Why do you need to teach your dog to calm down?

Calming down is an essential skill in everyday life as well as in dog sports. For many dogs, it is truly difficult not to do

anything at all. But, also not doing anything specific is a task in itself, we just have to teach it to the dog. To achieve

an emotionally calm dog can take a while, depending on the dog of course. But when you have the patience to teach

this essential skill to your dog, you can start to incorporate the same behavior when, for example, waiting for your

turn to run agility or when you are at home.


Accessories and how to start

You want to start by doing these exercises at home where there are as little distractions as possible. When your dog

has learned the skill, you can start generalizing the behavior in different environments with more distractions. To

teach your dog to calm down, you are going to need a mat or a blanket. If you want to, you could also use a dog bed.

You also need a clicker or any other conditioned reinforcer to mark the behavior you want your dog to perform.


What is a conditioned reinforcer?

A conditioned reinforcer is a sound that is a promise for the dog that a reward is on its way. If you do not have a

conditioned reinforcer from before, follow the instructions below to introduce one for your dog.

- When your dog is by your side and pays attention, produce the desired sound (if you are using a clicker, click it) and

reward your dog immediately after he hears the sound.

- In the next step, your dog should be further away from you when you use the desired conditioned reinforcer. When

your dog hears the sound, he should come towards you to get his reward. If your dog reacts to the sound it indicates

he is conditioned to it and you can start your training.


Good reminders before beginning

- You are not supposed to lure your dog when doing these exercises. He is supposed to offer to go to the mat by

himself, thus making the behavior stronger.

- The reward should be delivered calmly so that it supports what you are trying to teach your dog.

- Your dog should be successful at least 80% of the time before you raise the criterion. If you, for example, do 10

repetitions, at least eight should be successful to get an 80% rate of success.

- Your dog does not have to lower his head to the ground like the dog in the videos. It is the emotional state that





For this course, you are going to need a clicker. A clicker is a small case that has a metal tongue inside. When pushing the button that is located on the outside of the case, the metal tongue inside creates a clicking sound. There are different kinds of clickers, so look for one that is easy for you to use. You should also be able to use the clicker fast. The idea of the clicker is to more accurately mark the correct behavior that the dog offers. This way we can more precisely tell the dog what he did right and what we are rewarding him for. The clicker is a huge asset for the trainer as well, as it makes it easier to reward for a more specific behavior – making the training a lot more effective. If for some reason you do not want to or cannot use a clicker, you can always use a ballpoint pen. When pushing the
top of the pen it creates a clicking sound. A ballpoint pen is also an option for dogs that are sensitive to sound and reacts to the sound of the clicker.

At this point, you might be wondering why you need to acquire a separate device to create a sound. Why not simply use your tongue to make a clicking noise? The answer is simple – it is a lot faster to use a real clicker. If you have been doing a lot of different exercises for a long time and your timing when training your dog is super precise, you could use another sound as a marker. A marker could be making the clicking sound with your tongue or a fast word like "yes". These sounds should, however, be conditioned to the reward, just like a clicker.



There is also a video about conditioning the clicker where you can see how it is done. You are going to start by conditioning your dog to the meaning of the sound. At this point, your dog does not yet understand what the clicking sound means. By conditioning, we are teaching him that the sound equals that a reward is coming his way.

Start by sorting your treats in five piles, with 10 treats in each pile. The treats are divided into these piles because you need to give your dog a break between each pile. The break is a couple of minutes and during this break, you are not going to ask your dog for anything – just let him be. If your dog during this break comes and asks for your attention, do not even look at him. This way the dog learns to do his things and the break becomes a break, which is a really important part of learning.

Now you have the piles ready and know what they are for. Let's begin our training. Give your dog a treat and at the precise moment, the dog's lips touch the treat, push the button on the clicker once. At this point, you are not going to give the dog any cues at all. The dog does not have to do anything but to wait for the next reward and click. There is not even a difference in what position the dog is when he gets his treats.

The only goal of conditioning is, that every time the dog hears the click, he gets a reward. Do this 10 times – take a break – 10 times – break – and so on, until all five piles are gone.