Going out and about is pretty exciting for dogs; it stimulates all their senses while also providing lots of physical and mental stimulation. Your dog is going to be experiencing high levels of arousal, hopefully at a healthy and manageable level.
Doing all that, experiencing all that, and then bringing your dog home and expecting them to just chill, is pretty unrealistic.
Winding down is a skill. Think of your wind down at the end of your day. Just getting in from traffic and hustle can leave us buzzing and, even though we might be tired, good, restful, peaceful sleep isn’t necessarily immediate or easy to come by.
What works for you? Getting changed, having a shower, cooking a meal, discussing your day and debriefing, watching some TV, relaxing in your favourite spot, being idle, reading a book. Until lights out.
Our dogs are no different. And, indeed, because we have selectively bred many types of dogs to get more wound up quicker, we might have quite a winding-down-challenge on our hands.
This clip shows the last part of our outing; for about two hours Decker had been running about, sniffing, fetching, sniffing, playing flirtpole, practicing engagement and training exerccises. All that activity gets all his systems going.
Not only do we need a warm down for his body but also for his brain.
We end all that excitement with a slower meander through the goalposts. He gets to, at his own pace, check and respond to all the pee-mails, sniffing to his heart’s/nose’s content. You can see some prolonged and persistent sniffing in the clip toward the end of our tour.
This helps to cool him off, gradually lower his heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure and helps his brain begin to stand down, slowing in the production and circulation of neurochemicals associated with high arousal, bringing him back to base.
This is a gradual process. We don’t go from 100 back to zero just like that. Sniffing like this, less urgent movement, choice of interaction, brings him down a few notches and starts him on the descent toward baseline again.
Sniffing is the perfect start to warming down the brain and behavioural systems.
From there, add chewing and to bring us all they way down, finish with some lapping.
Crazy to sniffing to chewing to lapping to calm. Crazy back to calm is a multi-step process.
Maybe massages, stretching, or just resting together helps you and your dog – what else?
As with life and play, think in Rollercoasters. Activity and exposure to the world brings ’em up, so we need to help ’em come down again.
That will help your dog relax and really benefit from the activity as well as the well-earned rest afterwards.
After activity or excitement, do your equivalent to touring the goalposts – make sniffing, chewing and lapping happen, bring your dog down, think in Rollercoasters.