Chris Shaughness

author, speaker, animal lover

Obedience,  All Articles

Time Outs and Down-Stays

Some younger dogs simply cannot control themselves. They jump and nip at us, and incessantly pester their canine brothers and sisters to play. Or some dogs like to steal objects and run from you when you try to get the objects from them. It becomes a game and the dogs can be relentless. Being only human, we have a tendency to lose our patience with such behaviors and are tempted to scold the dog. “No!” comes out a lot and even if the dog knows the “Leave it!” command, that can be used so much that it becomes ineffective and frustrating. What’s the solution for these kinds of ‘hyper’ dogs?

Dogs are in this state from an excess of adrenaline, and if we allow the adrenaline to continue rushing through the dog, the more out of control the dog’s behavior becomes. And scolding with a raised voice makes it even worse. Of course, so does the infamously inappropriate ‘alpha roll.’ The better solution is to bring the dog’s adrenaline down through calm and gentle means. If your dog is crate trained, a 5-10 minute time out in the crate is recommended. However, it’s really important that the dog does not perceive this as punishment. Remember that the crate should always be a safe place for your dog, not a torture chamber. If you use the crate for a time out, simply lead your dog to the crate without scolding and close the door. Ignore the dog, even if he cries and barks to get out. The idea is to give the dog time to relax. If your dog does not use a crate but instead, you barricade him in a room, that’s fine too. The idea is to remove your dog from the stimulating situation and people.

Another great way to ensure your dog remains relaxed is to practice down-stays several times a day. When your dog is calm, have him lie down and stay. Work up to a 5-10 minute down-stay. After a walk when your dog is tired may be a good time to do this. Other times to practice may be while the family is eating or watching TV. Of course, it’s best not to frustrate yourself by trying this when your dog is acting crazy! If your dog becomes accustomed to relaxing in this down-stay position, it will make it easier for him to control his impulses when you need him to be calm.


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