Chin Rest: A Useful Behavior for Lowering Arousal

Chin rests are useful for so many things! It's one of my favorite behaviors to teach. I use chin rests for obedience behaviors, such as teaching a close front and getting a quiet hold, but it's also useful for cooperative care, consent, and start button behaviors. In addition, chin rests help the dog be still, so it's helpful to settle the dog and lower arousal.

Teaching the Chin Rest

If you have a nose touch, you can start with that. Do a couple of nose touches and slowly start moving your hand so the dog is touching more with his/her mouth. Eventually, your hand will flatten out and the dog's chin will hit your hand.

You see how I start with the nose but then flip my hand around and work on moving it lower so the dog's chin starts hitting my hand.

Here is the process I use to shape a chin rest. This is Rise's very first session with it. See how I just start with a target behavior?

Session two looked pretty similar. Here's session 3. I'm getting more of a chin target.

I was also working on the behavior shake during this time, so sometimes Rise offers his paw. I simply move my hand away and try again.

In this video, I'm adding the verbal cue and working a bit of duration.

Adding Duration

Once the dog is targeting with his/her chin, you can add duration just like you did with the nose touch. Withhold the click and click the second time the dog puts his/her chin in your hand. Try to click the harder ones. Eventually, you can start to add milliseconds of duration. Remember to ping-pong the duration to make it harder than easier for the dog. Be very still when you click, then move your hand to reward. Here is Excel and I working on some duration. You can see that I'm also adding the distraction of the treats being held fairly close to my hand.

Baby Rise is starting to learn some duration, too! Here he's showing off his chin rest behavior!

Once the dog has some duration, the chin rest is a great behavior to reduce arousal. When I see Excel spinning up and getting too overwhelmed, I will cue a chin and he'll settle down and become more thoughtful. Regarding FOMO, an important consideration is the dog's arousal level. We need to have ways to bring the dog down to a place where they can think. The chin rest is one behavior that can do this nicely, and it's easy to implement in various situations.

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