Introducing Some Rules and Structure to Help an Excited Pup Calm Down

By: David Codr

Published Date: July 27, 2015

Chewie

Chewie is a nine-month-old male Lab / Border Collie mix adopted a few weeks ago from the Humane Society. Their guardian called me to stop his occasional nipping / mouthing when excited and some separation anxiety issues. He also had occasional issues going into his kennel.

In person Chewie is very Lab puppy. Bouncing around the room in a rambunctiously playful way; mouthing, jumping up, stealing things and showing off the seemingly unending supply of energy lab puppies have.

I started out by showing his new family how to disagree with unwanted behaviors, define their personal space, and communicate with body language, movement and posture. Because he is an energetic puppy, it will be important for the members of the family to guide the dog by correcting him with good timing when he gets out of line.

To help change Chewie’s perception of the kennel, I tossed in a high value meat treat while standing a few feet away. Fortunately the dog wasn’t strongly opposed to the kennel, trotting inside without any hesitation. After tossing in a few additional treats, I showed his guardians an exercise they can practice that will help the dog feel good about being in his kennel.

I tossed in another treat, then followed quietly behind him and stood in the doorway to the kennel blocking his exit with my legs. After Chewie turned around and saw me blocking him he paused for a moment. I took a deliberate step backwards then waited again so I could observe the dog. He started to move forward to exit so I took a step forward so that I was blocking the doorway again. Once he stopped and stood in place, I took another step backwards. I kept repeating this process until I was a few feet away.

The instant I saw Chewie start to move into a sitting position, I took a big step backwards at the same time. I did this to communicate that his sitting was something I appreciated. A minute later he laid down on his own. As soon as he did, I took a knee and gave him a recall command. Once he came over, I gave him a high value treat and started repeating the recall command word of “come.”

I had members of the family run through the exercise as well until they got the same results. When one of the preteen daughters ran through the exercise, Chewie laid down almost immediately.

Next I showed his guardians how to help keep Chewie from getting over excited. Dogs typically get in the most trouble when over stimulated so keeping he dog settled in the first place goes a long ways towards achieving the behavior and manners they wanted.

One of Chewie’s problems was his moving to the front. This position literally puts the dog in a leadership position and can easily give the dog the wrong impression. I showed the family a number of ways to help the dog learn to stay next to or behind them. The video below shows how we applied this technique at the front door to the home.

I had fitted the dog up with a Martingale collar and applied the special twist to the leash to stop his habit of pulling strongly on the leash. After we got outside I took the leash and demonstrated how to lead the dog, when and how to apply corrections and how to keep the dog’s attention.

Because we took our time when adding his leash and going through the front door to the home, his guardians mentioned that Chewie was much calmer than usual. By repeating he techniques we applied inside on a consistent basis, the dog will learn to adopt a calmer energy in the future when heading out on walks.

After walking the dog in front of the house to demonstrate the new leash rules and techniques, I had the father of the family take the dog. He needed to apply a few corrections, but within a dozen steps or so Chewie was walking beside him in a nice heel.

The mom took the leash next and had similar success. She was a little softer in her corrections and delivered them a tad late so she didn’t have as good a reaction as the dad, but it was still a marked improvement from all previous walks.

The family’s children were able to control him much better than before, although the youngest still struggled a bit. With practice, Chewie should start to get into the habit of heeling on his own.

By the end of the session, Chewie was noticeably calmer. Part of this was the mental challenges we threw at the dog. Analytical thinking and self restraint are not natural things for dogs so when you tap into them, they can be very draining.

But the benefits of teaching Chewie to self restrain will go a long ways towards eliminating his unwanted behaviors. Consistent corrections when Chewie breaks the rules or engages in unwanted behaviors will help redefine the leader follower dynamic in the house and increase the dog’s respect for his guardians.

This family really lucked out with Chewie. Such a great personality. He was just being very puppy and his guardians didnt have the right vocabulary to communicate what the wanted from him. Now that they know how to tell him what to do (and not do), it will simply be a matter of leading him to become the dog they want. With some time and patience, I am confident this family will end up with an amazing dog.

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