Max was returned home to his people on Sunday afternoon, and the work I did with him while he guested with us showed in his behavior. The house was filled with people – many of them, children – food was everywhere, and the excitement level was very high. It was a tremendous amount of stimulation for him to deal with… and he handled it all like a seasoned pro.
The people, including the children, were his greatest challenges, as his tendency is to jump and beg for affection. To help him control his impulses, I put him on my hands-free leash and used my body to give a slight correction when he tried to jump. After the first few corrections, Max did an awesome job of keeping his feet on the floor; in fact, several times, he actually went into a sit position without being asked.
Once we were settled and we had a chance to visit with people, I started helping Max associate his bed with safety, security, and calmness. He figured out fairly quickly that when he was feeling overwhelmed, he could go to his bed to decompress and he wouldn’t be bothered. Everyone, including the children, did a fantastic job of respecting his space and giving him time to calm himself.
It was a very busy, very eventful day for little Max, and he worked extremely hard at practicing what he had been taught during his short time with us. Everyone was very proud of him, and several people commented that they couldn’t get over how well-behaved he was, saying he was “a different dog” from the jumping, attention-seeking, food-stealing dog they were accustomed to. Max was a very happy boy, too; his body language clearly showed his relief at not only having a safe zone [his bed] to go to, but also, knowing he could trust his people to recognize and read his signals correctly and then back him up by asking the other people to let him be.
Creating a safe zone for your dog is very important to their health and well-being. If you don’t have a quiet room they can go to, you can create a safe space by placing their bed in an out-of-the-way spot, where they can watch all the activity going on without having to participate in it. And when you support that by asking people to let him/her alone for awhile, you build and strengthen the trust bond between you.
Have a great day, and remember to stay calm and lead on.