Now that you have a better understanding of how everyday life can be stressful and therefore impact your dog’s behavior, you’re likely anxious to get started on real calmness.
This is where the fun stuff begins. Here are some of my favorite Calming Games and one Amazing Strategy.
No Rules Boundary is the start of having a place to be calm, a place your dog identifies as her own, a place where only good things happen and calmness is cool. This is a wonderful starter game for the youngest of puppies or dogs brand new to your home. This is where Boundary Games begin. With more than a dozen games in this series, I’ve designed a Boundary Game Workshop. Boundaries build amazing calmness and perfect manners. I highly recommend them for all dogs.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a fantastic starter Calmness game. It plays on your dogs interest in the animated delivery of food. Interestingly, dogs find both the animation and the food rewarding so this game offers a double reward. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles builds incredible patience and a level of stillness. If you have a busy dog, you know how rare (and blissful) that can be. Stillness slows the body so the brain can follow, and that's your double reward.
Mouse is a clever game that creates the excitement of the hunt in a safe and enticing way. When we harness this in our dogs, we work on far more than calmness. It's a great example of how the games teach many things at the same time, but today, we employ Mouse for Calmness. This game may not be for very young puppies. They first need to have awareness of their environment for this game to do its magic, and it can be extremely stimulating for some dogs. In that case, it’s not a starter game, but certainly one to add as your dog begins to gain true calmness as a way of life.
Food Fiddling is designed to add a anticipation to your dog’s life. Remember that everything pays into the Stress Bucket, good and bad so when anticipation goes up, the stress increases and good choices become harder. The key here is learning how it feels to be calm when faced with something exciting. This game falls into the animation category. It’s not just about the food. It’s the experience, and dogs learn through experience. This is a good one. When we pair an engaging experience with food, the dog is more interested and more likely to absorb the lesson.
Ninja Rewards are about using all those every day knocks, bangs, movements, and squeaks to teach our dog that life is busy, noisy, and most of it is to be ignored. As the name implies, it works best when you play the part of a stealthy ninja. Can you deliver a reward so casually, the dog thinks good things are raining down? I can teach you to do just that.
Last but certainly not least, my absolute favorite Calmness Strategy …
Figure Eight creates a meditative state of mind that almost magically lowers brain activity and pulls the plug on the bottom of the bucket. Figure Eight gets the dog moving smoothly so new information can get in to the brain. This one takes some practice, and introduces a whole new area of understanding called the Movement Paradigm. Sound interesting? It should. Movement is often the key that unlocks the wonderful in your dog, but we’ll save that for another time.
In case you missed it, here it is. Tasha playing Planes, Trains and Automobiles and Mouse.
I still play all of these games several times a month years after first playing them with Tasha. In fact, we played two of them this morning. When you start to interact with your dog by playing Games, it becomes a way of life, a fun and rewarding way of life, and isn’t that why you have a dog?
Rebecca Porter has been fascinated by dogs for decades, but it took a frantic mixed breed to send her on a journey into innovative and real life solutions in dog training.