Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Teaching a "Turn Off"

So often I hear a client say "my dog has two switches - On and Off", no inbetween!  Living with a border collie  I am very aware of how busy dogs can seem to just go and go and go!  What folks forget is that when you do have an active dog, that turn off switch is not something that will come naturally (as I hear my bloodhound Eli snoring loudly next to me!). 

From puppyhood on, I teach my pups how to "settle" and in essence, turn off.  This was especially important for my border collie Everee.  Without it she would be constantly pacing around the house with toys in her mouth, or on my lap, and never just "chilling"! 

I teach this by doing the turn off exercise every day, sometimes 2-3 times a day, depending on what I'm doing.   This exercise is the same for puppies, except when I start teaching it with pups, I do give them a chewie while they do it. 

Leash goes on (six feet, no longer), I settle into a chair, turn on my favorite show (or read a book) and relax (it can be so exhausting to train...teehee!).  With dogs that know the down command, I will tell them down before I start.  If they blow the down and get up, I keep the leash so the dog is within 2-3 feet of me.  I ignore the dog.  He can stand if he wants, but it's going to be a 30 minute or longer "chill time" - gets kinda boring just standing there.  If the dog turns his attention on me and starts to try to jump up or interact with me, I'll gently step on the leash so he has to lay down (this should be done on a flat collar, no slips!).  I will, if necessary, keep my foot on the leash to insist on a down.  Again, however, if he's just standing and not bugging you, ignore him and enjoy your show!  

The "just chill" exercise is great.  It can calm a dog down (we all know that down is a natural calming position for dogs) and teaches him that when you rest, he can too.  Again, with puppies (2-4 months of age) I'll do this, but give them a chewie. 

So Practice your "just chill" exercise!  Some dogs just need a little guidance to get there - and others, (loud snoring!) just have their own!

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