Preparing for Your Group Class

I recently asked my audience what they’d like to learn more about. One of the responses I got was something I see very often on the internet: “How do I get my dog to calm down during our group class when I’m listening to the instructor?” The person who asked the question did not understand why her dog was fine in many other situations, but in class her dog would not relax.

Many people have issues with their dog in class when they are not actively working with their dog and listening to instructions. First off, I want to say that it is confusing to your dog to be interacting with him then suddenly ignore him to listen to instructions. He doesn’t know whether he should relax or keep working for you. Your dog should learn to go from a high level of attention, during training, to relaxation, while the handler listens to the instructor.

What I would recommend is to teach your dog to “relax on a mat” before you attend your first group training session. This is a simple exercise that will give your dog a little more guidance as to what he/she should do while you are paying attention to the instructor in class.

Here is a video on teaching your dog to value the mat and then relax on the mat.

Generalize it: Practice this exercise in different areas in your home. Practice this exercise standing, sitting, and walking around. Practice this exercise on the porch, backyard, front yard, and at the local park. Once your dog has mastered this exercise in all those areas, you two will be ready for group class! Whenever you need to stop and listen to your instructor, ask your dog to lie down on his mat and relax. This will give him clear instruction on what you want from him and he will know to take a break.

This exercise is useful in so many ways. I am currently teaching my dog to go to a mat when there is someone at the door (instead of letting him running around and barking). Does your dog already know this? When do you ask your dog to “relax on a mat”?

Here is my latest video on teaching your dog to go to a mat.