Helping Rowdy Learn to Settle Down and Play Nice Inside

By: David Codr

Published Date: September 3, 2014

RoudyThis happy dog is Rowdy. He is a four-year-old American Bulldog / Lab mix who used to be an outdoor-only dog. His family had run into a few behavioral issues now that he has been moved inside.

When I arrived for the session, Rowdy was outside in the backyard and started barking as soon as I knocked on the front door.

When his family let him inside, I could instantly see he had a very high energy level. I have found most dogs that develop behavioral problems do so for one of three reasons: too much uncontrolled energy, owners that don’t know how to communicate with the dog in a way it understands and dogs that don’t fully respect the authority of their owners. In a Rowdy’s case, all three of these factors had come into play.

As we were sitting in the living room discussing the situation, Rowdy repeatedly violated the personal space of the families pregnant mother. She informed me that this was pretty normal behavior and was certainly one of the things she wanted to address.

I had her stand up abruptly the next time that Rowdy violated her personal space and leaned up against her. As soon as she stood up Rowdy took a few steps backwards. I suggested that she repeat the process every time that rowdy violated her personal space over the next week. If she consistently stands up this way when he gets too close, she can communicate that she wants the dog to incorporate and respect a boundary of three feet when she is sitting down unless she asks him to get closer.

Unfortunately this technique does not stop a dog who is overexcited, and that was the clearly the case for Rowdy. To address that issue, I put Rowdy on a straight leash and stepped on it about 2 feet away from his head. This prevented Rowdy from being able to move away, but was long enough for him to stand, sit or lie down next to me without any tension on the line.

Rowdy pulled on the leash for about 60 seconds then sat down. 30 seconds later his breathing slowed considerably as his energy level returned to a calm and balanced state of mind. A minute later, Rowdy lay down next to me and remained completely calm.

I suggested that Rowdy’s family incorporate the same technique every single time he passed at the midway point of his energy range. For dogs, once they get too excited it takes them longer to calm themselves and settle down. I have found that my interrupting a dog and placing it in a time out as soon as it passes the midway point of its energy threshold, it’s much easier for the dog to settle itself down.

I also suggested that they start taking him for daily walks and also incorporate some games of fetch in the back yard to help channel some of his excess energy into more suitable activities. Its pretty common for dogs to get into trouble when they don’t get the exercise they need to release that energy. In most dogs a daily walk is a good idea. With Rowdy’s high energy, its an imperative.

Because Rowdy had spent the last few years as an outdoor-only dog, I went over some basic communication techniques and methods of discouraging him when he engaged any unwanted actions or behavior. I also demonstrated a few leadership and self-restraint exercises to help Rowdy adapt to an indoor lifestyle.

By the time we wrapped up the session, Rowdy was pooped. However his owners were very happy with the change in his energy level and responsiveness to their commands and corrections.

Rowdy is not a bad dog, he just needed help in understanding what was and was not allowed in the house. Now that his owners know how to communicate with him, calm him down and assume a position of authority in the dog’s eyes, his owners will have an easier time of getting him to settle down and the adopt indoor behavior they want.

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