This is a great cue to teach your dog because it not only requires a stationary body position but also promotes a positive emotional response. Asking your dog to relax on cue helps in situations where you need your dog to be calm and comfortable.
This cue should not be used to force a calm emotional response in a chaotic environment or during moments of high arousal. Your dog will find it difficult to go from crazy to calm in a few seconds, but the cue can be used in situations that require her to self-calm such as when you are grooming her or traveling in the car.
- You can start by teaching this cue when your dog is in a truly relaxed state – this is called ‘catching a behavior.’ When she is lying down on her side, gently say the cue relax as you stroke her with a long stroking motion. Keep the tone of your voice low and calm.
- Repeat this at various times of the day when you see her in that position and in a calm state.
- In a distraction-free environment ask her to lie down and then gently stroke her and see if she responds by lying on her side. When she does so, say the word relax.
- When you have repeated this exercise a number of times over a few days ask her to lie down and then say the word relax. At this stage your dog should automatically lie on her side. Praise and stroke her gently.
- You can begin to use the relax word in busier environments and situations, but do not devalue the word by asking her to relax when she is clearly in no state to do so. Wait for a lull in the action when asking her to relax and always make sure she does not feel compromised in a lying down position.
- To truly get your dog to relax in situations like the veterinarian she needs to have complete trust in you as her handler. Make sure that the word does not become associated with something she fears otherwise you will again devalue a valuable cue.
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