Recently I’ve been thinking about the difference between simply relaxing and actually shutting down your brain. This topic has been on my mind because of a conversation I had with a client about giving their dog some down time. This was especially necessary in this case because the dog was a service animal who has a very difficult working life and really needs down time. But all dogs can benefit from intentional relaxation.
Owners frequently say things like “Of course my dog has a lot of down time—he’s always sleeping in his bed or lying down on the floor to relax!” Of course lots of dogs do those kinds of things, either on their own or on command. Dogs will naturally lie down, take naps, and rest. That’s all well and good, but oftentimes the dog that’s lying down of his own volition isn’t really shutting down. At any given moment he might decide to get up and walk around, or grab a toy, or investigate what’s happening on the other side of the house. So while your dog might look like he’s taking a nap, is he actually shut down to the point where he is totally calm and relaxed?
This concept doesn't just apply to service dogs, but to working and family dogs as well. All dogs can benefit from the ability to fully shut down their minds. This is why I’m a huge fan of crate training, and use it even when I’m at home with my dogs. Let me explain why in a little more detail.
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