I have mentioned Kullakuu many times on my social media channels lately and have shown how I take calm breaks with my dog Luna in different places and situations. Some people have written about this with wonder and asked how it can be achieved. I acquired this simple skill and knowledge when Turid Rugaas was my mentor for a few months. At the time, I had a client whose dog absolutely could not calm down outside the home. Fortunately, Turid had a good lesson to take from his pocket, and to be completely honest, I had already taught it to my dog without knowing it and without a clear goal. Another confirmation that often the simplest solutions are the ones that work best.
There is nothing too difficult about teaching yourself to be calm. The reason why this can be very difficult for some dogs at first is because they are simply not used to taking such rest breaks. If for them all adventures and walks have been such that there is constant movement, suddenly expecting them to be able to calmly observe the surroundings and stay still is not realistic for all dogs.
Why is this skill important?
For me, the main value is that it teaches the dog to really calm down and gives him the tool to take a breather and calm down even after a slightly more stressful situation. This is an important skill, especially if your dog is more sensitive to the environment. Taking such calm breaks gives him the opportunity to observe the situation from a distance and get used to the fact that in the meantime there are sounds and movement around and this is completely normal and does not require a reaction. If your dog is afraid of people or other dogs, taking breaks like this is also a good tool to give your dog a chance to observe the situation in a safe way without him feeling like he has to run away or react out of fear.
Meanwhile, it also happens that you meet an old acquaintance on a walk and you want to exchange a few words with him. When I see such situations from the sidelines, I quite often notice how the dogs are very restless at that time and do not understand at all why such standing and talking happens. In such moments, it is very good if your dog is used to calm breaks and knows how to behave.
How to teach a dog to be calm?
It is important to understand that if your dog cannot calm down the first few times, this is completely normal and understandable, and there is no need to worry. Some dogs need a little more time to get used to because it's a new behavior for them, and as with anything new with training and teaching, you need to pace and understand the dog. And again - give it time.
- It is important that you choose a suitable environment for being calm. It could be a quiet and peaceful place with not too much going on. As with all new training, we begin training in an environment where the dog can focus. From there, you can move step by step to slightly more difficult environments, but always keep in mind to listen to your dog and act in such a way that you do not in any way exceed his tolerance limit.
- Try to find a place where you can sit yourself. If there are no park benches nearby, it is also perfectly okay to bring your own camping chair or find a stump to sit on. If this option is not available, you can also sit on the ground, although a slightly higher seat is always preferable. Keep the leash tight, but not tight. Try not to move it. The walking leash could be coiled up a little more by this point and approximately so that your dog has somewhere around 1.5m of room to move without having to move the leash and add length.
- Leave your dog alone, do not talk to him or give him any commands. Try to be calm yourself and also think that your body language is also calm. Do not talk on the phone or do anything extraneous during this time, but rather take time to observe your dog and the environment around you. See what your dog is watching and where his focus goes.
- Wait until your dog finally calms down. This may take several minutes. If you see that your dog is anxious and disturbed, think about whether the environment is still suitable for training or if you should take a few steps back and start from an even calmer place. Being calm doesn't mean your dog has to sit or lie down. He can also stand at first. It is important that he observes his surroundings calmly, without tugging on the leash. Watch his body language. After practicing calm sessions several times, his behavior becomes more and more calm.
- When you have been calm for a few minutes so that the dog is also calm, you can end the session. In the beginning, it is not good to practice too long, and after each positive session you can add a little more time next time. Make sure that after the calm session you are also calm and don't get up and start running immediately. Leaving a calm session could also be at a calm pace, characteristic of the session.
You can practice this with your dog even every day. A good skill that can be used in many situations. Good practice!