog.
In the words of William Campbell, “In the non-verbal world of dogs, silence means quiet, inaction begets stillness and movement stimulates action.” We should all learn from this.
How you move is critical
Dogs will mimic human behavior. Moving slowly — arm movement & walking — around your excitable dog will give you an opportunity to teach slower dog movement.
By moving more slowly you will give your dog an opportunity to obey a sit or down command rather than letting his instincts take over. Ah, progress!
Use common sense
These few dos and don’ts bear repeating because of their importance and it just makes good common sense – especially if you have kids.
Don’t encourage predatory behavior. That simply means do not chase your dog and don’t run away or play keep-away from your dog. Instead, play fetch and tug-of-war – with rules.
Now you are burning predatory energy constructively as you stay in control of the article. Appropriate adult supervision is required with kids.
Don’t back your dog into a corner to take something back he has taken. This could trigger his defense drive causing him to possibly bite you or another family member.
If you have taught him to retrieve, call him to you, gently remove the object and praise your dog.
Don’t fight or wrestle with your dog. Excitable dogs need to s-l-o-w down instead of being amped up to a point where their instincts take over.
Train your dog
Train your dog to give you good dog behavior. Dogs can easily be taught to give you attention (eye contact) for engagement rather than the jumping you don’t like.
Also train your dog a dismissal cue which means “Go chill!” or “Relax.” Or, just leave you alone.
Train your dog not to get into your personal space or jump on you until he gives you a sit and is invited into your personal space.
It’s a wrap
Remember how dogs learn. Dogs learn by instinct, trial and error and training. They are very sensitive to your body language, eye contact and tone of voice. Use all three wisely as you are calming your dog!
If you need help with step by step how to achieve a calm dog, be sure to check out my Ground Rules for Great Dogs. That’s your roadmap.
Thanks for letting me share my dog training knowledge with you. Don’t be a stranger. Feel free to comment below. I’d love to hear what you think.
Remember: “Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”
Jim Burwell, Houston dog trainer for 25+ years, serving over 9000 clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.