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Acting Jolly: A Dog Handling Technique for Stressed Pet Parents

Updated: Jul 14, 2023

Dogs, our beloved furry friends, are known for their exceptional ability to read and react to human emotions. Their social intelligence and empathetic tendencies make them more than just pets; they are our confidantes, our companions, our family. When dealing with a tense or stressful situation involving our dogs, it's crucial to remember that they can quickly pick up on our own anxiety. Enter the Jolly Routine—a powerful yet simple

technique coined by behaviorist William Campbell. Understanding the Jolly Routine At its core, the Jolly Routine encourages dog handlers to display an air of carefree joy, even in situations that may be stressful or intense. This means acting as if everything is perfectly fine, even when it's not. This might include sweet-talking your dog, moving with ease, and maintaining a relaxed demeanor, even when the situation might naturally provoke stress.

The key here is understanding that dogs are intuitive social learners. They often take their emotional cues from their trusted human companions. Thus, if you act as if everything is okay, your dog will start to believe that everything is indeed okay. It might sound easy, but in practice, the Jolly Routine can be challenging, especially when you, as the pet guardian, are feeling stressed or anxious. It requires a conscious effort to put on a happy, relaxed facade when all is not going according to plan.

Implementing the Jolly Routine The goal of the Jolly Routine is to distract your dog from feelings of tension or fear. When you sense your dog getting anxious—perhaps at the sight of another dog while out on a walk—start by relaxing your body and muscles.

The next step is to project an air of lightheartedness towards the source of your dog's distress. This could be through singing, whistling, and running or skipping away in the opposite direction from the scary thing. Talk to your dog in a high-pitched, friendly tone. The key is to appear as relaxed and carefree as possible, to help your dog feel the same.

The goal of the Jolly Routine is not to calm your dog down, but to show them that there's nothing to be afraid of. You are sort of changing the subject from something that may be scary to your dog to “Hey! My person is being really silly right now and it looks like fun!” So, by acting jolly, you create a positive, safe atmosphere that can help alleviate their fear.

Many people balk at doing the Jolly Routine because they worry about what their neighbors might think. I tell them to advocate for your dog and don’t worry about what other people think! Your dog’s emotional well-being is more important. This takes practice. You want to practice this in your home, in the back yard and on walks when there is no dog or trigger around. You don’t want the Jolly Routine to be the predictor of the trigger! Conclusion So, there you have it, the Jolly Routine. It may take some practice, but you can do it. Remember, it's all about creating a positive, safe environment for your dog. It might seem silly at times, but if it can help your dog feel less anxious, then it's definitely worth trying. As with any dog training technique, it's important to stay patient and consistent. Your dog trusts you, and your positivity can truly make a difference in their emotional well-being. Next time you find yourself in a stressful situation with your dog, remember to keep it jolly!

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