How Do You Calm a Puppy?

I wish I knew the answer to this question. I’m sure part of the answer is, “If you wanted a calm dog, why did you get a puppy?”

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Well, I know that puppies are puppies. They are wonderful, furry, energetic little bundles of energy that eat and drink and grow and give enormous pleasure to their people.

Of course, we’re talking about Callie here. And I know that the number one way to calm a dog is to make sure it gets plenty of exercise — which Callie does. She goes for a three-mile walk almost every morning. And I try to play soccer with her a few times a week. She’s improved since this video was taken, but it gives you the idea.

Callie, at nine months, isn’t going to be the same mellow dog that Jamie was when she was ten years old. But every month, she get a little calmer, a little more relaxed. Instead of bouncing off six walls at a time, she only bounces off of four walls. And she does have moments of extreme mellowness — especially when she lies down with her “stinky” — her little, stuffed puppy security object.

This usually happens later in the evening, when Callie is starting to think about going to bed. At some point in the evening, Callie does calm down if she has one of her favorite toys to nibble on. I’m trying to make sure he has a good toy when the time comes to settle down.

So I don’t have any delusions that this energetic and wonderful puppy is going to become “an old mellow dog” any time soon. I’m just wondering if there are some things I can do to help her calm down a little more at times.

I have a lot to learn about this, so I’ve been doing a little research, and it turns out there are some things you can do to help a dog calm down.

Here’s an interesting article on wikihow.com titled “How to Calm Down a Playful Large Dog.” Callie’s not a large dog yet, but if it works for a large dog, maybe it will work for a middle-sized one. This article describes a four-step process consisting of energetic play, stopping the play, kneeling close to your dog and making body contact to soothe it, and eventually getting your dog to lie all the way down, quietly. OK. That sounds like it’s worth a try.

And then here’s an article, from k9magazinefree.com, that describes a type of massage for dogs called T-touch. You massage the dog’s skin in slow circular movements from head to tail. This also sounds like it’s worth a try.

Finally, you can’t search the Internet for information about dog calming without running across the work of Turid Rugaas, a Norwegian author, who has done a lot of research on the signals that dogs send each other. She believes that dogs, when they lived in packs, had a lot of signals for maintaining the peace within the pack. This includes signals for calming each other down, avoiding aggression, etc. Here, from diamondsintheruff.com, is a good description of her work. This is something I want to learn more about, so I promise to read some of her books and review them here.

More recently, Turid Rugaas has been experimenting with whether or not humans can use the same signals to communicate with dogs. More to come, here, I guess. But one of the most interesting possibilities, which we can all try, is yawning.

Yawning?

Yep. Actually, since I first read about this, I’ve tried to pay attention to Callie’s yawning. It turns out that dogs, in their pack environment, use yawning as a way to reduce stress and calm each other. So when your dog yawns, there a good chance it’s feeling some stress.

This morning, Barbara was working with Callie on one of her puppy kindergarten exercises (“sit/stay”). Callie was doing a good job, but right in the middle of the drill, she yawned a big yawn. This doesn’t mean she was bored; it means she was feeling some stress.

Anyway, one theory is that you can help your dog calm down, or reduce stress, by yawning.

A little game of soccer, followed by calm body contact, a little T-touch massage, lots of yawning, and I should be ready for a good night’s sleep. I hope it works for Callie, too!