I live in a loud house. I’ve been working from home for the past 6 years, with some form of noise or another: a musical toy, a crying baby, a dancing child or a chatty husband. I’ve developed an uncanny ability to tune it all out and focus on work. Thankfully my dogs know how to settle quietly in their beds near my desk when I work. If you find yourself trying to work in the midst of noise and chaos, this article can at least help with the canine contribution to the commotion.
First, we have to make sure our dogs are adequately exercised before expecting them to be calm and quiet. Aim for a 15 minute session of hard aerobic exercise: Fetch or recall practice will get your dog running.
Next, train a solid Go To Mat (and stay there) behavior. Here’s How:
Choose a towel or bathmat to serve as your dog’s “mat”. This should be something that only comes out when you want your dog to stay on it. It is different than the dog bed that is out all the time.
Stand about 3 feet away from whatever you have chosen as your mat. Toss a treat onto the mat as soon as your dog steps on the mat, click (or say “Yes”) and drop a treat on the mat. Continue to click and drop a treat on the mat for several seconds
Encourage your dog off the mat with some body language and use the word “release”, but do not give treats for leaving the mat. All the Good Stuff comes for staying on the mat!
Repeat the above steps several times. You might even notice that your dog sits or lays down on his own, that’s good!
After you have released your dog from the mat, pause a moment and see if your dog will now wander towards the mat on his own without you tossing a treat on it first. Click and treat any contact with the mat. Release him and repeat several times.
Now that your dog is consistently going over to the mat, request that he lay Down on it (if he is not doing so already). Click and treat when he lays down. Continue to give clicks and treats for lying on the mat so that you build some duration in to his ability to stay in the mat. Release, and repeat this a number of times. You can sit in a chair next to your dog while he is on the mat. When we are calm and still, it can help our dogs be calm also.
Work on gradually extending the time your dog can stay on the mat before you release him. Remember to use a clear word like “Release” to let him know he can get up now. Remember, no treats for getting off the mat – all the Good Stuff comes for staying on the mat!
Now, name the behavior. Say “Go to your Mat”. Your dog will wander over, lay down and stay there until he hears his release word. Click and treat him for remaining on the mat! And don’t forget to “Release”.
Now it’s time to try this in “real life.” Next time you need to get some work done, place the mat next to your desk and cue him to “Go to the mat”.
Keep a dish of treats on the desk with you. Periodically drop a treat onto the mat for your dog to encourage him to stay there. Or, you could give him a frozen Kong or chew treat like a bully stick, something that will take a long time to finish. Many dogs will eventually just fall asleep on their mats, especially after being properly exercised and having a good chew.
If your dog constantly gets up you can clip his leash to his harness and tie it to the leg of your desk. You may also have to go back to building more duration into your practice sessions.
While the rest of the household might be a swirling sea of noise while we try to work, at least our dogs can be calm and quiet. My 6 yr old daughter has been singing and dancing (loudly) the entire time I’ve been writing this, but my dog has been sleeping quietly next to my desk. Thank goodness for quiet dogs.