Teaching Your Dog to Relax

Almost Everyone Enjoys Massage!

So many dogs are constantly wound up!  It’s like the gas pedal is always pushed full to the floor, their energy never seems to decrease!

Sometimes we just want our dogs to relax, nap, and hang out with us.

But why can’t they?

Because a lot of time, they are left at home for hours on end; you may have been working for 8 hours, but your pup was probably sleeping!  When you come home your dog is ready and refreshed for an evening of play and fun with you.

However, you are sometimes tired and you don’t have the energy to devote to your canine companion.

When our dogs choose to be naughty when we get home (to at least have some kind of reaction or interaction from us) our anger only builds their reactivity and then inability to settle down and settle in!

We often, also, come home and get our dogs revved up and excited to see us!  They run around like chickens with their heads cut off while they greet us and we greet them.  They learn to get over excited when we come home and when they see us.

Dogs are easily conditioned and I believe they often mirror our behavior.  So for owners who come home clapping their hands and vigorously patting and petting their dogs; they are sometimes unknowingly conditioning wild and excited behavior.

Avoid Over Excitement with an Already Reactive Dog

Owners who come home and to some extent ignore their dog, teach their dog’s that it is not the act of “coming home” that is exciting it is being home and spending time together that they desire.  I believe that quality time should include exercise and excitement to some degree (depending on the reactivity level of your dog) but mostly your relationship should be built on calm and relaxing principles.

By reactivity level I mean the willingness to mirror your excitement, someone else’s excitement, or another dog’s excitement level.  My dogs for example are very reactive and therefore easily excitable.  I very rarely get them SUPER excited because then they become difficult to handle.  I do get mildly excited when they do something correct, but I keep my celebrations to a low roar; just enough to keep them motivated and let them know what I like.  If I jumped up and down and clapped my hands and ran around I might get a set of teeth on my tushy.

If, however, I had a very difficult to motivate, sleepy, Bassett Hound; I might have to get more excited and animated in order to teach him or play with him.  This kind of dog usually has a very low reactivity. And, some of these dogs don’t need to be taught relaxation strategies!

Most of us have dogs somewhere in between!

First recognize that dogs mirror your behavior.  Even if you are angry, you will probably be leading your dog down the road of more excitability and reactivity.  Always be calm when you deal with your dog, no matter how frustrating he is!

Belgian Malinois (my breed of choice right now) are known for being reactive and excitable and I use to take my guys to a well-known German Shepherd Schutzhund Club in my area.  At first everyone was quite leery and unhappy to see me arrive with my dogs because of stereotypes.  But I am such a calm and quiet person, they quickly realized my dogs mirrored my behavior and were also quite calm and manageable!

Relaxation and a calm response is something I teach my dogs at my house.  If you have not read; “Training for a Relaxed and Calm Dog” please do so as this basic technique of teaching your dog calm eye contact is one of the first steps in getting your dog to calm down.

I also believe in teaching your dog to relax with calm significant massage.

Eventually Massage in Different Places

What You Need

  • Your Dog
  • A Quiet Environment
  • Your Hands
  • Maybe a Leash (at first)

Calm means you are not going to try and attempt this in your living room with the kids flying in and out of the door.

It also means that you are going to do this at a time that is conducive to relaxation.  For example I would not do this right after you get home and your dog is happy to see you.  Let your dog go out and exercise a little first.  Feed him his dinner and wait until he begins to settle in a bit.

Recognize that your dog does actually need exercise and the ability to expend some of his energy.  No relaxation exercise is an excuse for real exercise, only a way to eventually teach your dog to relax on command and eventually in stressful situations.  Do not have unrealistic expectations; make sure your dog is getting what he needs!

Go to your bedroom, the bathroom, or anywhere that you can have some quiet time.  At first 2 to 5 minutes is going to seem like a long time, but eventually you want to extend the time you are utilizing canine massage.  This might seem odd to your dog at first, but he will learn to love it (however do not do this if your dog shows any signs of aggression or you do not know him well)!

Begin at one end of your dog.  At my house, it depends on what my dog wants.  I have one dog that automatically likes his rump rubbed and another who likes to put his head in my lap.  Beginning at one end, will help you slowly and meticulously work your way toward the other.

I gently rub in calm, slow, circular motions, using my palms and thumbs very tenderly.  Do not rub or massage quickly, quick strokes can cause excitement.

Massage soft tissue but do not involve joints or joint manipulation leave that to veterinary or massage experts so that you don't inadvertently injure your dog!

My dogs love having their ears and feet and everything in between massaged; however if I had a dog that didn’t like his feet touched, I would avoid his feet during this exercise because I am working toward relaxation not confrontation!

Again do not push a dog you do not know or one that is showing any signs of aggression.

At first you may need a leash to keep your dog in one basic spot, but soon he will learn how much fun this really is.  Sometimes I even put on some good, soothing tunes to enjoy together.

This may be a struggle at first.  If you have a one year old wild Lab, or Jack Russell, it may take time for him to learn to settle down and enjoy the massage.  Don’t give up, continue the massage and don’t allow yourself to become frustrated.  Your frustration will only ruin the mood and the whole relaxation exercise!

Once your dog has learned to relax with some consistency and is looking forward to your sessions, you may begin massaging him in more distracted environments.  He must be taught to calm himself no matter where he is or what is going on, but this takes time and diligence on your part.

There is a very well-known dog obedience class that takes severely dog aggressive dogs and teaches their owners about relaxation principles and massage.  Eventually the dogs are all brought into a room together, first partitioned so they cannot see one another during the massage and eventually these techniques help to calm them so that they can be controlled together.

These techniques can also be vital to fearful and even phobic dogs because it helps to break the cycle of fear and the dog can learn to calm himself on command when he feels secure.

Canine massage can be AMAZINGat teaching calming skills.  But like any type of training you must train (or massage) in more and more excitable


environments.  Eventually, wouldn’t it be nice to calm your dog at his vet visit with just a little massage work?  But first he must learn at home!

Other Benefits of Massage

  • It promotes healthy circulation
  • Immune System Support
  • Respiratory Support
  • Digestive Support
  • Calms nerves
  • Promotes a healthy coat by redistributing oils throughout the skin and coat

So grab your dog and head off to a quiet room so that you can keep your dog healthy, build a great bond and teach him to be calm and relax himself no matter where he is!

Start Calming Down Your Over Excited Dogs Today!

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  1. Carol Steyn says:

    Thanks very much for all the dog training information. It all really helps. I live in South Africa, therefore cannot attend personal classes. Also difficult to buy videos.

    Thank you!


    Ashley Freton Reply:

    I started this when my pug, Florette was little bitty. She just loves the “Mommy time”, and she is so wonderful with it. She prefers starting at her bottom, down to her back paws, up to her spine, all gentle circular movements, then between her shoulder blades, down to her front paws then up to her chest, and finishing up with little circles on her ears, head and lips. By then she usually asleep! Which is a good time to be able to look in her ears, her mouth/teeth/folds whatever. She feels completely relaxed and it really brings a sense of bonding. I also sing her “Twinkle, twinkle little star” while I do this. Sound ridiculous, but now when I do it at even the vet, she just flips over, bares the tummy, and relaxes. Very Pavlov.

    It works wonders. She is a pampered girl!


  2. I do massage my 9mnths old Adopt a Pet puppy mostly before bed time at night and he loves it.A problem that I have is that he has long legs and neck and he reaches onto the kitchen counter and steals whatever is in reach. He knows this is wrong because he does this when we are not in sight. What to do?
    Thanks for all the info regarding dogs-I really enjoy reading and learning


    Phil Reply:

    Re- “A problem that I have is that he has long legs and neck and he reaches onto the kitchen counter and steals whatever is in reach. He knows this is wrong because he does this when we are not in sight. What to do?…”

    Try ‘ambushing’ him with food doctored with a couple of drops of clove-oil. Just leave the doctored food where you know he can reach it and in time he will give up ‘counter grazing ‘coz every time he eats something off the counter it tastes horrible. Hope this helps.


  3. smita says:

    It was really very helpful in making my GSD who is always ready to go relax and take a rest.


  4. Sandra Mengel says:

    I use the afternoon time to massage my puppy, mini schnauzer, while both of us are sitting on the sofa. She gets so relaxed and after her massage we both just stretch out and take a nap together right there on the sofa. She loves it and I get a much needed nap too.


  5. Quinton says:

    Will definitely try this with my over excited one year old GSD


    Wendy Reply:

    Wish I’d had this information when I adopted my WILDLY over-active and more than a little bit loopy dog from a friend who’d exacerbated – and possibly even created – the situation by over-indulging her.

    It took almost two VERY difficult years before I could describe Sally as calm most of the time, and willing to accepot that I run this household, not her.

    Now she is almost 15 – not a bad age for a 31 kg dog – and is very happy indeed to relax….

    What a relief!


  6. Ella says:

    I do this sometimes when my shihtzu is scratching from her allergys. sometime works better than medication andpromotes good restful sleep before bedtime.


  7. Ken London says:

    My dog relaxes when I get her to roll onto her back, I think this is where I will have to start, the belly rub running into a Massage, I can see a problem coming but will try, she needs a massage !!


  8. nancy says:

    My 2 year old deaf pit can be very hyper and easily excited. I have taught her to “watch me” and sit using hand signals in an effort to help her focus. When I greet her I try to be low key. I rub her head very slowly and it seems to calm her. I would love to learn more about dog massage. Any formal training available ?


    Minette Reply:

    Absolutely! There are some veterinary schools that offer animal massage and I know of another in Boulder CO


  9. barb casppelletti says:

    my cock poo and especially my yellow lab LOVE this. My cocka poo is a puppy and is definitely hyper at times. I love your website. Thanks for all your wonderful suggestions.


  10. jennie draper says:

    Have 2 yorkies, and one of them, who is about 7 months old, still wets in house. He is a male. I need help training him. Would diaper pads be helpful to keep furniture safe? The other dog, 8 yrs old, loves to be rubbed and pampered.


    Neve Reply:

    The diaper pads will be great. I have a 6 month old westie and it worked wonders. Try training him by sticking him on a puppy mat, scolding when he does it in the house and praising when he does it where you want it. Hope it helps!


  11. Janet Brightman says:

    What if you have several dogs? Mom, Dad and 2 babies and want to keep them.


  12. sonia Woodall says:

    I have been doing this with my 10 month old Bichon Frise and it really makes her more docile!!!


  13. Marti says:

    I have been using this technique for awhile and it really does calm my Golden


  14. Lise says:

    Everynite…before bedtime..they get a full body massage. They are now coming to me for it….it is soo much part of their routine. Plus…at times I dont get there on time…they go to bed inside their crate without a word. They are truly amazing.

    Got to love those babies!!!


  15. Cheryl says:

    My dogs love this, However they ALL want it at the same time !!
    It is hard to “relax” when everyone is BARKING on the other side of the door.!
    They all get brushed daily too, and like that attention. Again they All try to but in !!


  16. Lisa says:

    I love your column. Thank you for sharing your knowledge of dog behavior and temperment and especially stating how dogs mirror thier owners. I only wish I had known of you 4 years ago when we first adopted our Husky/Border Collie mix. She is a very good dog now, but we continuously work on her training and your tips have really helped. She loves a good rump scratch and I can’t wait to see how well she will enjoy a nice massage!
    Thank you again and keep these wonderful columns coming. Bella and I are “eating” them up – LOL!


  17. ray kamer says:

    you have helped a lot with my 4 month german sheperd,potty trained in less than wk,boundry trained in house,will sit laydown speak shake doing real good need help boundry train out side or campground dont want stay in yard.


  18. Annette says:

    Haven’t got my puppy yet…beautiful blond Lab, but she will come to live with me in about 10 days.

    I have watched the videos and purchased your program and am excited about training Bella! She already seems to have a very calm demeanor and she was the one puppy (out of a litter of 10) that everyone wanted. I know she is going to be one beautiful and a well behaved companion

    Thank you for this training program!


  19. Kathleen says:

    Chet, I believe this will work and I will give it a good try. I have used the “Watch Me” command for several years. I have used it when on walks to get my dogs attention back on me rather than the distraction. It has helped. My dogs have been able to look at me and hold thier gaze for probably 15 to 20 seconds. I had never thought of it as a calming tool, just an attention director. The funny thing is that my dog that kind of freeks when he finds another dog has got to where he will look back and forth between me and the other dog expecting a treat. I have to make sure I don’t reward the wrong behavior, but in general this has been helpful in getting my dog away from a possible voilitale situation. I will have to add the massage, I don’t expect any trouble, is is usally calm until there is another unknown dog. I usually rub him anyway when I need to relax, so this should work, I just need to find a way to get it to work around other dogs. I would like to use him as a service dog, but can’t because of his reaction to strange dogs. If there are no other dogs around he is obeident and wonderful. We have made progress, but it has taken years. I’ve had him with personal trainers, and in puppy day care, he still is crazy with an unknown dog. To start with he just wants to meet the other dog, rather abruply not just sniffing. If I hold him back then he gets anxious as becomes some what aggressive. If I place a dog I want him to meet in my 4ft. X 4ft. pen and let him just run in (unrestrained) and show who’s boss, removing him if he shows any agression, then I am able within 5 to 10 minutes to have the two dogs together. I’ve don this many times, but no other attempts have worked. He is a 90lb. Golden Retreiver – Rottwiler mix who seems to scare people (with other dogs) without trying.


  20. kay says:

    I’ve been doing this with my lab for years and am glad to see you think it’s beneficial as well. After laying down on hard wood floors,kitchen tile, or concrete patios; he loves to have the backside of his front legs rubbed. I start with him laying on his back or side and begin from his arm pit with tiny circling motions using my fingers and thumb. Then I work down towards the elbow and underside of his arm where most of his weight lays on hard surfaces. He loves it! I also slightly pull his leg out straight (from the arm pits) and give a gentle stretch, then release and go back to massaging his arms again.


  21. Mel says:

    Thanks for such a useful article. I’m sending it to all my dog owner friends.


  22. Audrey says:

    I also have two Yorkies( 8 & 6, they always want to be on my lap becaucs I massage them every day and they love it.


  23. Laurie B Franklin says:

    Every night after dinner while watching Jeopardy as soon as our 9 year old L A sees me sit on the sofa she immediately climbs up and settles down for her evening massage. She has arthritis in her hips and shoulders so I do rub them gently and she loves it. I know the feeling. When she’s had enough she jumps down. Then our 2 year old Shih Tzu jumps up and rolls over on her back for her belly rub.


  24. Craig Scott says:

    Very, well said..


  25. Kathie Davis says:

    Thank you so much for offering the tips you do. They have helped me so much. I can read the short articles you publish here, but I have a time sitting down and reading the book. But, thanks again for your giving heart to offer these tips, when you have a book for sale.


  26. Nancy says:

    As a massage therapist and practitioner of Eastern Medicine and shiatsu, I have always massaged all my pets. It not only calms them down but keeps them healthy. It is a welcome part of our daily routine!

    Thanks for introducing this concept to others!


  27. Dave says:

    Thank you very much for your emails. We find them extremely helpful for our LasaPooh and Golden Ret. They love and ask for a massage daily. I am sorry it is impossible for us to purchase your program since we have not faired well in the economy and are loosing our home. As soon as we get turned around we will be signing up.
    Thanks again.


  28. Anja says:

    Thank you for this wonderful idea. I’m going to try it on my pit/lab mix 11month old puppy. He gets over stimulated before our training class and ends up tired during class and over stimulated at the end.


  29. Gwen says:

    I need a corollary post! My dog is really laid back, almost lazy. For example, she gets bored on walks or hikes long before I do. When I try to get her “pumped”, though, it is too much for her, and she seemed confused and somewhat scared by my excited behavior. Really good treats work, and a car ride gets her excited. She is not into object play, like tug or fetch, so that’s out as a reinforcer. Any ideas?


    Minette Reply:

    Use the tugs and toys and teach her some drive work! I love working my dogs with their play/prey drives!


  30. Kay says:

    I’ve been wanting a way to calm down my chihuahua mix rescued puppy. He is afraid of EVERYTHING, so I think this will be a great answer to his and my problems. Many thanks.


  31. erling larson says:

    5 mos. ago we became Foster Parents to a 4 yr. old Grey hound who competed in class A. Her last 8 races were miserable and we feel she was abused at that time. She cowers when anyone approaches. She seems devoted to my wife and me but on 12 occasions has attempted to bite neighbors,friends and in-laws when they approach her. She has seen some of these people on multiple occasions. With the 6 day training technique she has become partially house broken. Is it safe or even sensible to try and keep this dog which we have learned to love very much ?
    Thank you


    Minette Reply:

    As my mother always says “That is a life choice, and I can’t give you advice on a “life” choice”. I can tell you t hat a dog that has attempted to bite is always a liability and a concern and will be lots of work. But, if you love her and want to invest the time and keep her and other people safe, that is up to you!


  32. Bette Perry says:

    Please show me how to train my Charlie to go in the garage to potty. He does his potty in the house but not all the time.

    Charlie was a rescue dog.He is very good other wise.We need help.

    Best Regards’
    Bette Perry


  33. JACKY says:



  34. Dee says:

    My dogs already respond well to this. It occured without any thought about trying to achieve a relaxed state in my dog. It began as one or the other sitting close to me on the couch became the receipient of tender touch while I was relaxing and reading. It developed into an out and out massage because they relaxed and rested so well. It has become our pre bed routine for about a year now. I will work to help them reach that state when the activity increase like when our grandsons are here(ages 4, 5, 6 and 7.


  35. Valerie Robbins-Rice says:

    Thank you for your helpful tips. Although I have taken my other dogs to OTC of Harrisburg, PA, and they were great…the “Doggies” have now passed on and we have a new puppy (one year old, rescue doggie) and your tips are good reminders and some of the points are new! Many thanks again.


  36. Ann Morgan says:

    I started massaging my 5 month old pup today, and I truly believe that he will catch-on in no time. He went to sleep right after the massage !

    He is rather hyper most of the time ( especially when I get company ). so I am really hoping this will help. You are so right, about how they mirror their owners, and believe me, it took me awhile to realize this.

    I would so love to read their minds, I think we would all be pleasantly
    surprised, not to mentioned dum-founded.

    Thank you so much for your knowledge.




    Minette Reply:

    And, sometimes overwhelmed. I have one dog that I bet would never stop talking hahaha


  37. Nancy says:

    I have a boxer that is about 80lbs, He is always wanting to jump, I got him from my neighbor cause he had no place to keep him, He has always been on a chain because he is not really people friendly nor dog friendly. I have tried to walk him several times and he ends up pulling me, I have trouble with my arms and shoulders and cannot stand to be pulled, so i just leave him tied up, I play with him and love on him and do the massage on him, but i really want to walk him and show him off to everybody, How can I make him behave while we are walking, I know I will have to put a muzzle on him for the first few times cause i really don’t trust him around people nor another dog, Can you help me,


    Minette Reply:

    I would use a gentle leader http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/utilize-gentle-leader-similar-head-halters-dog-training/

    This will help keep him from pulling and allow you to better control his face but, yes, safety first by not allowing anyone to get hurt!


  38. Evelyn says:

    Thanks for all the great tips, Chet. I have been massaging my dogs each evening for a half an hour before they go to bed. It really relaxes them and I usually only have to let them out for a final potty break when I go to bed.
    They come back in and run to their kennels for the night. Don’t hear a peep out of them until 5:30 AM. I get up and let them out and they return to bed for a couple of more hous of sleep.


  39. pip says:

    my 4 month old border collie pup has suddenly started to chase cars!
    we have been training him to sit off the road with the sound of a vehicle approaching, all was going well until today when he waited for the car to pass and then shot off after the car, thankfully he ran out of puff and came back, later we were in a field and a car went past and off he started, i called his name and come which he did, but can not trust him to be off lead now.
    what should i do?


    Minette Reply:

    I agree no more off leash and you will need to slowly desensitize and work on car and other prey issues. And, read this!



  40. Marje Cartwright says:

    I really appreciate your tips. I have a therapy dog, an Australian Shepherd, who goes to librarys and the young children read to her. She is great with the reading and with the children. However, the activities director at a point in the class., starts singing and clappng her hands. this gets The dog, Posie all excited. She will bow to the children but is still quit excited. Is there a way that a special reminder of a home massage could help? How would I impliment that?

    Thanks again


    Minette Reply:

    You can gently massage her ears if she will let you, in a circular motion.

    But, I would also teach her at home that singing and hand clapping is “normal” and no reason to get excited. So, you must sing and clap regularly and teach her to stay or keep a relaxed position!


  41. gabi says:

    i got i puppy for my birthday
    and i love it 11100000000000000000 times


  42. Naomi says:

    I think it’s a great way to calm a dog, or indeed any animal !
    I even tried it on one of my many cats and she LOVED it!


  43. Suzie says:

    I love your ideas/suggestions. My 3 yr. old lasapooh is a very cuddly and loving dog. She is smarter than any dog I’ve had. She loves her massage and will sit on my lap whenever she wants more. She was outside a couple of years ago on the 4th of July when the neighbor shot off some very loud displays. To this day, she is afraid of the garbage truck and school bus as well as any vehicle that makes noise. She will not go outside in the dark alone. I feel so sad for her. If I come home while some workers are in the neighborhood, I find her shaking and under the table. How can I help her???


  44. Michael Citty says:


    I have been reading your posts on how we, as dog owners, can be a more responisble pet owner.

    Have just recently rescued two pups who were abonded on the highway and had been fending for themselves for a week or so. They are terribly shy and scared and will not let me pet them. Although just a few days with me feeding them a regular meal they are getting somewhat better.

    I would like to purchase your series on how to raise a dog properly as I want to do what is right for these little creatures.

    Please let me know where I can order your series.

    Thank you,

    Mike Citty


  45. Lea says:

    We have an adorable rescue dog (beagle/bassett/coonhound…)who is as lovable as can be, and as wild as a march hare! I think the massage techniques will be great and going to start tonight. My main concern with him right now is that he is always whining. Started out he only whined if he needed to go out, now it’s ongoing. He gets exercise and lots of attention, so not sure what’s the cause or what to do about it. Any ideas???


    Minette Reply:

    Some dogs are just whiners, they can get comfort from whining.

    Try not to reward it, like letting him out or giving him what he wants. Instead try leaving the room or putting him somewhere else when he whines.

    He will learn that whining = something he doesn’t like.


  46. Ken says:

    My dog is a kind of Terrier…mix breed…he is too naughty for me to handle…I saw its info on another website…it says its obedient…but my dog is completely different…he gets over excited sometimes and bites everything it sees…what shud I do?


  47. I have a 2 years old, 120 pounds male doberman . he is a gentle giant love everybody and gets along well with others dogs. he has had obedience and does pretty well. My only issue is when someone comes by with a skate board, bicycle or little scooter he becomes very agitated and will growl and nip the person if close enough. what can I do to stop this behavior. thank you


  48. Margo says:

    I have a 9 month Rotwieller/Cane Corso cross and is he a busy busy boy. I started massaging him when he was a baby and am I glad I did. He is already 130lbs and excitable. He will start to relax for me but my poor daughter gets the treatment when she comes hone from work.
    I will continue to work on him as you reccomend but he is really pigheaded about the jumping thing. He loves her but hurts.


    Minette Reply:

    Put a leash on him prior to your daughter coming home and don’t allow it! Teach him to sit or lay down for greeting instead.


    Margo Reply:

    Thank you. Will try your recommendations. I’m also making arrangements for him to join. The Sweaty Dog Club where he is gone for 2 hours a day on a walk with several other dogs
    Hopefully that will help with stretching out his muscles and brain do he will be amenable to better listening skills.


  49. Melissa says:

    Yes this is a wonderful idea to massage your dogs! I’m a licensed massage therapist and every time I go to a clients house to do a massage their cats and dogs come to me to get rubbed on. It’s like they know I do massage for their owner so why not the pets lol ! Animals love massages just like humans do! ❤


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