Conditioned Relaxation: Calm the dog down

There are situations in which our four-legged friends are so excited that they don’t hear. Relaxation for dogs at the push of a button would be good in such cases – but is that possible? Conditioned relaxation for dogs does not ensure immediate calm, but the method can contribute to reducing the fur nose’s level of excitement.

Most dog behavior that bothers us dog owners can be traced back to too much excitement. Therefore, many wish to be able to relax the dog at any time. This often succeeds with soothing words and caresses, but physical contact and rest are not always possible outside. Luckily, conditioned relaxation can help produce the desired effect.

What is conditioned relaxation in dogs?

Dogs can learn to calm down and relax in response to a specific signal. The four-legged friend must associate the word with a subjective feeling of relaxation for this to work. The principle works like this: You give a signal phrase that your dog associates with ease; after that, he relaxes. The feeling of well-being is created artificially. In addition to a signal word, the trigger can also be another stimulus, such as a smell or a visual sign. Comparable to the human world is, for example, the particular aroma of a dish from our childhood – maybe our grandmother’s rice pudding – where we immediately feel transported back to a stress-free past. Your dog needs to associate the signal with a comforting, joyous feeling to become more relaxed in certain situations when it perceives the movement.

How to condition your dog for relaxation

For your dog to associate the command with a sense of relaxation, you need to consistently and patiently condition him to the order. You have to say the signal word once whenever he is completely relaxed, such as “Easy” or “Quiet.” It is essential that you only repeat this process in real moments of relaxation and not in a continuous loop, but preferably only once or twice clearly.

Example: Your dog is enjoying his favorite pat next to you. As you pet him comfortably and see him relax completely, say the word “Easy.” You don’t have to expect a reaction from him now – the conditioning takes place in the lineage unconsciously. The command only ensures that your dog associates the sound with the pleasant cuddling situation.

Physiological processes ensure relaxation.

It has been proven that dogs release certain “relaxation substances” via physiological processes when they relax – for example, through massage or scratching. Suppose the conditioning to a particular signal word is successful, as described above. You can ensure that these substances are released even if your dog only hears the command – even without direct relaxation through stroking or similar methods. Of course, this does not mean that your dog immediately becomes wholly calm and comes to you obediently. The level of excitement is only reduced a little so that further steps – such as actively stroking your four-legged friend – can follow.

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