The “Off” switch – How to bring “calmness” to your dog

I often walk into customers homes to be greeted by their dog’s high energy, often resembling that of a NASCAR racetrack. The living room couches and love chairs are actually being used as a race track! I typically get jumped on and greeted by a choir of glorious barking. A dog’s high energy is great, but when used in an unfocused channel, it can become unbalanced and destructive.

A dog’s energy is generally determined by the overall energy of the other animals and humans around it. This is easiest to see when you have a multiple dog pack. Within minutes, one dog can begin a flurry of excitement among all! If your home has been turned into the Talladega Superspeedway, follow the simple tips below to restore harmony with your dogs:

  1. Zip it. My favorite calming technique is the verbal silencing command called ZIP IT. This is a command originated by DOGGIE STEPS and is very effective in connecting with a dogs mind set to eliminate and silence barking. I like to give my dogs a 5-7 bark limit. After the 7 th bark, I command, ZIP IT. Once they have silenced, I praise with voice, affection, and possibly food. In time, your pooch will adhere to the verbal address of ZIP IT and the reward that follows.
  2. 5 in 1. For many of my high-energy/aggressive cases I always want to give the dog a “job” or “alternate” task to complete when it appears that the energy is escalating into an unfocused channel. I teach agility commands to accomplish this. 5 in 1 is a term DOGGIE STEPS uses to channel a dog’s energy on a table command. Find a raised platform (i.e.,concrete block or picnic table) and begin a command sequence with, table (or up), sit, down, stay, and off. There you have it! Five commands in one exercise! Not only will this exercise work your dog mentally and physically, but will offer you an alternate task when confronted with an unbalanced energy challenge. When the 5 in 1 exercise is completed in a set of three or more reps, it can also be referred to as “increment” training.
  3. Party’s Over. In order to obtain control and encourage calmness in your dog, they must know when the “off” switch has been flipped. As discussed with the “Zip It” command, your dog must have an understanding of the energy you are willing to tolerate. Party’s over is a term I use when a dog play-time session has lasted long enough, and I now want to gain calmness within the pack. When that time arrives, address your dog pack as “Dogs!” and command, party’s over! Place your body in the middle of the dogs to illustrate boundaries. If the dogs continue to play, bite, or chase, address your command again and continue your body blocks. Over time, your pack will learn that a play session has now ended, and the “off” switch has been flipped.
  4. The importance of the Release. With many of the commands I teach (i.e., leave it/take, heel/go play), it is vital that your dog makes the connection with the appropriate release. Once you observe increased calmness with the “Off” switch, you can now begin to release your dog for normal play energy. I then use “go play” or “free” to signal my dog that they are now free to play or run.

So, for all you NASCAR fans out there, let’s keep the high energy races on the race track and NOT in the living room! Dogs are extremely perceptive to a pack leaders energy and will begin to mimic your presented calmness when need be. Stay focused with these new tips, and you’ll be crossing the checkered flag in no time!