Talking the time for These Lab Mixes to Calm Themselves Down

By: David Codr

Published Date: June 8, 2014

Reggie and RandiReggie and Randi’s owner called me in to help get the dogs to stop jumping up on people, end the over-barking and help keep the dog’s energy level from getting too high.

Whenever you have multiple dogs living together, its natural for all the dogs to try to raise their energy level to match that of the dog with the most energy. When this happens, the other dogs are outside of their normal comfort zone which often takes them out of balance.

Most of the dog problems I have been called to help with can be attributed to over excitement. When a dog is over-excited, its mind is racing and its very easy for the dog to loose focus. At times like this its not at all unusual for a dog to have difficulty controlling itself.

There are a number of things owners can do with dogs who get over excited. The first thing is to not contribute to the energy. You should avoid baby or excited talk; “whoooooo’s wants to goooooo foooorrr aaaa waaaaaalllk?”

When a dog hears excitement or a change in the tone of your voice, it can cause the dog to get excited, especially if you repeat this excited / baby talk before specific activities like; going for a walk, getting let into the back yard, etc.

If your dog gets excited when about to engage in a particular activity, you can help it settle down by taking brief pauses in the set up or prep process.

Let’s say your dog gets really excited as soon as you put on the leash because it knows it’s going for a walk.

If you pause and wait a moment the instant the collar clicks on or when you attach the leash to the collar, you can help your dog learn to not spring into action as soon as it hears those sounds.

If your dog starts whining or running around in circles and bounding around the room when you get up to go to the door to let it out, start pausing before you actually open the door. Make the dog sit six or seven paces away from the door and remain in a sitting position before you open it. The dog should remain in a sitting position until you give the release command. And I highly advise you to never use the command “ok”.

Reggie and Randi’s owners had decided to use the word “ok” as the dog’s release word. At least a dozen times in the session, the dogs broke away from what we were doing whenever anyone said the word “ok.” Because we use this word so commonly, its a horrible command word to use. I personally know of several dogs that have been killed or injured by dashing off into the street because someone nearby used the word “ok.”  For this reason I recommend using a word like “release.”

You can also help your dog stop getting over excited by desensitizing them to any activities they get them excited; If they get excited when you put them on the leash to go for a walk, start putting them on a leash but then don’t go for a walk. Alternate going for a walk every other time you put it on the leash. Do this for a week or so and the dog’s reaction to the leash should get considerably more subdued.

Because Randi and Reggie are kenneled when their owners are at work, I suggested that they incorporate this pause before they let the dog’s out of their kennels. Before the session, their owners had simply opened the kennel doors and let the dogs explode out of them.

I suggested that instead of letting the dog’s run out right away, that they open the kennel door but stand in the doorway to block the dog’s from exiting. Once the dog settles down, they can take one small step back away from the doorway and pause again. If the dog remains sitting, they can take another step back and pause again. If the dog comes forward to exit the kennel, they need to step forward so they are blocking the kennel exit.

By incorporating short pauses like this in many different places and activities, we can help the dogs learn that the only way to move forward is to be calm. It will take a few weeks of consistent application of this process before the changes become permanent, but considering how much of an impact it had on the dogs in our session, Im confident these dogs will learn to adopt a calmer, more laid back energy level in no time.

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