Do you ever wonder how to get your busy, energetic, or overstimulated dog to chill out? Busy dogs demand attention and I have found that the key to getting your dog to do what you want (i.e.: calm down and take a nap) is to provide him with what he needs (i.e.: run, play, tug, run some more!), plus a way to get from intense activity to zen dog. Hence, the Funnel of Activity.
I learned this from Dr. Meghan Herron, veterinary animal behaviorist at The Ohio State University. Like a funnel, which goes from wide to narrow, you need to go from big to small activity with your dog. Start with providing your miscreant with big, aerobic, fun activity to get his energy expended, then move to less active behavior that provides mental stimulation (such as working on a new trick like shake! or spin!, or give Fido an intelligence toy), to a deep tissue massage and end with a tasty stuffed Kong to get your dog ready for some quiet time. Whether you have 20 minutes or 60, the basic formula is the same:*
1) First 1/2 of your time: aerobic activity such as frenetic ball chasing
2) Second 1/2 of your time is divided into thirds (1/6 of total time):
1/3 = mental stimulation (do some training) or an intelligence toy followed by;
1/3 = slow, deep massage ending with;
1/3 = quiet time with stuffed Kong
I have used this formula with my dogs as well as with the dogs I used to sit for and have found it to be a great way to teach dogs how to settle, because you are providing them what they need both physically and mentally. I have encapsulated this process of turning chaos into calm in my handy Funnel of Activity chart:**
*Feel free to experiment with the formula so that it better serves your dog’s needs. For example, after running around outside, my grand-dog Tex, needs indoor activity before he can begin to settle. Therefore, after vigorous play he gets an intelligence toy, such as a Buster Cube or a Kibble Nibble, that he rolls all around the house as a 10+ minute cool down. A massage follows, and then he is content to gnaw his antler chew or work on a tasty Kong.
**Many thanks to Blake Kishler, my ever patient and faithful graphic artist for his help with making the Funnel of Activity chart. http://www.blakekishler.com
Since doing this post, we have also done a podcast (episode 43) on this topic. See: The Funnel of Activity