Active Rest5 minute read
Active Rest is the most important technique you can use to help your pup manage his emotional state.
Sometimes the world can be overwhelming for us humans, let alone for our dogs. Sometimes, the best way to deal with that might be to temporarily remove ourselves from the situation.
That's what active rest does. It removes your pup from the situation that was producing (or was about to produce) an undesirable behavior. That behavior could be an overstimulated puppy biting your legs or an adult puppy with a case of the zoomies crashing around the house.
What is Active Rest?
Active Rest is giving your pup an opportunity to relax in a place where he really doesn't have to make any of his own decisions.
In practice, this might be sending your pup to his crate and closing the door or asking him to lie down at your feet and not move.
Active rest may seem like a timeout, and in a way it is, but the goal is not to punish your pup. Instead, the goal is to give your pup a chance to calm down.
You do this by creating a safe place where he can't make any wrong decisions. Giving your pup a break from his responsibilities is what allows him to rest. Rest leads to a calmer emotional state, and a calmer emotional state allows him to make good decisions again (Hey! Just like us humans!).
In some extreme instances, a simple 15-minute active rest can mean the difference between a normal day and a traumatic day where your frustrated pup acts out by biting someone.
Create a Boundary or a "Gated Community"
A boundary or a "gated community" is a place where your pup can only make good decisions. It's what we sometimes refer to as managing your pup's environment.
There are lots of ways to create a boundary. Here are some of the most common.
Assuming you've taught your pup to love the crate, this one is easy. Pup goes into the crate, maybe you give him a long chew toy to pass the time, you shut the door and, abracadabra, your pup has a place where he doesn't have to make any decisions and can come out when he's feeling more chill.
A place is anything you taught your pup to go to on command, like a dog bed or a platform. As long as your pup is really good at staying in his place until released, this can be a great boundary for some active rest. If your pup struggles with the staying part, you might want to choose something with a door and some walls, like a crate.
If you trust your pup won't damage anything, sometimes just corralling him in another room away from the activity of the house can serve as a good boundary. A dog that is used to sleeping in your bedroom might find that being shut in there is a great place for some active rest.
A Strong Stay
Dogs who have learned a very strong stay behavior can be given a boundary just by being given a stay cue. Use your judgment though. If you know your pup struggles to stay in the environment you've put him in, it's unlikely he'll get the "decision-free" rest that you're trying to give him, even if he doesn't actually move.
Wait for Calmness
Naturally, you might be wondering how long your pup needs to stay in his active rest boundary. The answer is "it depends," but you'll know your pup has had enough active rest when your pup is calm again.
A calm pup usually isn't barking or being very vocal. A calm pup is happy to perform a sit or a down or any behavior you ask if he knows the behavior and you ask nicely. A calm pup moves confidently but isn't usually running. A calm pup has all of his paws on the ground and isn't jumping on anyone or any thing.
Your pup might calm down after 5 minutes, or it may take 50 minutes, or even longer. It's important to not get tricked by a pup that's learned to act calm. Just because a pup is being quiet and lying still doesn't mean he's really feeling calm. If you're unsure, a fast wagging tail is often a dead giveaway. Also, it's okay to take your pup out and test his calmness. If he immediately gets excited again, it's okay to send him back for some more active rest.
When to Use Active Rest
Here are some common situations when you might give your pup some active rest:
- When you need a break. Maybe your pup's behavior isn't that inappropriate, but that's only because you're constantly monitoring it. Whether you need a break from making sure your puppy doesn't chew on the couch or your adult dog doesn't take some food off the counter, it's okay to give your pup some active rest so you can get some rest too. This is sometimes the only way to stay sane.
- When your pup gets the zoomies
- When you have people over and your dog is loudly barking at or jumping on all of them
- When your pup is barking at something outside
- When you're trying to cook and your pup keeps begging at the counter in the kitchen
- When your pup begs at the dinner table
- Anytime your pup is too aroused to listen to any of your cues