Smart Dogs Fake Relaxation

faking relaxation dogs

It may or may not come as a surprise to learn that dogs will try to fake relaxation – especially those who know how to manipulate their behavior to get rewards (dogs who love clicker training). My dog happens to be wicked smart. I jokingly call him my “socially awkward nerd.” He is reactive on leash and nervous about all social interactions, but he so, so smart – it’s freaking ridiculous and never ceases to amaze me!

Recently, we’ve been working hard on relaxation. We walk slowly through the house so he doesn’t get amped up (he goes from 0-60 in about 1 second). We have him wait for his food. We give him just enough exercise to wear him out (yes, you can give a dog too much exercise). The most important exercise we’ve been working on is relax on a mat.

The beginning was tough because he thought it was just another marker training session. He’d flip his hips around expecting me to reward him for “relaxing” his backend. If you want to see the whole process of how we started the exercise, click here. He’d huff, stretch, and do other behaviors that would usually lead to a relaxed posture, but he was working instead of relaxing – he was “faking” relaxation.

Thankfully, I’m pretty darn stubborn and waited him out. When he gave up, I’d drop some pieces of kibble. He’d get excited again and repeat the whole fake relaxation process until he gave up again which I would then reward. It took a good 2 weeks of practicing at least every other day to make a little progress – he is a very tense and nervous dog.

So, let’s test your observation skills! Below you see three pictures of my dog, Loker. Can you tell in which ones he is relaxed and which ones he is tense?



faking relaxation dogs


faking relaxation dogs2


faking relaxation dogs3

To the untrained eye, he looks pretty relaxed in all three pictures. However, if you look closely at picture B, you see that his eye are wide open, his ears are perked, and his shoulder muscles are tense. Practicing your observation skills is important to be a great dog trainer, I hope you enjoyed this exercise! Do you have a dog that can fake relaxation? I  want to hear about it! Comment below! :)