Ruhetraining innen: Konditionierte Entspannung mit Ruhesignal [Teil 4]

Rest training inside: Conditioned relaxation with rest signal [Part 4]

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Practicing calm means dealing specifically with rest and relaxation. Relaxation and rest cannot be trained like a “sit” and then called up at will. Implementing calm in everyday dog life means gearing the day specifically towards calm and therefore primarily to pursue measures and rest management.

An adult, healthy dog needs around 16-20 hours to doze and sleep. Puppies or old dogs need more than 16-20 hours of rest. Some dogs find their rest on their own. Other dogs need human help. On the one hand, this can be due to the fact that the dog has not learned it from the beginning, or on the other hand, because its personality and character favor it. Diseases and dysfunctions can also be the origin of a restless dog. You can read more about this in the blog Why rest is so healthy read.

General Measures

House rule

The house rules form the basis of dog training. As the head of the house, you determine which house rules and rules apply. Rules make living together easier and create respect and acceptance. In dog training, the house rules form the basis for all further behavior. If you can't do the basics in the house, you don't even have to start with behavioral problems outside. If you want to learn more about this topic, watch our video and blog on the topic The 4 most important house rules for your dog” on. We also provide you with a free dog equipment checklist. 

Boundaries provide security and security provides relaxation

- Vomitalia


mood transference and calm

Mirror neurons are responsible for what is known as mood transmission. Research into mirror neurons began with the Italian researcher Giacomo Rizzolatti and his team in 1992 on macaque monkeys and is still in its infancy today. Mirror neurons ensure that action tendencies arise as a result of observation. This is mainly important for survival in groups or herds and therefore very useful. If a herd animal spots an enemy, it will run and the others will follow. Choosing and hunting is made more difficult for the enemy and the survival of the herd members is ensured. Mirror neurons and the transmission of mood are essential to our survival. 

Mirror neurons are not only responsible for action patterns, but also, as the name "mood transmission" suggests, for mood and emotions.

Mood transmission is intraspecific, e.g. B. between dog and dog and between species at z. B. humans and dogs possible. If you are stressed and restless, you unconsciously transfer this mood to your dog. Your dog perceives your restlessness through different signals: your posture, your voice, chemically through your sweat or through your actions. Dogs are able to sense our emotions. However, mood transfer should not be misunderstood and humanized as "My dog understands me". No, your dog empathizes with your emotions.

If your dog does not come to rest, the restlessness may be due to your current emotional state. So always question your emotions to be able to teach your dog to be calm. Breathe in and out deeply before the exercises and engage in the exercises in a calm and balanced manner.

Activity ideas for restless dogs

A dog that doesn't calm down needs to be taught to calm down. You can first create peace through a calm and balanced everyday life. A restless dog doesn't need 2 hours of ball games and 10km of off-leash walks. What this dog needs are structures and conscious and balanced activities. Excessive exercise that only physically challenges your dog creates an unhealthy combination of dopamine release. Maybe you know the notorious ball junkies: the dog chases after a ball like crazy and more dopamine is released in the body. Dopamine has motivational and drive-enhancing effects and has a reward effect. Playing ball becomes a real dopamine rush for your dog. This dopamine kick ensures that the dog can do more and longer - because dopamine stimulates drive. In the long term, the reward effect will encourage more and longer ball play in your dog and make your dog downright "addicted". 

Movements that require concentration and smooth movement sequences are suitable so that dogs that don't calm down easily get enough exercise without overdoing it when there's too much action. 

The following activity ideas are ideal for restless dogs:  


Ruhe management 

Calm management means a targeted promotion of calm through a quiet environment, targeted and relaxed occupation with the dog as well aids. The keyword in everyday life is deceleration. There are a number of measures that you can take to promote relaxation in a targeted manner. In the post on the topic “Why rest is so healthy” we name aids such as music, C'B'D', smells and herbs and other supports for more rest in your dog and go into more detail on the evidence to what extent the aids are actually helpful. 

reward calm

You can instill calm by rewarding calm. Play or direct interaction is not always suitable for this. Food rewards can help some dogs and the opposite for others. You can find out how to recognize relaxation in the freebie from the blog Dog won't rest. Reward a balanced mood with rest, either by releasing or starting an activity, depending on the exercise. 

Rest should take place as a learning experience without direct human reaction. This means that resting exercises do not always have to be rewarded directly with treats, but the dog should learn from the experience. Your dog should learn by actively dealing with its environment, so you can teach your dog to be calm without creating expectations. Expectations and non-fulfillment would lead to frustration and stress. So if you decide to use food during rest training, you must either reduce the food in the course of the training or repeatedly confirm it with food. If your dog doesn't calm down, his greatest adversary is his expectation to calm down. With rest exercises you support your dog by promoting rest through your inner peace and supporting your dog on a social level - "social support".

Practical examples: 

  • When you go for a walk, it only starts when your dog assumes a calm posture. 
  • You are only allowed to go to the dog buddy when your dog calms down on the leash and withdraws.
  • If your dog comes to rest in its dog place, it can be acknowledged with a chew or gentle praise. 

Many dog owners simply do not want to endure this "stress" and unintentionally acknowledge their dog for its restless behavior. Consistency and a persistent confrontation with restless behavior in everyday life is already half the battle in terms of rest training. If the dog does not calm down, first ask yourself the question: How often do I confront my dog to calm down and how often do I give in? 

Impulse Control & Frustration Tolerance

Two important core skills for teaching your dog to be calm are impulse control and frustration tolerance. We already have impulse control training for you Beginner, advanced and professionals compiled. 

Conditioned relaxation with rest signal

Begin this resting exercise spontaneously when your dog is in a balanced and relaxed mood. You can do this resting exercise with yours while you're both on the sofa or you're sitting on the floor with your dog. Conditioned relaxation means a relaxation that was learned in a situation in which rest was set in the context of a signal, the rest signal. If the calming signal is built up sustainably in relaxed situations, relaxation can be brought about in tense situations with the help of the calming signal. The principle is based on classical conditioning, in which a stimulus is linked to a reaction.

Conditioned relaxation will not transform your dog from being on a leash to a sleeping pill. The practice of conditioned relaxation will allow your dog to regulate its level of excitement in stressful situations and be responsive in the future. Conditioned relaxation allows your dog to take a step back. In youth language one would say: "Chill your base" - and that's exactly what you want to achieve with it: A more relaxed attitude.

Not every dog can relax well when touched. You know your dog best. Use familiar situations and conditions in which your dog relaxes. Avoid touching areas that may cause your dog to be irritated (e.g. paws). 

  • Start in a calm situation where your dog relaxes.
  • Gently pet your dog or use the method that induces quick and deep relaxation in your dog:
    • some dogs like to be brushed 
    • others prefer a massage, 
    • some dogs have a favorite spot to be scratched,
    • etc. 
  • While your dog is breathing deeply and lying relaxed, you now say your quiet signal in a calm voice so that your dog does not wake up to look at you.
    • If your dog prefers to relax without your touch, you can sit next to your dog while he relaxes. 
    • At a moment when your dog is very relaxed, gently say the quiet signal. 
    • Keep letting your dog rest and don't approach him any further. 
  • Don't look too closely at your dog during the exercise and don't draw attention to yourself.
  • Continue with the relaxation method, saying the quiet signal at intervals. 
  • After saying the rest signal 4-5 times, you can stop this exercise. 
  • Introduce the resting exercise of conditioned relaxation over the next few days and weeks. 
  • Only use the rest signal after intensively building up at least five units:
    • initially in a less tense situation, 
    • with more rest practice in more tense situations,
    • always accompanied by alternate behavior or other instructions (e.g., “chill” and “go on”).
  • The conditioned relaxation must be refreshed regularly in resting situations and should never be regarded as “completely learned”. 
If your dog does not respond to the rest signal after intense conditioned relaxation: 
  • maybe the situation is too tense for your dog,
  • should you bring about relaxation with your body (e.g. through targeted touch), 
  • if possible, withdraw from the violent situation. 

You can also condition the conditioned relaxation with a scent, a blanket, or a specific touch instead of a calming cue. The advantage of a silence signal is that you always have it with you. 

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