It’s a Dog. They Chase Stuff. So What?
If you’ve ever found yourself struggling at the end of a leash while your dog lunges after and barks madly at a squirrel, or worse, raced in desperation after a dog disappearing into the distance, you know how serious Chase can be.
Dogs chase lots of things. Small animals, other dogs, light reflections, even the leaves moving in the wind. The bottom line is this: your Dog is Trigger by Movement. The instant she notices something moving, her brain shoots into hyperdrive and she’s off like a firecracker on the Fourth of July.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
You can reshape her brain to respond to movement differently. She’ll always notice movement, but with a reshaped brain, she’ll respond with interest then quickly move on. All you need is the right GamePlan that teaches the right lessons.
Lesson 1: Proximity
When your dog values being close to you above just about everything else, you become the center of her world. She learns to check with you. Things outside a small moving bubble of that surrounds you are no longer all that important.
Lesson 2: Disengagement
Dogs that are hard-wired to Chase struggle to Disengage from a moving object. They don’t know how to ignore it, and they certainly don’t know how to let it go. We can change that.
Lesson 3: Confidence and Optimism
Some dogs Chase when they are unsure of themselves. She notices movement, and rather than waiting to see if this movement is unsafe, she plunges in thinking that if she doesn’t react, the worst is sure to happen. It’s as if she assumes every movement is a bear about to eat her. We can change that, too.
Lesson 4: Mastering Arousal Levels
When your dog understands how to manipulate their arousal levels successfully, and more importantly, how to think when highly aroused, random, rapid, and erratic movement becomes less important.
With the right Games teaching these important lessons, your dog begins to see movement in an entirely new way.
Are you ready to be Sexier than a Squirrel?
I love helping dogs and their people.
I don't teach classes. I focus on helping families one at a time. At the start of each consult, I do a lot of listening. I encourage people to tell me about their dog. I want to hear the story. The good. The bad. The crazy. And the wonderful. The whole story.
I’ll have questions, too because you know your dog better than anyone. Some of my clients find this part of the process cathartic so go ahead, let it all out. Tell me the story.
Then the magic starts. I’ll weave you a new story. A story staring your dog as the wonderful creature you still love. She’s more than her behaviors. I shine the light on what is really happening to clear the shadow of bad behavior choices. I give voice to your dog.
Then, our time together moves quickly toward real and lasting change when I pull from my years of study to design a laser focused Solution. Your time is precious. Your Customized GamePlan takes just a few minutes per day. No fancy supplies needed. These are games, and they are meant to be fun for everyone.
Your dog wants to fit in. She wants to please you.
If she’s struggling, she needs someone to tell her real story.
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?
I hope you’re enjoying the RosyDogs 6 Days to Calmness Journey. It’s time to take your first real step toward a happier and healthier future.
Your dog can’t be separated from their bucket. You must help them learn to work with it, or better still help them modify their bucket.
This exercise gives you the power to become Your Dog’s Voice. Knowledge is power and the start of real and lasting change.
(please read Calmness Episodes 1-4 before proceeding to this exercise)
Imagine your dog’s bucket.
Remember, both good and bad things fill the bucket.
If you’re having trouble deciding what fills the bucket, how many of these apply?
Buckets are incredibly important. Some people can see the bucket clearly at this point, others need a little help. How did you do? Either way, it often takes a trained eye to see the flashing neon sign over a bucket about to overflow.
Warning signs may include
These are some the most common and easiest to notice.
How many have you seen in your dog in the last few days?
The good news is I can teach you strategies and games that you can put into immediate action to prevent an overflow, and more importantly, they keep the stress level well within the safety zone. These are simple and quick things you can do without preparation or special tools. They go everywhere you do.
Tomorrow, I show you to some of my favorites.
You really don’t want to miss this.
Let’s take a closer look at those stress buckets. Buckets are simple things. To change how much a bucket can hold you either get a bigger bucket, or poke a bigger hole in the bottom. As a professional dog trainer it’s my job to know which will most help your dog. First, I determine how long it actually takes your dog to relax after one of the those overflow events.
Does he ever relax? Hmmm. That’s a clue, one that tells me your dog needs Calmness more than anything else in his life right now. Or ...
It might be that your dog has a tiny bucket with a huge hole. These are the dogs that when something happens, they overreact and by the time you catch your breath, the dog is chilled out. Stress went in and instantly left. Tiny bucket. Huge Hole.
More often, it’s the bucket that needs to grow. These are the stressed out and continually overreacting dogs. There’s simply no room in that teeny tiny bucket. Stress goes in and bounces right back out the top. Life is messy. Things happen. Good and bad things. These dogs need a bigger bucket to hold the normal stress of life. They need a Bigger Bucket.
Some dogs can't avoid daily stress. The easiest of these dogs to visualize are the dogs that live with small children or other pets. Their bucket may be huge, but the hole is painfully small. By choosing the right Games, we can bore out that hole to make it bigger allowing all that stress to flow out at a faster pace thus giving your dog a way to deal with everday life. They need a Bigger Hole.
As smart dog owners, we have control over both the size of the bucket and the hole at the bottom. Just knowing that helps, doesn’t it? But wait. There's more we can do.
We also have control over how much goes into the bucket. You’re the human. You make most of the decisions about what your dog does throughout the day. Remember that everything that happens is adding to the bucket. So what would happen if we reduced the number of things the dog is exposed to? The bucket wouldn’t fill as fast, right? Less In = Less Stress.
When we consider this part of the bucket, we can, by managing our dog's day differently match the hole in the bottom to what goes in at the top. Effectively, the bucket level stays constant while the dogs metabolism processes the stress at a constant rate. Stress In = Stress Out.
Let’s look at that in a real life situation many of you can relate to. Let’s say you have a toddler. When the baby first came home, the baby wasn’t a bucket filling machine, but not that she’s walking, oh boy, stress is pouring into your dog’s bucket like a lucky slot machine at Vegas. At this point, your dog needs a break. As little as half an hour in a quiet room can do wonders.
To be clear, I am NOT talking about banishing the dog to the back room. Just 30 minutes in the other room to allow the stress level to stabilize while your toddler crashes about the living room can help. It's not a cure, but it helps when you're in the moment.
Lots of Stress In = Higher Potential for Overflow.
For your dog to reach his full potential, he needs real life skills. To get there, we make adjustments to all 3 aspects of the bucket. Size, Hole, and Input. Getting started is as simple as making a single change.
Keep reading for Step Number 1 toward helping your dog find Calmness.
This is where RosyDogs training loops back to Quiet Time at the shelter. It’s time away from all the stress surrounding the dog. It’s permission to relax and let go. It’s guided chill time. Needed chill time. At the shelter, we work to provide a few minutes of relaxation, but as a professional dog trainer with advanced knowledge of how stress affects dogs, I know how to help your dog get there faster and to reach a deeper level of relaxation while reshaping his brain to naturally understand how to get there on his own in the future.
Dogs don’t always recognize that they need distance from a stressful situation. At first, your stressed dog will need your guidance just like the shelter dogs, and once he understands, he will start to crave it. He knows that he needs it, and he will find a calm place to be when toddler takes center stage. It takes practice and skill AND it’s very doable for every dog.
Here’s your next FREE STRATEGY, and it’s one you can employ while watching a movie. Massage.
Where does your dog like to be rubbed. How much pressure? What speed seems to calm him? The key is to keep pressure and speed just under the level that excites your dog while you gradually slow the speed of your movement. Perhaps most importantly, don’t forget to breathe.
Slowing your breath like you would during yoga or meditation really helps. Your energy feeds the dog. Keep your energy slightly lower, and the dog is likely to follow you down into calmness. It can be difficult in the moment, but I use it all the time with shelter dogs, and I train new volunteers to use their energy in the same way. Think of it as reading a bedtime story to a young child. Your energy may be up and engaging at first, but as the pages turn, you soften and slow.
If you’re having trouble finding the right technique, pop me an email. Let’s get this right and the calmness that follows will come easier.
Working with and ultimately changing the bucket helps dogs live a healthier and happier life. It also keeps you and your family sane. Dogs that rarely find Calmness are difficult to live with, but know that your dog can learn to love relaxation.
Put simply, this is why I take the time to explain calmness in this blog series. At RosyDogs I work to keep dogs in loving homes where they belong. Here’s to massage. A rewarding way to stay together.
The Calmness Story continues tomorrow.
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.