Helping a Australian Shepherd Calm Down to Regain Control

By: David Codr

Published Date: December 23, 2014


This is Maizey, a six month old Australian Shepherd in Omaha. Her owner called me for help with a number of issues; jumping up, chewing, stealing, begging, not recalling on command, ignoring commands and a lot of overexcitement.

When I first met her I fell in love with her energy. She has a nice playful way about her that can be endearing. Im fairly certain that this quality actually impacted her behavior issues as I noticed her owners were inadvertently agreeing with a number of her unwanted behaviors. Whenever she jumped up on her owner, he reacted by petting her after he manually put her feet down on the floor.

I prefer to get a dog to move rather than moving them manually so I showed him how to use non verbal communication to get Maizey to give him a bubble of personal space. I also suggested that he start to only pet a dog when it engages in an activity or behavior that he wants. This is a simple form of positive reinforcement that will help the dog act assume the follower position.

A few minutes after I started the session, Maizey was still over excited; pacing back and forth, jumping up and not listening to her owners corrections. To help her settle down I placed her on the leash and stood on it a foot away from her head. She pulled against the leash for a moment, then sat down. A minute later she laid down and was far less excited. After another minute, I slowly took my foot off of the leash so that she wouldn’t notice. Maizey layed there for another minute or two before she got up and walked away completely calm. I suggested that they repeat this dog-time out any time she got over excited or refused to listen to a command or correction.

Because Maizey had chewed some inappropriate things, including a hole in the carpet and drywall, her owner and I discussed her daily life and it quickly became obvious that she was not getting a sufficient amount of exercise. Most puppies need 30-45 minute walks each day and a higher energy dog even more than that. If you don’t give the dog an outlet for all that energy, it can get released in all sorts of unwanted places. I suggested that they include a daily 45 minute walk and also look into agility training. Australian Shepherds are working dogs and sometimes the best way to fix a working dog problem is to give them a job.

Next I went over a way to use positive reinforcement to reinforce her recall on command. I showed them how to use hand movements to get the dog to recall and finish in a respectful sitting position in front of the person who called her. After a few reps, she clearly had it so we increased the distance and practiced recalling from beyond the line of sight.

To help reinforce the leader follower dynamic further, I showed them an exercise that will help her practice following commands and corrections, increase her focus and learn to better restrain herself.

Practicing these simple exercises daily for the next week or two will increase Maizey’s respect for her owners. This will cause Maizey to respond quicker and more constantly to their commands and corrections for the rest of her life.

Maizey is an intelligent dog who will need to be stimulated mentally as well as physically to stay out of trouble. By the end of the session she was completely calm and responded to every command and correction right away. Now that her owner’s know how to calm her down and communicate what they want, it shouldn’t take long for her unwanted behaviors to be a distant memory.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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