What The Evil Russian Taught Me About Dog Relaxation

On a beautiful spring morning a few years back I found myself sitting in a small classroom listening to “The Evil Russian,” Pavel Tsatsouline discuss flexibility training.

There were about 25 people in the room and they were all there to learn techniques that Pavel used to train the elite Russian Special Forces Unit, SPETSNAZ. Everyone listened intently as Pavel shared his secrets with us, but one person, me, was really amazed at how some of what he said applied to dog training.

special forces in snow
“SPETSNAZ” Image: Joint-Forces

What Makes The Difference?

Have you ever wondered, as I have, what makes such a dramatic difference in the way a dog behaves? It isn’t always the person training the dog. It isn’t that one person wants a well behaved dog and the other doesn’t.

The difference lies in how well the person understands a few basic techniques about training dogs.

It’s important for us to understand that we do NOT want to reinforce the behaviors that we don’t like. One of the biggest problems for about 90% of dog owners is jumping and unruly behavior.

We need to make sure that we are not unintentionally reinforcing the unruly behavior. When a friend comes over, and your dog starts to jump, the typical scenario goes something like this. Your friend trying to push your dog down or petting your dog, while you are trying to pull your dog back and yelling: “down,” “get down.”

This all reinforces the unruly behavior. Unintentional, but still reinforcing.

What I Learnt From The Evil Russian

“The Evil Russian” Image: Strong First

During the seminar that I attended, Pavel made a comment that applies to all of this. As he was discussing stretching he used the term:

Forced relaxation

He added that only the Russians can come up with a term like “Forced relaxation.”

It struck me because that is exactly what we need to do when we are dealing with a young dog that likes to jump and become unruly. We need to force them to relax.

The easiest way to do this is with a leash on your dog. Do this before you let your friend in the house. You then step on the leash to prevent your dog from jumping.

dog resting
Image: Paw Fusion | Openverse

With all your weight on the leash, you force your dog to relax before your friend approaches and gives your dog any attention. Your dog only gets your friend’s attention when she relaxes.

If your dog is too strong for you, find a place in your house where you can secure the leash to something sturdy. This way your dog is out of the area where he can jump and get unintentional reinforcement.

Forced relaxation is a great way to teach calm behavior. The calmer the dog, the easier and more enjoyable it is to be around your dog. Your friends will like you and your dog much better when they come over to your house and your dog does not jump all over them.

It’s hard to believe, but not everyone is a dog lover like you and me.

Eric Letendre
Eric Letendre

Eric Letendre is author of the book "The Amazing Dog Training Man." With a deep understanding of dog behavior and a commitment to promoting responsible pet ownership, the author shares insightful tips and engaging stories to enrich the lives of both dogs and their owners.