How to Teach Your Dog to Relax

Sep 22, 2022

One of the most used skills I implement every single day with my dogs is the “relax” cue. If you are anything like me you have other things on your daily schedule and all your dog wants to do all day is distract you.

From sitting at my desk, being on the phone, or cooking dinner, my dog is right by my side trying to get in on the action. When I just need some space or I need my dog to get out of the way so that I can move more freely I use the “relax” behavior to get them to go lay down.

This was first taught to me by another trainer who ended up teaching her dog to do it because he was over the moon excited all of the time. He was especially excited when seeing another person. She didn’t want to use the standard down since that meant something else to the dog so she came up with slightly different behavior for her dog to do and a new word.


The difference between down and relax

The “down” behavior is an actional behavior that puts your dog into a prone position on the floor, primed and ready for the next behavior. There are hundreds of ways to teach the dog but the general rule is that you guide the dog into the position and reward them for being in that position over time. After multiple repetitions, they will stay for a fixed duration or until you release them with a release word or another requested behavior.

The “relax” behavior is a modification of the “down” in which it starts with the simple down but you ask for a slightly more relaxed demeanor. Many dogs will tuck their back legs when in the “down” position in order to be ready to get up. The only difference you have to make for the “relax’ is to have your dog roll their hip to one side so it can start to settle into that position. That is the only difference other than the duration of the behavior.


Teaching your dog to relax on cue

With your dog in the down position, you can either guide their hip with your hand, use a treat to lure them to the opposite side (thus pushing their hip over and into the relaxed position), or wait for them to roll their hip over on their own. Either way will work as long as you are consistent and reward them heavily for performing. All of this must be done before adding in the cue word “relax”.


Adding in the cue “Relax”

Now that your dog knows what you want them to do, ask for the behavior right before guiding them into the position. The timing is important to help them make an association between the word and the action. Say the cue first (once) and then guide them into the position. Once they have completed the behavior you can reward and repeat it.


Prepping for real life

There are many variables to cover when it comes to implementing this skill into your daily life and that is why I created the Daily Life Skills Course to guide you through everything you need to know in order to have a successful “relaxed” behavior and reliable way to guide your dog. With explanations of exercises, demonstrations, quizzes, and a workbook, you have everything you need to train your dog exactly how you want to. Click this link to get started with the Daily Life Skills Course.


Stay strong and train on,
Michael J. Accetta




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