The Art of Doing NOTHING!
The “Art of Doing Nothing” is a funny type of training, and when I tell my clients we are about to spend the majority of their session doing and saying nothing I am usually greeted with a look of confusion and dismay.
Do you have a dog who is comfortable in their own skin. Happy to trot along on walks, hardly pulls. When you stop to chat they either busy themselves by sniffing the ground or they sit patiently and wait for you.
Can you take your dog to social events, pubs, cafes etc and you hardly know they’re there?
If yes....Well congratulations, this blog ISN’T for you! lol
This blog is for the dog owner with the overly stimulated dog, the puller, the barker, the nervous, the reactive.
Most clients will come to me and say the same thing, “He’s so calm and such a different dog at home, I just don't understand why he's Jeckle and hyde”.
Well that is because the stimulation is very low at home. They know where they are, they have their routine, they are comfortable. This may change when guests come over, or there’s a knock at the door, but most of the time they are the perfect pooch in their own home environment.
If your dog is anxious at home, has severe separation anxiety etc, then carry on reading this will help and give you a start dealing with elements of it, but you will need more specific help with separation anxiety.
Training your dog to perform the “Art of Doing Nothing” is often a skill we miss:
When our puppies are young they are so busy all the time, they are investigating, learning, chewing, playing. We use different methods to relax our puppies. We give them Kong’s, Chew bones, Licky Mats, toys etc. They busy themselves and then fall asleep.
If we do not give them things to stimulate them we run the risk of them looking for diversion where they shouldn’t; chewing your furniture, stealing your shoes and biting your ankles etc.
This is all a right of passage that puppies must go through.
You'll probably go to classes and learn how to train your puppy to do all the essentials, you do everything right.
Everything you are training them requires stimulation to keep them interested and focused, using Cue’s, Markers and Reward which is great, and fun for you and your puppy.
At this point we get peace when they’re asleep and that seems fair enough.
So why does it seem like something went wrong?
Puppy starts to grow up and we stick to this pattern, but now they are not sleeping as much, they are going to more places with you, they’ve learnt to chase balls and toys, play with other dogs and, when lucky enough, to chase squirrels and rabbits.
The world starts to change everything was new and had no negativity to it. All dogs and people were friends and interesting. Maybe they enter a fear stage, maybe a super playful stage that boarders on play aggression, maybe they create an obsession with the ball.
They may have had a negative experience with a dog or a scare in some other way and this is now a trigger. You may not even have noticed, it was so small, but it made a big impact on your dog.
Perhaps they start to really pull on the lead.
Lunge at people, things and dogs. Sometimes that is accompanied by barking and worse with snapping reactivity.
We start to make statements, ask ourselves a number of questions, “Whats wrong with my dog”, “What have I done wrong”, “Will this get worse”, “I’m not enjoying walks anymore”, “my dog’s behaviour is affecting my life”, “I can’t take my dog anywhere”, “Do I need to think about rehoming my dog”.
This is particularly common in adolescent and young adult dogs.
It's not too late to help our dogs.
Firstly what we need to do is teach our dogs to be at peace “Do Nothing”. Reducing the stimulation they feel in all environments.
Fear, excitement, anxiety all are signs and symptoms of over stimulation. We need to help our dogs to reduce their reaction to stimulations. To trust that you are in control and feel safe and happy to relax.
Let’s assume that your dog comes home and chills out:
We will start the training in your garden (if you don’t have a garden, then find a really quiet place outside where you’re unlikely to meet anyone).
Take your dog out into the garden, have your treat bag and I recommend a clicker.
Clickers are not easy to use to start with but if you are able to use them then they reduce the stimulation that comes from your voice.