Teaching a Dog to Stay Calm for Better Behavior

By: David Codr

Published Date: June 15, 2014

DukeThis is Duke, a two-year-old Beagle with some separation anxiety, a tendency to get overexcited, pull on the leash and responding to commands inconsistently.

When I arrived for the session, I could instantly this dog was revving way too high. He was almost buzzing around the room, bounding from his room mate dog, to the cat, to his owner then back to me before starting all over again.

Usually I like to discuss what they client wants to accomplish in the session before I begin, but with Duke it was obvious.

I started out with my preferred technique to stop the dog from jumping up. Duke only needed one correction before giving up on the jumping.

Because Duke was jumping up, rubbing against and pawing at his owner, I showed her how to claim her personal space. It took a number of corrections before he started to respect my space, but his owner was very soft in her movements and had late timing so her dog was ignoring her. This was clearly a result of the dog’s lack of respect for his owner’s authority.

Because he was not responding to her movements, I used a leash to tether him to a cabinet on the far side of the room. Duke protested a bit at first, but within a few moments his energy started to drop and a moment later he lay down on the floor calmly.

Normally I advise my clients to put the dog on a leash and step on it a foot away from the dog’s head when it gets over excited / out of control. By stopping and restricting the dog’s freedom a bit until it calms down, we can help condition the dog to realize that it is only free in the home when it is calm.

Once he was calm, it was easy to get Duke to pay attention and relax. I suggested that his owner use the leash time out any time he got over excited or was defiant in refusing to respect her commands, personal space, etc.

Next I fitted Duke up with a Martingale collar and added my special twist to the leash to stop him from pulling. As we left for the walk, we paused whenever Duke started to get excited. By stopping and asking the dog to sit before continuing, we can help condition the dog to stay calm and pay attention when on a leash.

On the stairs leading out of the apartment, I had her owner stop any time Duke tried to race ahead. Instead he had to stop, turn around and get back into a heel position before we continued. It took a few minutes to walk down the flight of stairs, but when we reached the bottom, the dog was paying attention and keeping itself next to his owner.

This was a welcome change of behavior for Duke’s owner. She told me the dog had pulled the leash out of her hand multiple times at the bottom of the steps as he was so excited to run off. By taking our time and asking the dog to stop and sit repeatedly, we were able to get him to pay attention and remain calm.

As we walked, we repeated the pause any time the dog got too fixated at any other dogs or people. I showed his owner how to correct him at the first sign on excitement. Its much easier to get a dog to be non reactive if we can help it stop fixating or focusing on it as soon as it starts. I also had her place the dog into a sitting position.

By the time we returned to the apartment building, Duke was stopping and sitting on his own anytime his owner stopped. His owner told me his much she enjoyed walking with him without his over barking, jumping and lunging at any dog he saw.

Duke is not a bad dog, its just that his owner didn’t properly disagree with his overexcited and needy behavior. Instead of adding rules and practicing exercises, she lavished a lot of love, rubs, pets, and scratches on the dog.

Once we started to disagree with these behaviors in a way the dog understood, you could see a difference in its perception of his owner as an authority figure. His owner will need to stay vigilant and apply the leash time outs as soon as the dog starts to get excited. If done consistently with good timing, Dukes days of demanding attention and bad, unruly behavior will be a think of the past.

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