Teach Fido to be alone – but not lonely

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It’s important to teach your pup to comfortably do nothing. Photo: Dan Brodie

There is a common saying amongst the dog community and it goes like this, “A tired dog is a good dog.”

The premise behind the saying is that in order to have a well mannered, calm dog that an owner can easily live with, the dog must be exhausted on a daily basis from at least a two-hour walk.

It is true that a dog that is tired typically no longer has the physical energy to engage in inappropriate behaviours that would make it a bad dog. But it does not mean that as a result of being physically tired that the dog becomes inherently good. What is does mean is that a tired dog is just a tired dog. When it is no longer tired, it is no longer good!

What you do have however, is a dog well on its way to becoming an extreme athlete, not a well-behaved dog.

Most people understand the concept of physical fitness and that the more you work out on a regular basis, the better shape you get into. The same thing happens to a dog. The more exercise they get, the more they increase their strength and stamina.

The result of consistently exhausting a dog through extensive physical exercise is an ultra-athlete who now needs greater levels of exercise in order to feel tired. Continuing to follow the premise of “a tired dog is a good dog” will eventually mean that this dog could potentially require eight hours of continual exercise in order to be a “good dog”

Nobody’s got time for that!

Now, I am not suggesting in the slightest that we don’t exercise our dogs. Exercise is incredibly important to our dogs’ health and well-being, but it is equally important that it be reasonable and balanced. Reasonable in the sense that it happens on a daily basis and your dog can rely on it and balanced not only in the level of activity but also the level
of inactivity.

That’s right, it is equally important that your dog learns to expect to be inactive and to look forward to it.

But how do you train your dog to be inactive and to look forward to it, you ask?

By teaching your dog to go to its place.

The place command is meant to teach a dog to chill and do nothing but hang out and well… meditate. Dogs are naturally very peaceful animals, their minds are not filled with the constant chatter that fills our minds and given the opportunity and environment they can and will happily just . . . be.

While a dog is in its place command it is learning how to be confident, it is learning how to relax and control its impulses as well as learning how to reduce its anxiety levels. The place command is how you teach your dog to be a good dog, not through hours of exercise but rather through time doing nothing.

To be clear, the place command is not meant to replace exercise, but rather to help a dog learn how to manage its energy levels without having to create the next ultra marathoner in the process.

Teaching a dog to go to its place helps to manage a dog’s state of mine through self control, not exhaustion. It calms a dog who is always getting into trouble roaming the house looking for stuff to do to entertain itself. Place teaches a dog that being separate from its owner is OK, it can also help with separation anxiety by teaching a dog that being alone does not mean being lonely. Place teaches a dog that it does not have to be entertained by its person whenever they happen to be in the same room together. The place command creates homeostasis, not only within the dog, but the dog owner and the home as everyone’s anxiety levels decrease.

The place command is one of the foundation commands that every dog should learn and learn well as it is a command that not only assists in managing a dog’s behaviour but it shapes and balances a dog’s personality. And a dog that is healthy and balanced both physically and mentally by learning how to calm its mind and manage its anxiety levels is a good dog.

Joan Klucha has been working with dogs for more than 20 years in obedience, tracking and behavioural rehabilitation. Contact her at k9kinship@gmail.com.

GuidedBy is a community builder and part of the Glacier Media news network. This article originally appeared on a Glacier Media publication.