All posts by AniEd Ireland

Training Game 2.5

Shaping calmness


We are going to test your powers of observation with today’s plans and zoom in on calm and settle behaviour that we can teach.

What does your calm dog look like?

To shape calmness we will break down the image of your calm dog into little pieces and work on each piece at a time.

Soon you will be able to combine the pieces and have the full picture of a calm dog.

Start with your dog’s calm-mat and wait for your dog to lie on and settle on the mat. Reward as needed.

Watch your dog closely and note the sorts of behaviours you see when you capture calmness; these might be the ingredients in your calm-dog recipe:

  • lying over on one hip, on his side or frog legs
  • head down, resting
  • breathing deeply
  • eyes not watching anything particular or closed
  • ears relaxed and not orienting toward anything
  • feet relaxed so nails pointing straight out, rather than curled over
  • tail still and lying


Can you zoom in any closer? What other ingredients can you spot?

Today’s Games

Time Allowance:
Practice for 3-4 minute sessions and then take a break. Have a couple of sessions today.

Try fitting  each short session into your routine when the household is quiet, for example during the ad breaks of your TV show.

Family Participation:
Kids are often great dog trainers. Teach each child how to lure and deliver rewards safely.
If your dog is mouthy,  jumpy or likely to get over-excited it might be best for you to get the behaviours established and then bring in the kids to help with practice.
Always supervise child-dog interactions and make sure children learn to leave the dog alone when eating his rewards.

Top Tip for Today’s Training Game:
Are you really getting into helping your dog self-calm and settle? Why not incorporate today’s exercises in to a more advanced program: Dr Overall’s Relaxation Protocol (an explanation here).

You will need:

  • Training Mix
  • your dog’s calm-mat


Beginners Level Game

Shaping calm on a mat

Wait for your dog to find his mat. For this exercise you are going to reward him on his mat throughout.

Reward him and wait for him to show some behaviour that is closer to one of the ingredients on your list.

Maybe he stops wagging his tail momentarily, maybe he relaxes his mouth a little, maybe he takes a deep breath – reward it.

The more observant you become the more you will see and reward so that your dog becomes better at becoming progressively calmer.

Your dog may drift off while you practice or you might like to end the session by sitting with your dog for a massage session.

Advanced Level Game

Deep breathing

Taking a deep breath is not only relaxing and relieving for us, but for our dogs too. If we feel a little overwhelmed we can consciously ask ourselves to breathe, to take a deep breath.

We can give our dogs this skill too by teaching them first to take a breath in, to deep breathe on cue and then teach him to take a deep breath in ever more exciting situations.


Settle your dog on his calm-mat and reward on his mat throughout practice.

  • hold a treat between your thumb and forefinger close to your face, away from your dog
  • slowly lower the treat toward your dog
  • watch your dog’s nose carefully – you are looking for a nostril flare, pinching at the side of his nose, closed mouth or keeping an eye on his chest to see it raise with inhalation
  • as soon as you see that, say YES! softly and immediately feed your dog the treat


  • when your dog is consistently breathing as you lower the treat, begin to fade this
  • take a deep sigh before you lower your hand
  • slowly lower an empty hand (as if the treat was still in there)
  • when your dog inhales, YES! and reward from your other hand


  • after some repetition, you will notice your dog taking deep breaths – YES! reward each one without prompting with the treat


  • build reliability in your sighing cue
  • take a deep breath (sigh), just before you think your dog will deep-breathe
  • as soon as he does, YES! and reward


Take a deep breath!

Another super useful training game down – yay!

Training Game 2.4



Who doesn’t love a massage?

Massage has benefits for both the giver and receiver including lowering blood pressure, improved immune response and blood circulation, and stress reduction.

Regularly, systematically and gently handling your dog all over allows you to become more familiar with him so that you will be able to spot any differences quickly and report them to your vet.

Things you might look out for include:

  • sensitivity to touch and handling
  • swelling or tension
  • changes in surface temperature
  • skin and coat health & condition

Try this game today and tomorrow when you are settling down, and all is calm. It may take quite a while or your dog may prefer very short massages – you won’t know until you get started!

Use your dog’s calm-mat for this and wait for him to lie on it in a settled position. You can reward him with one or two food rewards if you like.
Sit on the floor beside your dog for his massage.


If your dog is experiencing inflammation, pain, infection, fracture, burns or wounds do not massage in or around those areas.


It’s best to start with the least amount of pressure that will just move your dog’s hair. As you continue, assess how much your dog is enjoying their massage but only increase pressure incrementally.

For the most part, dogs don’t enjoy pressure on the top of their head but may enjoy slightly more pressure along their back.

Less is more and it’s best to keep massage pressure gentle.


Relaxing Body Massage

To start, using the flat of your palm, gently and slowly sweep your hand from the top of your dog’s neck all the way down to the base of his tail.

Repeat this movement over and over, once your dog is comfortable for you to continue.

As your dog settles into his massage, still using your flat palm in slow circular motions, massage over your dog’s entire body.

Really focus on what you are feeling as you handle your dog’s body and take deep breaths. Not only will this relax you, but this mindful approach will help to calm your dog.

Massage down your dog’s body, from head to tail, with flat palms and then bring your hands back up their body.

Use your fingers to crawl up through your dog’s hair and move your thumb along behind them. This will provide slightly firmer pressure, moving their coat and their skin slightly against the grain.

Ear Slides

This is a favourite T-touch technique for many dogs and their humans alike. As your dog relaxes more and more from his relaxing body massage, start some gentle ear slides.

With your thumb and finger on either side of his ear leather, slowly move them from the base of the ear to the tip using gentle pressure. Repeat over and over, as long as your dog is comfortable with this move.


How comfortable is your dog?

To us, the sound of a massage is lovely but we generally consent to have someone else massage us.

If we didn’t know a person, if a person had never massaged us before and if a person didn’t ask us if they could massage us we would likely find that highly uncomfortable. Your dog may experience this too.

Don’t assume, just because you enjoy massages and you enjoy massaging your dog, that he feels the same way.

Doggie discomfort:

A great tool to use here is to film your dog while you massage or handle his body for about 30 seconds (or as long as you feel he is comfortable).

Review the clip or watch your dog closely and look out for some of the following signs of doggie discomfort:

  • stiffness – your dog is still with some tension
  • chin raised and still, particularly if you are handling his head
  • your dog or any part of his body is frozen, with wide staring eyes
  • whale eye – half moon shape whites of one or both eyes visible
  • turning away from you
  • trying to move a body part away
  • trying to avoid your touch
  • flinching when you touch an area
  • licking at your hand or an area you are handling
  • mouthing your hand
  • staring at you or your hand
  • eyes fixed
  • whiskers forward or moving forward
  • tightening of the lips
  • lifting of the lips
  • wrinkling to the top of the nose
  • growling
  • snapping, snarling or biting

If you see any of these signals or any others that you believe indicate your dog might  be uncomfortable, stop massaging immediately and try to distract your dog by tossing a food reward or toy for your dog.
Move away and give your dog a break.

Helping boost your dog’s comfort

If you saw that your dog was uncomfortable during massage, take a note of the areas that you were handling when he showed discomfort – hot zones.

Your dog might need a little help to learn to love having these areas handled. Beyond massage, being comfortable with being handled is important for all dogs, who will at some stage, require relatively invasive handling at the vets or groomers.

Play Touch 4 Treat

It’s good that you have identified your dog’s discomfort…now let’s help your dog feel more comfortable with handling and massage.

Don’t practice this on your dog’s calm-mat – put that away and out of sight for now, until your dog is more comfortable.

The key to this game is to teach your dog that each time you touch a hot zone, that makes an unbelievably amazing treat appear.

  • make a list of your dog’s hot zones
  • concentrate on one at a time
  • choose the area closest to your dog’s hot zone that he is comfortable with handling – start there
  • touch that area, and immediately feed a treat to your dog – it doesn’t matter what he does, just make that treat appear
  • stop if your dog shows any of those signs of discomfort and move further away
  • if your dog is happy repeat about a five-count after your dog has finished eating his treat
  • repeat in sets of ten and then take a break

Chilled out!

Well done for getting through today, even though it really wasn’t like work!


Training Game 2.3

Parking Your Pup


Parking is a great tool that can be used in lots of situations. This clip from Learning About Dogs shows some of the applications of parking:

We are going to use parking with our dog’s calm-mat to help with calming and managing your dog’s behaviour in potentially exciting situations.

Today’s Games

Time Allowance:
Practice for 1-2 minute sessions and then take a break. Have a few  sessions today.

Try fitting  each short session into your routine; for example, while you wait for the kettle to boil, during the ad break of your TV show or while you wait for the computer to start up.

You might settle your dog for a long period too – and that’s great!

Family Participation:
It’s better for adults to practice today’s games as it is not safe for children to stand on the lead to restrain a dog.

Top Tip for Today’s Training Game:
Use the Jazz up/Settle down game to give your dog the opportunity for a little crazy before you expect your dog to settle down while you are busy or occupied.

You will need:

  • Training Mix
  • your dog’s calm-mat
  • leash, collar/harness
  • Kong toys – stuffed or lined

Beginner Level Games:

Park your pup:

  • have your dog on a lead attached to a flat collar or harness
  • give your dog a chew or lined Kong toy to work on (if it’s too exciting and your dog can’t settle first, hold his collar or harness with one hand)
  • hold the lead with one hand and allow the slack of the lead to pool on the floor
  • stand on the lead at the point where it is taut to your hand, but there is slack to your dog

Use your dog’s calm-mat for this one and practice in different rooms of the house.

Advanced Level Games

Park your Pup, on the road:

For your walkies, bring your mat and a frozen lined Kong toy. About halfway through, lay out your dog’s mat and see if he can lie on it.


Don’t worry if he’s not ready for that just yet!

Hold the Kong toy under one foot on your dog’s mat. Park your Pup with your other foot and allow your dog to work on their yummy treat.

This lapping action, taking some time and encouraging your dog to settle will help your dog to flip his off switch, even on an exciting adventure.

Maybe your dog can only work on their Kong for a few seconds or maybe he finds it difficult to be too interested in it at all – these are really likely at the start of your training program. So don’t worry too much – there are things we can do:

  • practice this in a really quiet spot
  • allow your dog to check the area out first and sniff every inch
  • use the absolute most amazingly yummy filling to line the Kong
  • practice toward the end of your walk, closer to home – if at the start this works best when you get back to your front door, or even inside the house that’s ok and is your starting point – work backwards from there

You can play this game at home too!

Try this game with your calm-mat to really test your training:

Jazz Up & Settle Down

This game teaches your dog to better control his excitement and allows him to practice bring himself down from that high. We are basically helping your dog install that ‘off’ switch.

  • using a toy, a game and an excited tone of voice get your dog all jazzed up – remember to use your cue for getting a game going
  • jazz up for a five count


  • immediately stop and lay out your dog’s mat
  • if he doesn’t lie on it, you may need to remind him by cueing or luring
  • you can use food rewards at the start of this game – reward your dog with one food reward after another
  • settle down for a ten count


  • get your dog all jazzed up again and repeat

As your dog improves with this exercise you should see him settle quicker – now you can begin to increase the length of each jazz up and each settle down period.

Always make sure that your dog is settled for at least twice as long as they are jazzed up.

Start and end each game with a settle down; having a longer settle down at the end.


Day 3 done – well done 🙂

Pay the Dog



So you’ve seen how much your dog wants to, needs to and enjoys working for his food with last week’s games – think of all the behaviours he has had to carry out to earn his keep…

Just like people, dogs don’t work for free and if we want them to do behaviours for us, we gotta make it worth their while.

Because some behaviours can be trickier than others, the rate we pay will also need to vary appropriately.

Here Jean Donaldson discusses motivation in dog training:


Lower value rewards work best for easier behaviours and higher value rewards work best for harder behaviours.

Is it just about food rewards?

Nope, it’s about motivation!

We want our dogs to want to carry out the behaviours we want them to do – to achieve that we need to work out what motivates them, and then teach them how to get those things.


By teaching our dog to be a good human-trainer, they will learn to carry out behaviours that cause us to release motivators.

Dogs do what works!

Food rewards are handy because…
  • your dog has to eat – that’s why teaching your dog to work for his regular food is so valuable
  • animals will readily carry out behaviour that earns them food – all animals are biologically motivated by food (if a dog isn’t eating there may be something else going on…)
  • food rewards that are small enough are quick rewards allowing you to practice another repetition quickly – this allows dogs to learn most effectively
  • anticipation of food rewards causes the release of pleasant feelings in the brain
  • seeking out food is incompatible with feelings of fear, anxiety or panic

Following our program will help you to use food rewards in training most effectively; more here too:

How to train a dog with food rewards

Training dogs with food

Beyond food rewards

Motivators come in all shapes and sizes, and are often individual to each dog and sometimes to breeds or types of dog.


Anything your dog likes access to or likes to escape from can reward their behaviour.
Out of these things, ones that you can control are most useful in training.

Make a list of the things that your dog likes.
This might include certain foods, toys, activities, praise & attention, other individuals or places such as:

  • eating
  • playing
  • tugging
  • fetching
  • sniffing
  • swimming
  • splashing
  • rolling
  • meeting
  • greeting
  • humping
  • barking
  • chasing

Grade the value of the rewards in your list. This way you will have a better idea of higher or lower value rewards that your dog will work for.

It’s often best to use the lowest value rewards that your dog will work for in a given scenario – keep your big guns for when the going really gets tough!

Think of rewarding your dog as a quid-pro-quo deal – “you do this behaviour for me, and I will give you access to the things you like!”


I am sure you have noticed that sometimes your dog isn’t interested in the things you have to offer…distractions will compete for your dog’s behaviour, making training harder.


Distractions might include:

  • eating
  • playing
  • tugging
  • fetching
  • sniffing
  • swimming
  • splashing
  • rolling
  • meeting
  • greeting
  • humping
  • barking
  • chasing

Notice anything…?

Distractions are just rewards that your dog wants more than whatever you have to offer, right now.

Make another list:

  • what is your dog distracted by?
  • what would your dog rather be doing when you would like him to do something else?

Just as you did with your rewards list, grade these distractions – just how distracting are they?

Now you have lists that allow you to balance rewards and distractions. Something high on the distraction end of the list will require rewards high on the rewarding end too!


What do your dog’s lists look like?

Training Game 2.2

Capturing Calmness

IMG_1285Your dog’s on switch isn’t on all the time – sometimes your dog is calm and sometimes he is not.
But most dogs will swing between extremes: the crazy to calm continuum.

Observe your dog on a normal day and try to pin point when he is at his calmest. What does that dog look like?

Now, think of him when he is at his craziest – what does that dog look like?

You might see your dog go up and down this scale over each and every day. For the most part, the closer his behaviour resembles the calmer end, the more acceptable his behaviour (to humans) will be – the easier he is to live with.IMG20120825_005

Today’s Games

Time Allowance:
This is an all day game – instead of individual sessions, when you think of it, watch your dog and catch him doing the right thing!

Family Participation:
Fun for all the family – kids might like to help out and be detectives for this game!
Always supervise child-dog interactions and make sure children learn to leave the dog alone while he works on his puzzle.

Top Training Tip for Today’s Training Game:
All you need is Training Mix today. Distribute little pots of your dog’s regular food around the house so that everyone in the family can participate and reward your dog as soon as they spot him being calm.
But, make sure to keep this food well out of his reach!


Catch your dog doing the right (relaxed) thing!

Today you will work on simply observing your dog and assessing how calm and polite he is.

Capturing means to catch the dog doing the behaviour we want and rewarding him – think of it like taking a photograph of what we want.

If you spot your dog being calm at any (and every) time today, approach him quietly without eye contact, praise him calmly and softly and feed him a couple of food rewards. Use pretty boring food rewards for this one to avoid getting him all excited.

The first few times you do this, your dog will probably follow you, nag you, want to get into training mode and play the game again.

Calmly and quietly ignore his protests – turn away from him, busy yourself, don’t give eye contact or talk to him, maybe stroke him a couple of times with long massage-like strokes down his back and then break away. And wait…

Wait for your dog to calm a little again and reward.

If your dog wants something like attention, or to go through a door, or his dinner, take a look at how calm he is. Wait for him to calm and reward him access to the things he wants.
Again, you may need to wait a bit…

Don’t ask your dog to calm down or offer polite behaviours – this is about him developing self-control – he needs to do it for himself. Just wait…


Doggie see, doggie do

Not only is your dog’s calmer behaviour important here, so is yours.

If you shout, force, or get excited your dog will find it more difficult to calm down so move slowly, don’t move your arms about, talk calmly, take deep breaths and sigh – all of this will help your dog to chill too (and it helps you to calm as well!).

Training Game 2.1


Up & Down

First off, I want you to smile. Just smile.

(OK, stop now, you look weird!).

When you are feeling down smiling can actually help you feel a little better. Your brain and your behaviour interact plus smiling might cause you to think of things that make you happy, so smiling can help you feel better.

Today we are going to start with teaching our dog’s body how to look more relaxed – just like with smiling, we can get this calm behaviour first and with practice the feeling of calmness will follow.

It’s important to note here that we want to teach the dog to choose more relaxed behaviour – you will not be helping your dog develop calmer behaviour and feelings if you coerce or force your dog.
You probably wouldn’t feel too much better if I physically made you smile or forced you to do it.

And what’s more, by associating the behaviour of being calm with something the dog likes, we can increase the pleasantness associated with being chilled out.

(Imagine I gave you your favourite treat food every time you smiled – yep, you would be smiling a whole lot more and you would be feeling a whole lot better too!)


Today’s Games

Time Allowance:
Practice for 1-2 minute sessions and then take a break. Have a few  sessions today.

Try fitting  each short session into your routine; for example, while you wait for the kettle to boil, during the ad break of your TV show or while you wait for the computer to start up.

Family Participation:
Kids are often great dog trainers. Teach each child how to lure safely.
If your dog is mouthy,  jumpy or likely to get over-excited it might be best for you to get the behaviours established and then bring in the kids to help with practice.
Always supervise child-dog interactions and make sure children learn to leave the dog alone when eating his rewards.

Top Tip for Today’s Training Game:
Work on settling exercises when your dog is pretty relaxed and chilled. Wait for the entire household to be quieter and practice exercises when it’s easier to be calm.

You will need:

  • Training Mix
  • your dog’s calm-mat

Using your dog’s calm-mat

Use your dog’s new towel/mat/blanket as the calm-mat for these exercises.

Your dog’s new calm-mat is going to become a sign that signals your dog to chill out so we need to use it carefully.

At the start of training only have your dog’s calm-mat out and available during training. It’s important that your dog’s mat isn’t out when your dog is excited or when exciting things are going on, for example, guests arrive or it’s time for walkies.

Beginner Level Games:

Teaching ‘down

Teaching your dog to lie down is the first stage toward giving them behaviours that help with calming.

For this exercise, this week, we don’t need to get lying down on a verbal cue (great if you already have it or if you work that far this week!) but instead your dog’s mat will become the signal for your dog to be calm and lie down.

First task is to teach your dog to lie down on their new mat.


We practiced lots of luring last week and now we can apply that here too.

Practice working on this behaviour on your dog’s calm-mat. With plenty of practice, your dog will soon start to lie down on his mat, without you needing to ask him.



At the same time we are teaching our dog to lie down, we will also teach our dog to get up and go about his business again.

Once your dog lies down on his mat, reward him four times, one food reward after another, in position by feeding him in between his front legs.

Say your release cue (it can be anything you like such as ‘go’, ‘OK’, ‘all done’ etc.) and then roll or toss one food reward off the mat to encourage your dog to get up.


Advanced Level Games

Does your dog already lie-down on cue? Try laying out your dog’s mat and ask them to lie-down on it, reward and repeat five times.

If that goes well try these games:

Find your mat

After practicing down and releasing your dog increase the challenge. Lay your dog’s mat out and wait for your dog to get onto the mat, without asking him – if you are lucky your dog might lie down straight away, but if not don’t worry.

Try to build toward this instead:

  • dog stands on the mat, reward off the mat – repeat x10
  • dog sits on the mat, reward off the mat – repeat x10
  • dog sits on mat, reward by luring into a down (then reward three more times between his front feet and release) – repeat x10
  • wait for your dog to come back to the mat and wait – if he lies down reward x4 and release and repeat
  • if he doesn’t lie down, repeat the luring step



When your dog is lying down on his mat, offer the first reward by luring your dog’s head slightly to one side. This will encourage your dog to flop over onto one hip – this is a more settled position.

Reward your dog with three food rewards between his front legs and then say your release cue and reward off the mat.


Well done!

That’s a great first day of this new week done – more tomorrow!