Friday, October 28, 2016

Easy Exercise for Calming Your Hyperexcited Dog

For many of our dog training clients, taking their dog out for a walk is a stressful and hectic task. I see them pick up the leash and usually say something like” Fido, do you want to go outside? Let's go for a WALK!” Their dog spins around in circles and excitedly jumps around and crowds toward the front door. The dog is so hyper that the owner has to fight to get the leash clipped to the collar. Then the dog owner will swing the front door open and the dog will run out, dragging the owner behind him. 

If your dog is acting in a similar manner when you try to put on the leash and take him outside, he has learned to be excited every time the leash gets put on, or the door is opened. Most of the time the excitement is increased by the owner talking in a happy voice about how fun it will be to go for a walk.

Similarly, I see many dogs get excited when they see their special toy, or even when the owner goes out through the door without them. In each instance, the dog associates hyper excitement with the item or task. I have even seen dogs that show this hyper excitement during feeding time or when given a treat.

Become aware of your verbal cues

To curb any hyper excitement, first, review your own behavior during these times. Are you increasing the excitement of the activity by speaking in a happy, excited voice? Many dog owners will communicate joyful events to their dogs in this way. What they do not realize is, the dog will pick up on their happy excited energy, and will respond in a hyper excited way of his own.

If your dog is very excited, jumping and running around, try holding back on your verbal cues all together. Animals don't actually need the verbal communication, they mostly communicate via body language. So try to say nothing at all.

Recondition your dog's behavior

Over time, your dog has learned to associate the act of you picking up the leash, or another item, or activity, with getting into an excited state of being. Dogs are conditioned over time by repeated behavior. To curb the hyper excited state of mind, you need to re-condition the dog's mind to associate calmness with the particular task or item.

Here is a simple exercise you can do a few times a day to recondition your dog and curb the excited behavior. The exercise is very short, and after reading through it, you can see it will not be hard to do.
Plan to do this when you are not going out for your walk, if the leash is the cause of the excitement.

Calm your excited dog exercise

For my description I will use the leash as the item of excitement, as this is a fairly common issue with our clients. You can substitute based on your particular situation.

Pick up the leash, or the item that creates the excitement. Fido may get super excited just by you holding the leash. Ignore the dog completely and walk around the house, with the leash or item in hand. The dog will follow you around, jump or bark; simply ignore him. Put the leash down in a few different places. It is important that you act calmly and don't speak to the dog. Say nothing, ignore Fido. Simply pick up the leash, walk a few feet and put it down someplace. Repeat several times until Fido looses interest and stops running around. Do this for a few days in a row.

After a few days, pick up the leash, walk around and then squat down without saying anything. If the dog comes over quietly, put on the leash. If he acts excited and jumps around, do not put on the leash, simply get back up and hold the leash. Continue with this until he is calm and no longer shows signs of excitement around the item. Once he is calmly waiting, put on the leash. Stand up straight and don't move, just stand there with Fido on the leash and wait. He should be calmly standing or sitting. If he is jumping around, trying to drag you toward the door, don't do anything. Simply stand still. The idea is to get him to calm down and not feed him more excitement by adding movement or words. Do the entire exercise without a spoken word.

Modified Exercise

You can modify the exercise for other items. Let's say getting out a bag of dog treats from your pantry is causing the dog to act over excited.

Take out the dog treats several times per day, hold the bag and do not give the dog a treat. Simply hold the bag and then put it down in another area. After a few moments, go back and take the bag and hold it again. Each time, totally ignore the dog. Treat the bag as though it has nothing to do with your dog. Eventually the dog will lose interest and go do something other than excitedly hop around. Now go to the bag, pick it up and stand in front of the dog. Take out a treat. Wait until your dog calms down, and then reward him with a treat.

Never reward the excited state of mind

Never reward your dog when he is in a hyper excited state. Don't pet him to calm him down. Petting or giving treats is positive reinforcement. You are rewarding your dog for whatever he is doing at the time. So if you pet or treat him while he is excited, he learns that he is getting a reward, whenever he is excited.

Each dog is different, so the time needed to recondition may vary on your particular situation. Remember to show the dog calm behavior, by being calm yourself. Don't talk, communicate with your body language.

Thank you for stopping by my blog. I hope the information provided is helpful to you. I would love to hear from you and have you share your experience with the exercise. Please comment on the blog below. Until next time – Keep your Paws on the Road!


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