We’ve all heard this phrase before, that our dogs need to be kept stimulated. That to have a bored dog means that we’re irresponsible dog owners. However, this isn’t always the case.
For many breeds, especially the more popular working breeds like cocker spaniels, Labradors, poodles and their crosses, and other working dogs, their inability to switch off can really affect their relationship with their caregivers. They’re really busy dogs, they love doing stuff, and there’s ‘stuff and things everywhere !
Due to this, we often try to fill their day with walks and mental stimulation; which are great for all dogs. However, this can sometimes add to the problem. We inadvertently create dogs that have such a high expectation of ‘doing stuff’, they really struggle when it comes to doing nothing.
Why is doing nothing important for our dogs?
Dogs naturally require sleep for around 16 hours everyday. Giving them this time to just relax and chill out is vital for their wellbeing, and to allow them to destress after an exciting or stressful day, just like us.
Despite dogs needing time to relax, many of them struggle to do so, especially when it’s not on their terms. Lockdown has forced many of us to work from home, with our dogs. This has meant that our dogs have a high expectancy of getting our attention ALL DAY! To be honest doing nothing but fussing and playing with my dog all day would be wonderful; though it’s not very practical.
Many dogs are now learning a whole variety of attention or support seeking behaviours, to distract us from our work. This may be because they’re bored and frustrated, or it could be that they’re anxious about something. Regardless of their reasons, these behaviours can cause tensions within our household. I’m seeing more and more caregivers crying out for help with their dogs who just wont stop barking, pawing, jumping up and dropping toys next to them every few minutes.
Their dogs are becoming increasingly reactive to situations and they just can’t cope with feeling frustrated at not being able to do things. Other times the dogs are being stimulated and over exercised in the hopes they will calm down and the opposite is happening and they’re getting worse. This can cause problems when out on a walk, when wanting to take your dog to a cafe or pup.
The inability to tolerate frustration for these dogs can often exacerbate other behaviours, which wouldn’t be as bad if the dog understood how to manage themselves. These dogs need support and time to learn how to relax. They will benefit from sniffing walks, search games, scatter feeding and snuffle mats.
So how can you help your dog without paying a fortune?
Teach them to ‘Chill Out’ ! This is a simple concept that isn’t always easy. Teaching a dog the concept of “If In Doubt; Chill Out” removes the human element of asking the dog to lie down. Instead we teach the dog a simple concept e.g. when I do x nothing of interest is happening, nothing you do will change that, so you might as well just relax until we move on.
This is how I teach my assistance dogs to be able to relax when we go shopping, to the cinema, on public transport, in cafes and when i’m working. The behaviour they do at the time isn’t as important as their emotional state. I want calmness; wether they’re sat or lying down,I don’t want them lying down but panting heavily or crying. This is a gradual process and takes time to strengthen. If you’re reading this and interested in teaching this concept to your dog, I’ve written a 6 week course that i use with my dogs and clients, and a downloadable ebook.
Check it out…
‘If In Doubt; Chill Out’ is a 6 week self study online course for dog owners created by me to help dog owners to show their dogs how to manage themselves. Being unable to switch off can be really difficult for dogs, especially if there’s visitors or you’re outside or even in a cafe or pub (once lockdown ends) So start preparing your dogs now so when the spring arrives you have a dog who understands “If In Doubt; Chill Out”