January 19, 2010

How did I miss this?

Apparently the alpha roll is now the zen down [pdf: see page 6].
[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.


Jess said...

That's funny, at our house we call that "Puppy Torture," for learning to accept general handling and to teach an out of control pup to calm itself. "Zen down" is a bit new agey for me, though, I like Puppy Torture better.

Smart Dogs said...

We call it "Sit on the Dog" and do it in, IMO, a more zen-like manner.

Get a chair with no arms or open arms.
Have dog on leash and slip-proof collar.
Sit on chair with leash under your butt.
Give dog just enough slack to lie down.
Ignore dog.
Read book, surf net or otherwise occupy yourself for a minimum of 30 minutes. You need to stay in place, ignoring the dog until he chooses to lie down, relaxes, and stays in a reclining, relaxed position for a minimum of ten minutes. If this requires a couple of hours of sitting - you need to stick it out until you achieve the goal or you're just teaching the dog to persevere in his protestations.

The goal is the Sit on the Dog exercise isn't to teach a dog to accept handling - but to teach him how to relax. I start all my puppy and beginning classes with a shortened version of it (owners practice long version daily at home) and by week three we start class with a calm, quiet group of dogs.

It's a great exercise for adrenaline junkie dogs, though sometimes one needs the patience of Job to get them to a relaxed state in the first few sessions.

Heather Houlahan said...

Yesh, yesh -- alpha roll = bad, zen down = kindly, in exactly the same way that Cesar Millan is a dog beater and that dominatrix who runs around yelling at people and dogs is "scientific."