[Y]our dog should learn to calm down when you instruct him to. To do this, we help the dog physically to move into a comfortable, resting position – even though at first, most dogs have no intention of doing so.
First, have your dog lie down. If he responds to a “down” cue, that’s great. If you need to kneel down beside him, and help him down, using pressure on his shoulders or gently lifting his legs out from under him, that’s okay too. At any rate, once he’s down, you should be kneeling beside him. Now, gently roll him onto his side – it’s often helpful to press him back into your body, but it’s not necessary. When he’s on his side, place one of your hands on his shoulder, the other on his rump, and apply just enough pressure to keep him down. When you feel his muscles relax, you can release him quietly. At first, he may only lie on his side for a second or so – or he may fight it intensely. Stick with it, and he’ll learn to relax all the way, and probably enjoy it.
You can use this exercise whenever you wish, but it’s especially handy if your dog has become aroused by the sight of another dog, a cat or a “scary” person.
No Marin jokes, please.
[H/T: Lenajo at the Border Collie Boards, who wrote that the zen down was "promoted in detail" at the APDT's Portland conference in 2007. Bad me for being so out of the loop.]
Photo: Sleepy Puppy, by basykes on Flickr.