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Teaching your dog to sit, lie down and retrieve can be easy, exciting and very useful. Teaching your dog to be calm is a very different type of exercise. There are calming exercises one can do with a dog and calming signals to be encouraged and reinforced.
One exercises for calmness, focus and endurance is scent training, where your dog must first offer the behaviour, which is a natural one – sniffing. Next he must know what you want of him and be sufficiently motivated to keep working and triumph by finding the hidden object or objects. This is taught with continual success for him and much enthusiasm from you.
When you take your dog for a walk, don’t stop him from sniffing, this is an important activity for any dog. It is also a useful calming signal to be used upon meeting strange dogs and new friends, so he should feel comfortable putting his head down and ‘walk-sniffing’.
Yes dogs need, as do we, half an hour of steady walking three times per week, but your dog also needs to stop and sniff. Hopefully your walks are long enough to give your dog both of these. You can also do different walks or divide your outing into sections where your dog has a ‘go-sniff’ period and a ‘walk-with-me’ time. This way you can ensure that out of an hour’s walk your dog gets all he needs. Of course your dog needs to be able to walk on a slack leash if he is to walk at your side for any length of time to avoid injury to both of you.
Until next time, I hope you all get the stimulation and calmness you need out in the spring scents.
Jayne Goetsch, Animal Behaviourist and Trainer 0832774358