New Rules and a Few Leadership Exercises Help A Couple Bulldogs Learn to Calm Down

By: David Codr

Published Date: April 4, 2014

Apollo and IzzyMeet Apollo (7 years old on the left) and Izzy (One year old female) a couple of English Bulldogs who’s overexcited energy and lack of manners was driving their owner crazy.

When I arrived, both dogs were racing around the living room, barking, grunting, sniffing, jumping up and showing no respect for anyone’s personal space or boundaries.

After discussing the situation with their owner, I started out with a leadership exercise to help them learn to focus which I hoped would calm them down. To make things more manageable, I put Izzy on a leash so I could do the exercise with Apollo solo.

At first Apollo showed typical Bulldog behavior, attempting to go through and around me to get the treat I placed on the floor. I kept myself in front of him and blocked his access to the treat. After about a minute, Apollo backed off and as soon as he did, I took a step back. Of course this caused him to move forward towards the treat so I stopped up agin to block him.

We continued this dance for a minute or two until he sat down, then eventually laid down. As soon as he did, I rewarded him by giving him permission to get the treat. His owner remarked to me that she was amazed at how quickly the exercise caused him to calm down. I repeated it a few times, then turned to Izzy.

Izzy decided she was going to be more challenging and as a puppy with less of an attention span, she lost interest after a few moments. I changed things up by doing a variation of the exercise with her kennel. As Bulldogs can be headstrong and stubborn, it took her a while before she understood what I wanted and laid down. As soon as she did, I invited her out of the kennel.

While it took Izzy longer to figure things out, the calming effect we achieved with Apollo did the same for Izzy. I suggested that their owner practice these exercises daily for the next wee or two as well as any time the dogs got too excited.

Next we had a neighbor come over and play the part of a guest knocking at the door. As soon as the dogs hear the doorbell, they raced over to the door barking excitedly. I walked over to the entryway and claimed the area by backing the dogs away. It took a minute to get both of them to respect the boundary I wanted them to keep. Apollo was better at it than Izzy, but as this was the first time, I was satisfied with the progress.

Once they were maintaining the distance I was asking, I invited the neighbor inside. She told me she was shocked at the change in behavior and kept asking what I did with Apollo. I had to offer a few additional corrections when she sat down in the living room, but for the most part Apollo stayed calm and respectful of her personal space.

By adding some rules and structure, practicing a few leadership exercises and disagreeing with over excitement and unwanted behaviors, the dogs changed their behavior immediately. With a little practice and consistent leadership from their owner, this calmer, well mannered behavior will quickly become the new normal for these Bulldogs.

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