Stress and Calmness


If our dogs are to learn it is really important to have them calm. It is only when they are calm that they will be able to take in what we are asking them to do, whether it is in class, when they are at home or out on walks.


Stress, in the form of excitement, fear or anxiety e.g. strange places, people or dogs, pushes up the stress chemicals in the brain (this is true of dogs and people). If a dog experiences a mild stress the chemicals will go up and come down again without the dog being over stressed. If there are multiple events that all worry the dog (triggers) all happening at the same time the chemicals may rise to a place where the dog can’t cope. Alternatively if there are repeated stressful events, without time for the chemicals to drop, they can build up in the brain and quite a minor event on top can then put the dog into a panic. When the stress chemicals go too high and a dog can no longer properly control their own behaviour it is called going over threshold. This isn’t good for the dog experiencing the problem or those watching, who may themselves then become stressed.

Find out more:

Across a Threshold – Article by Mardi Richardson

Trigger Stacking & Stress Hormones – video by Donna Hill


Achieving Calmness

There are various ways of achieving calmness in your dog(s) depending on the circumstances

The simplest is ‘capturing’ calmness. This involves nothing more difficult than reinforcing your dog every time you see him resting peacefully.

Sounds simple? Yes it is, yet like with so many other things in life, it isn’t quite as easy as it seems. Years of being told to ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ makes it hard for some of us to disturb a dog at rest even to reinforce the behaviour! It can also be difficult to remember to reward a dog for being good, sadly, it is so much easier to respond to BAD behaviour.

To be effective you need to practice this a lot at home then take it ‘on the road’ with gradually increasing amounts of distraction.

The CHALLENGE is for your dog to achieve calmness in the hall with all the other dogs around him

An alternative approach:

(Note re the comment the end of this video – research has shown that petting doesn’t reinforce fear)


added 21.08.2017n


Useful related pages:

Training a Hyperactive Dog to Calm Down by Pat Miller


Desperately Seeking Snoozing: How to Help Your Dog Relax by Nan Arthur

Puppies Need an Off Switch! by Eileen Anderson

Relax on Mat PDF by Nan Arthur

added 07.04.2017

Stop Walking your Dog by Stacy Greer

added 21.04.2017

Relax on a Mat – a very comprehensive guide to teaching a dog to relax from ‘Whole Dog Training’

added 25.11.2017

Video – Thresholds, thresholds and doing nothing – Susan Clothier


… more to come …



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