My son’s dog, a beautiful two year old German Shepherd, is great in so many ways except for one habit/compulsion: she constantly wants to play ball. Even after a two-mile run she can’t just sit down and relax. We love her and want the best for her, but she is relentless with this habit to a point people get really annoyed. Please give us some advice on how to calm her. She is such a great dog but needs some guidance.
– Meg, Port Jefferson, New York
Ironically, the qualities that exhaust you are the exact qualities the government looks for in bomb-sniffing dogs. These dogs are trained with toys. When they detect a “scent” in training, they get the toy back for a minute to play. So, as you can imagine, bomb-sniffing dogs are highly-motivated to pick up “the scent,” so they can get their toys back.
Exercising the dog is a good start, but some dogs need training to relax. Put all her toys away, so she knows playtime is over, and begin training her to “stay” (preferably on a dog bed or small blanket) for a minute or two before giving her a treat. Have your son build on this “stay” time over the next few weeks, rewarding her with treats every time she shows relaxation poses, like laying her head down or rolling her hips to the side.
To get her to stay longer, give her a Kong toy filled with frozen peanut butter that she can work on for a while. If this gets her too excited, stick with the treats. Your son’s initial goal should be 10-minutes rest, eventually leading up to a 30-minute “stay.” Always follow-up playtime with a “rest period” and she will eventually learn to settle down on her own.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, children’s author, syndicated pet columnist, and pet expert with more than 30 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal