Teaching an Excited Pair of Dogs to Stay Calm on Their Own

By: David Codr

Published Date: June 10, 2015

Ollie and Bear 1

For this session I worked with a pair of dogs in Studio City California. Ollie and Bear’s guardian called me for help with their over barking, getting over excited, pulling on the leash and not always listening.

When I met them in person, the dogs were excited barking to announce my arrival and attempting to jump up on me. When a dog does this to a human arriving at the door, they are attempting to “claim” that person. This is often a result of a dog thinking it has more or equal authority to a human. It also happens quite a bit when dogs get overexcited at the door.

I kept the dogs in front of me and disagreed with them each time they tried to jump up. I explained the meaning behind the behavior with one of their guardians and went over a few tips for them to use to stop it from happening in the future.

The dog’s other guardian was on her way back home from running a few errands so I suggested we use her to play the part of an arriving guest so I could show them how to disagree with the excitement and jumping behavior. We moved to the living room and acted casual so that we didn’t tip off the dogs.

As soon as the dogs heard the knocking at the door, they barked in unison and raced to the front of the home. I got up and walked at a non rushed pace to the front door. As soon as I passed the dogs, I turned to face them with the front door to my back. Ollie was more excited so I focused my attention on him.

I took a deliberate step right at Ollie which stopped his barking for a second and also caused him to move back. I waited to see his reaction before moving any further. After a brief pause, he started barking and tried to get around me to the front door. I blocked him and stepped at him again which moved him further from the door. After repeating this technique a few times, Ollie stopped moving forward and his barking slowed.

Once Ollie sat down, I turned my attention to Bear and repeated the process. It took about two minutes before I was able to open the door, but when I did the dogs were staying ten feet from the for way on their own. I suggested that their guardians repeat this activity a few times over the next week or two to help the dogs learn that when there is a knock on the door, they are to keep a respectable distance and let the humans handle the situation.

Next I had their guardian get their leashes so I could judge their energy level when they heard or saw clues that the leashes were coming out. As soon as she walked towards the cabinet with the leashes, the dog’s energy skyrocketed. The second I saw this happen, I had their guardian replace the leashes to the cabinet and walk away.

The dogs were perplexed at first as previous trips to that cabinet always resulted in a walk. To the dogs, the leashes represented the excitement of the walk and they acted in an over excited fashion. As I explained this to their guardian she commented that she often had to chase the dogs to get the leashes attached.

By stopping the second the dogs started to get excited, we can help the dogs learn that excited behavior will not result in a walk. In fact the opposite happens; the human stops and moves away.

A minute later the dogs were calm again so I had her attempt to get the leashes out again. This time she was able to pick the leashes up and turn towards the dogs before the excitement returned. As soon as it did, she stopped and walked away again. We repeated this process a few more times until she was able to get the leashes attached to the dogs collars while they remained completely calm.

Ollie and Bear 3

By the time the dogs were leashed up and ready to go while remaining relaxed, we had spent 15 minutes getting the dogs leashes on. By repeating this process each time they prepare for the walk, the dogs will learn to stay calm on their own and their guardian won’t have to spend 15 minutes each time.

Before we headed out for the walk, I slipped a Martingale collar on Ollie as he pulled on the leash. After putting on the collar and leash I added my special twist to stop them from pulling. I had their guardian put the dogs into a sit before opening the door.

As soon as she reached for the door knob, the dogs started to get excited again so I had her stop. We waited a minute for the dogs to settle down again the same way we did when getting out the leash. It took another couple of minutes before she was able to get the dogs to stay sitting next to the door as she swung it open.

While all the delays can be frustrating, I reminded their guardian that they were only temporary. And the payoff was well worth it as the walk was far more enjoyable for their guardian. The energy your dog has when you leave the house is usually the energy the dogs take with them on the walk. Because we took our time and waited, the dogs listened better, were easy to lead and accepted corrections right away.

Once we returned front he walk, I went over a few non verbal communication methods with their guardians as well as new ways to disagree with unwanted behaviors. I also suggested a few other activities that they can use to help teach the dogs to stay calm including meal time.

I had their guardians add food to their bowls but communicate that the dogs were to stay away until they were given permission. At first, they tried to move around the work island and guardians to get to their bowls, but their guardians consistently blocked them and used the new communication methods to tell the dogs to keep their distance. Within two minutes, both dogs sat down a few feet away from their bowls and looked to their guardians for permission to eat.

Ollie and Bear 2

Once the dogs communicated they understood, I had the guardians eat a small snack in front of the dogs. When in a group, dogs eat in order of rank or authority. By asking the dogs to sit and wait for permission, then eating before giving permission, their guardians can help the dogs understand that their position is under the humans in the house. The more the dogs identify as followers, the less behavior issues they will have.

By the end of the session, the dogs were calmer, listening better and controlling themselves on their own. It will take time and patience from their guardians; pausing each time the dogs start to get over excited. Once they have practiced and paused enough, the dogs will learn to adopt a calmer, more respectful demeanor all the time.

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