I want my dog to be calm all the time

We hear this a lot here at Fur Indoors Bridgend. “My dog is a lunatic, I want him/her to be calm in every situation.”

Let’s take a step back and see what this really means for your dog. Can we really achieve a permanent state of calm in our dogs? Can we achieve it in ourselves? Everywhere we look we see people and often professionals telling us not to let our dogs get excited, not to have any stress in their lives, they mustn’t bark, they mustn’t run around like nut jobs. What does this really mean? They are dogs! To a certain degree, this is what dogs do. This is why we love them so much and why they are our friends for life. So why are we so desperate to stop dogs from being dogs?

Remember that dogs are intelligent animals but they still only have the cognitive abilities of a human toddler. How many toddlers do you know who learn through sitting quietly all of the time? How may play groups have you come across where a bunch of 3 year olds are sat reading the financial times and discussing world events?

Expecting this of a toddler and indeed your dog is just setting them up to fail.

So what’s the deal here? What should we be expecting of our dogs? We can train a degree of calm and we can train expected calm in a given situation but keep in mind that dogs are Apex Predators. They are built to hunt, chase, bite, shake and even kill. Dogs need an appropriate outlet for these innate urges and that cannot be achieved by instilling a permanent state of calm. Calmness does need to be instilled in your dog and it is an important training aspect which shouldn’t be ignored which we can help you with, but don’t let yourself become obsessed with this unachievable vision of eternal calmness.

Play with your dog! Terriers love a game of tug, herding breeds such as collies love sports like agility and fly ball, sighthounds and pointers love a good run. DO all these things with them, find their motivation and use it to shape your dog into learning when these behaviours are appropriate.

In practicing changing from high energy activities to low energy activities your dog will begin to learn impulse control, which, in turn, will help them to develop self-calming skills. Calm has its place, of course it does, but calm is not a permanent state of being. Let your dog be a dog. Give them an outlet for their natural drive and abilities and use these games to teach the difference. Teach your dog how to be calm when he/she needs to be and most of all enjoy the best relationship of your life with them and their crazy little selves. 

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