black Labrador

Creating a calm dog

Do you have an excited or a calm dog

Sometimes when working on a 121-behavioural consultation, the owner will try to justify the overexcited barking and leaping about as the dog just being excited.

What I see however, is so far removed from a calm dog it has become unbalanced unhealthy within its own mind.Often this behaviour is linked with other behaviours that the owners have allowed their dog to practice.

Overexcitement in dogs is a widespread problem, with anxiety, fear or insecurity issues being linked.

We may think they are having fun and enjoying themselves but this isn’t true.

Dogs that are exhibiting signs of, over panting, spinning and pacing or toy obsession are in a high state of arousal

Behavioural problems can manifest into excessive barking, pulling on the leash, nipping and biting, jumping on people even aggressive reactions toward other dogs.

We see these types of dogs every day, yapping and barking for the ball, lunging and pulling on the lead often displaying excited barking when wanting to play with other dogs. Continued exposure to this kind of excitement without correction will overstimulate the dog.

Excitable energy feeds the dog with nervous energy whereas calm builds confidence. Focus on the walk will be lost, behaviour within the home becomes out of control as the excitable energy acts as the catalyst to an unpredictable and unbalanced behaviour.

The sad thing is that with the increase in excited ‘activity based training’, trainers are unintentionally encouraging this behaviour. Some trainers don’t even recognise the behavioural problem that is being created either!

German shepherded laying down

The only true way to help with over excited energy, is to limit play or activities that can cause excitement and instead, encourage and reward a calm dog. One thing to remember is that it is important to reward calm not excitement.

Ignoring the dog’s excitement as a behavioural correction is referred to as “extinction”, by many behaviourists. But we must be careful not to act like the excited behaviour is funny or acceptable or we will simply encourage this self-rewarding behaviour.The dog needs an appropriate response to help calm him and this may mean changing the lead, walking to the heel which any good behaviourist or trainer can teach.

Two simple but affective techniques that will aid most owners are;

  1. Crate training.
  2. Place Training

Allowing any dog to continue in this adrenaline induce state is detrimental to the animal’s health and could cause other conditions. Crate training provides a safe environment that your dog can relax in. By returning your dog to the crate thus allowing them to come out once calmed. You are conditioning a behavioural response that supports your dogs need in a calm state of mind.

In the same way, place training can create an area where your dog can go and relax However, this may take longer to achieve successfully than crate training as there is no physical restriction. You may have to repeat the action of placing the dog in the area and reward as needed.

It may take time and effort in gaining the right combination or corrections and rewards but it is worth it in the end.

At the end of the day it could help prolong your dog’s life!