In this guide, we will talk about some practical tips and step-by-step instructions to help you learn how to calm a dog.
This guide assumes that you have recently adopted a rescue dog or need to calm your family pet. The first few days of adding a new dog or puppy to your home can be challenging and I hope this guide can help. Similarly, if you have a dog that is naturally hyper-vigilant, anxious or stressed, this guide will provide some tips on how to calm your dog.
Since there is a lot of ground to cover training calmness in dogs, let us dive right into it.
How to Calm a Dog: Life-changing Steps to Calm a Stressed or Anxious Dog
Table of Contents
- How to Calm a Dog: Life-changing Steps to Calm a Stressed or Anxious Dog
- Step 1 – Ensure That the Entire Household Remains Calm
- Step 2 – How to Calm a Dog: Use Food and Treats to increase calmness
- Step 3 – How to calm a dog: Take Dog Outside to Go Potty
- Step 4 – Give the Dog a Place to Rest
- Step 5 – Make Some Parts of Your House Inaccessible to Your Dog
- Step 6 – Let Your Dog Be
- Step 7 – How to Calm a Dog: Always Keep Treats Handy
- Step 8 – How to Calm a Dog: Keep Walks Short
- Step 9 – How to Calm a Dog: Keep Up with Dog Training
- Step 10 – Begin Leaving the House for Short Periods of Time
- Steps to Calm a Dog Down
- Conclusion – How to Calm a Stressed, Anxious, or Hyper Dog
- Keep your voice calm and neutral when training calmness in dogs.
- Ensure your children are calm and quiet.
- Keep your other pets away, if any.
- Remain relaxed as much as possible.
- Ask family members not to rush to the dog and overwhelm it further.
- Speak to your dog in a soothing voice.
Step 2 – How to Calm a Dog: Use Food and Treats to increase calmness
- If your dog is being calm, reward this behaviour by calmly placing a treat near them and giving your calm reward marker word in a long, soft drawn-out voice. For example, ‘niiiiiiiice’.
- When rewarding calmness it’s important to do so in a calm manner. Using loud, over-the-top praise will generally excite a dog, instead, when Training Calmness in Dogs, we want to maintain their calm behaviour.
- If necessary, lure your dog out of its hiding area using a handful of high-value training treats.
- Do not pull or drag the dog; instead, take small steps and use rewards and encouragement for each step forward.
- Some dogs may be too stressed to accept the treat. Even if that is the case, offering one can still activate positive emotions and dopamine production.
Step 3 – How to calm a dog: Take Dog Outside to Go Potty
Stressed dogs often pant and need to cool down.
- If you manage to get a leash on your dog, you can use it to lead it to water or food. A long leash can help in such cases.
- After it has had its fill, take it to the toilet area/garden to go potty.
- Reward and praise your dog if it goes potty in the designated area. Even if it does not ‘eliminate’, allow it to explore the garden.
Step 4 – Give the Dog a Place to Rest
- Many dogs accept a crate willingly. If not, provide a comfortable dog bed for your pet to sleep in.
- Place the crate or bed in a safe and quiet place for your dog to rest until its next meal time or potty time. If you use a crate, unless crate trained, leave its door open. Your already-anxious dog mustn’t feel trapped. Dogs that have been crate trained will likely prefer the door to be closed as this is what they’re used to.
- When it is time to go potty, have your dog go to the designated area and say your cue to ‘go potty’, this might be ‘toilet’, or ‘go pee’ for example. Whatever it is be consistent with your cue, this is the fastest way to potty train a puppy.
- If the dog does ‘go potty’, offer a treat and calm praise.
- When Training Calmness in Dogs, it’s important to first consider if the dog is getting enough sleep. Adult dogs need around 14 hours of sleep, while young puppies need around 20 hours of sleep each day.
Step 5 – Make Some Parts of Your House Inaccessible to Your Dog
- Take care not to overwhelm your already stressed dog.
- Divide the house using baby gates and doors to prevent your dog from going to areas that could further overwhelm it.
- Minimising distractions during the initial steps, helps with training calmness in dogs.
- Allow your dog to build trust and come over to you, instead of you going to it.
- Do not force it out of its hiding area.
- Allow it to take a break and sleep off and generally acclimatise. Adult dogs need about 14 hours of sleep per day, while puppies need 18-20 hours of sleep each day.
- Ensure your dog or puppy is getting sufficient sleep. A lack of sleep increases stress hormones, and often manifests as behaviour problems such as aggression, reactivity, barking, whining, destructive chewing etc.
Step 7 – How to Calm a Dog: Always Keep Treats Handy
- Treats and positive reinforcement will help keep your dog confident. They also help build trust.
- Keep jars of treats around your home for easy access and when you go out with your dog, pack tasty treats in your training pouch.
- You can also place long-lasting chews or bones near their bed/crate, so your pet can chew them to release some of its tension.
- Snuffle mats, stuffed Kongs, food puzzles, interactive dog toys and raw meaty bones provide mental stimulation, reduce stress and increase a dog’s tolerance to frustration.
Step 8 – How to Calm a Dog: Keep Walks Short
- If you have recently adopted your resume dog – until your dog trusts you and has developed confidence, it may be best to limit the walks.
- If your dog is very nervous, you might want to restrict its daily walks to your garden/yard or any area without other dogs and people.
- While limiting your dog’s walks, ensure you provide them with mental and physical stimulation at home in the form of training sessions and enrichment activities.
- Some life skills to focus on in your training sessions include: loose leash walking, impulse control, confidence, optimism, focus, independence and tolerance to frustration.
- Developing your dog or puppy’s life skills is important for increasing their resilience and reducing stress. So, How to calm a dog; Increase your dog’s resilience and they will be able to calm down and remain calm in stressful situations.
Step 9 – How to Calm a Dog: Keep Up with Dog Training
- Continue with the house training and taking your dog on quiet walks.
- Reward calm, quiet behaviour with high-value rewards and treats.
- Once confident, you can progress to walking in the Dog Park and meeting new people.
- You can also socialise your dog to other experiences like other pets, car rides, loud noises, trips to the mall, etc.
- Ensure exposures to new things and environments are kept positive by packing your dog’s favourite treats in your training pouch.
- Start to build your dog’s independence by restricting their access to you around the house. Crate training and baby gates are helpful for maintaining some distance between you and your dog, whilst ensuring it remains a positive experience. Provide a long-lasting chew or stuffed Kong, to keep the dog occupied while you leave the room.
- This will help your dog get used to being left alone.
- Once you’re confident, you can progress to leaving them alone longer.
- Do not make a big deal out of leaving and coming back. Avoid petting your dog just before leaving and right after coming back. Wait till they are calm and settled before giving them attention.
- Do some chores, allow some time, and then reward and praise your pet for their calm behaviour.
Steps to Calm a Dog Down
First of all, it is important to differentiate between hyperactivity and the natural high energy that young dogs or puppies have. Very active dogs may just be expressing their happiness and suppressing it could do more harm than good.
Also, note that some rescued dogs tend to become very active and hyper after weeks of being suppressed in kennels at the shelter.
Some rescued dogs also tend to be boisterous and over-active during the settling-in phase, which is always a problem. Here are some steps to calm your hyper dog:
- Establish a healthy routine for physical exercise and mental activities like puzzles and treat dispensers.
- Avoid flooding your dog with stimuli, but if your dog can remain relatively calm on walks, make sure to include one-two walks a day.
- Ensure that your dog has plenty of treats, toys, and chews to mouth and release tension.
- Don’t hesitate to allow your dog to ‘run off’ its extra energy – let it out in the garden and have it run around like crazy for 5 minutes!
- Play with your dog; there is no better way to grow your relationship and increase their focus on you than to play. Fetch, scent games, tug, hide and seek etc are some fun games to play with your pup.
Step 2 – How to Calm a Dog: Mental Exercise
- Remember that mental exercise is as important as physical exercise.
- Begin conducting short and fun training sessions every day for 2-5 minutes each.
- Time your marker words (‘Yes!’) or click to match the exact moment your dog performs a behaviour you want to see more of.
- Use concise and clear cues or commands to tell your dog what you want them to do.
- This is a good time to introduce your dog to clicker training.
Step 3 – How to Calm a Dog: Only Use Positive Reinforcement
- Never use harsh methods when training calmness in dogs; punishment, scolding, shouting, hitting, etc have no place in calming a dog down. Instead, such dog training methods can increase your dog’s avoidance behaviour and negative emotions.
- Not punishing does not mean you’re a pushover; stay in control by directing and shaping your dog’s behaviour.
- Often our primary aim in behaviour modification is training calmness in dogs that are anxious or stressed – aversive training methods have been shown to increase aggression, stress and fear.
Step 4 – Give your dog a Job to Do or Distract it With a Toy/Treat
- Hyper dogs often get so excited that they tend to bark, jump up, and mouth your hand or other objects.
- When training calmness in dogs it can help to give your dog another toy or treat or distract it with a job to do.
- If your dog becomes easily fixated on stimuli in the environment, ensure you keep them calm during training by taking them to low-distraction environments. Start in your lounge room and progress to the backyard, then the front yard, oval etc. Gradually build up their training skills, and set them up for success.
Conclusion – How to Calm a Stressed, Anxious, or Hyper Dog
The best dog trainers will customise a dog training plan to guide you in managing a stressed or hyperactive rescue dog or puppy. Training solutions outlining how to calm a dog can be really helpful in reinforcing the important parts of the settling-in period and developing your dog’s life skills. Some dog breeds are particularly prone to hyperactivity and benefit from calmness training, including the Staffy, Bull terrier, Boxer, Dobermann, Groodles, Labradoodles, Bordoodles and German Shepherd.
While, breeds like the Cavoodle, Poodle, Chihuahua and French Bulldog can be quite anxious and also benefit from training that teaches them how to calm down and regulate their emotions. The training tips provided in this guide for reducing anxiety in dogs, apply in many contexts. Apply our calmness training protocol for reducing stress in the car, during fireworks, storms, around kids etc.