How to Introduce Rules That Stop Excitable Dogs From Losing Control

By: David Codr

Published Date: February 23, 2017

Jack and Cola - How to Introduce Rules That Stop Excitable Dogs From Losing Control

Jack is a one-year-old female Malamute who lives in Omaha with Cola, a six-year-old Chocolate Labrador Retriever. Their guardian set up a dog behavior training session to address a few dog problems; specifically not listening to their humans and Cola’s over excitement when going for a car ride.

I got a chance to see just how excited this pair of dogs got when I arrived for the session.

While its natural to want to grab your dog and pull it away or hold it back when guests arrive, it can actually intensify the dog’s reaction. Later in the session I showed the guardians how to train the dogs to stay behind an invisible boundary ten feet away from the front door when people arrive.

When I sat down with the guardians to discuss the dog’s problems, I noticed they invaded personal space very flagrantly when they wanted attention. While there is nothing wrong with petting a dog, letting a dog get literally in your face, then petting them only compounds this problem behavior.

I shared a number of dog training tips and dog behavior secrets with the guardians that will allow them to add structure to petting the dogs and petting them in a way that will reward desired behaviors instead of demands for attention.

I also went over some new ways to disagree when the dogs invaded their personal space or broke a rule or boundary. Once I finished, I had the guardians get up and leave the room for a second so that they could come back to the couch and put what we went over into use. Training dogs to respect personal space is easy, it just takes time, practice and consistency.

Because the humans were petting the dogs for so many unwanted behaviors, it had become second nature to them; something they do with out thinking. Its going to take time and a concerted effort to stop rewarding these unwanted behaviors. But based on how well the dogs responded, it shouldn’t take them long.

Now we were ready to address Cola’s over excited behavior to going for a ride in the car. I wanted to film this activity and Cola’s excitement levels before we went much further.

Cola’s guardians were already starting to see some improvements from his previous behavior when realizing he was going to go for a ride, but I knew we could do better.

We sat down and went over a new way to address this unwanted behavior. A very short explanation is to practice the activity at a time when you don’t actually need to go anywhere. This allows you to stop the instant the dog moves in front of the human or starts to get over excited.

We practiced this exercise multiple times, stopping the instant that the dog started to get excited or move in front of his guardian. It took about a half hour or starting and stopping, but eventually Cola was showing big improvements so we filmed the last practice run.

One thing I regret was to not have the guardian stop and praise Cola when he followed commands. Using positive reinforcement is a big part of this process as you want the dog to feel good about the activity and its actions.

However it is a bit of a fine line. Some people pet their dogs in an excited fashion and this can cause the dog to think the activity is over or the excitement causes them to loose control. So in the future the guardian should stop and pet / praise Cola for doing well at each step, just in a moderate fashion and stopping any time this causes Cola to get up or loose control.


  • Continue enforcing the rules already in place and look for additional rules and boundaries to help the dog practice recognizing and respecting boundaries.
  • Use the Escalating Consequences to disagree with unwanted actions or behaviors, preferably before the dog breaks the rules.
  • Stop petting the dogs on demand or when in an unbalanced state of mind.
  • Start petting the dogs with a purpose.
  • Use passive training to reward desired actions and behaviors.
  • Remember to pet or correct the dogs within 3 seconds to help the dogs better understand what is desired and unwanted.
  • Increase the dog’s daily exercise to help them behave better
  • Use the fetch to burn off excess energy throughout the day when the dogs get excited / unruly.
  • If walks are difficult, spend 10 minutes playing fetch with the dogs before a walk (give them a 10 minute recovery period before leaving for a walk).
  • Practice claiming personal space instead of letting the dogs run roughshod over the humans.
  • Practice the door answering exercise to train the dogs to stay calm and behind the humans when guest knock on the door.
  • Try to use a kissing sound to get the dogs to cross thresholds instead of commands that cause them to lurch forward.
  • Replace “OK” with a more distinctive command word.
  • Make a list of command words and stop using multiple English variants of the command words (use “come” instead of “come here,” “here boy,” “over here” etc).
  • Practice the recall exercise with Jack alone, first in a small circle, then gradually having the human more further away until Jack comes to whoever calls her no matter where they are.
  • Once Jack recalls consistently inside, then practice again outside in a small circle again.
  • Practice the leashing procedure multiple times a day, stopping any time Cola moves in front or gets over excited.
  • Practice getting into the car as shown in the video, stopping any time Cola moves in front or gets over excited.
  • Once Cola can get into the car and stay calm, then start driving in stages. At first just back up out of the garage. Then all the way to the street. Then a few houses down the block. The key is to stop the car and remain motionless the instant Cola starts to whine or cry. If Cola wont stop, then return to the home, get out of the car and wait for him to calm down completely before trying again.
  • Feed the dogs with structure, one dog at a time. Only give permission after a human eats first.
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This post was written by: David Codr

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