Working on developing calm
Working on developing calm Edited by Veterinary Surgeon and Animal Behaviourist Dr. Katia Galbiati, who uses an animal-human relationship based approach . She is also a lecturer, educator and SIUA dog trainer, and works with animal-human relationship based teaching methods.
Among the primary needs of both man and dog, safety, calm and rest are important elements needed to ensure the psychological and physical wellbeing of an individual. This can be achieved by the correct use of the ‘safety blanket’, i.e. the rest place we provide for our dog.
Greyhounds and galgos who come from situations which have no consideration for their behavioural, psychological or physical needs, appreciate a comfortable blanket right from the start, placed in a quiet part of the house, separate but not isolated from the rest of their new social group. We need to start creating a calm environment in this place right away, i.e. a state of wellbeing specifically associated with the blanket and the emotional state of the dog. Encouraging a state of peace and calm doesn’t just mean avoiding excitement, which could cause restlessness and extremes of behaviour, but also avoiding apathy, which if it turns into boredom could lead to destructive and compulsive behaviour. If the blanket is experienced as a place of real peace and calm, our dog will always feel safe wherever the blanket goes, whether in the car, at the restaurant, or at a friend’s home.
How do we create this state of wellbeing? This happens by linking the blanket to positive emotions: praising him when he explores it on his own, or leaving, unseen, tasty reward treats to be discovered during his explorations, or by offering him chews or bones to nibble at over time, while lying comfortably on his blanket. When he is in his safe place, he should not be disturbed, not even for a cuddle. If we wish to interact with our dog , we should just call him over to us, so as not to invade his private space. He will only accept his blanket/cushion as a place of calm and safety if we put it in the right place.
So what are the ground rules we should follow to ensure this?
The right place for the dog’s cushion should be: – not in a passing place – not near an entrance or an exit – separate but not isolated – safe – with a steady and appropriate room temperature – peaceful and quiet at all times of day It should neither be in an isolated place, nor by an entrance or a passing place. Furthermore, the blanket area (i.e. the dog’s cushion) must be respected by all the members of the family, in the same way that they respect their own bed and moments of rest and relaxation. This means that when the dog is on his cushion no-one should disturb or excite him, not even to cuddle or stroke him. This should be strictly adhered to in all the early stages of settling in to the new home. Moreover, we should not use the blanket for other purposes, like cleaning or drying the dog or for treatments, or as a place for hiding treats, or where we send him when we tell him off, etc. As well as the place, the fabric of the blanket itself can also play a fundamental role. We should observe our dog’s tastes, and choose a kind of fabric that doesn’t resemble that of the toys he normally plays with.
What mistakes should we avoid?
Putting the blanket/cushion near the main entrance could make our dog feel responsible about greeting or rejecting anyone entering the house, which would not help him to relax.
Equally, placing it in a passing place wouldn’t allow him to relax either, because he would always be paying attention to not being trodden on. In the same way, a noisy or particularly chilly or damp place would not be conducive to relaxation either.
Don’t let your dog choose the sofa as his own place of calm, as his own bed. If necessary , you could put some chairs on the sofa, to prevent him from climbing onto it.