Using Time Outs and Structure to Teach Piper to Stop Getting Over Excited

PiperPiper is a 10 month old Terrier mix. Her owner called to stop her from running away when it was time to go to her kennel, chewing and other puppy issues.

When I arrived for the session, Piper darted around the room like a blur. She barked then would immediately zoom off away from me or circle half of the room, never getting within 12 feet. She also jumped up on her owner’s lap repeatedly, probably because her owner rewarded the behavior by scratching behind her ears.

Many people think that high energy dogs can’t control themselves, saying “that’s just how she is.” While we can’t completely change a dog from high to medium energy, we can help the dog understand that being overexcited is an unwanted behavior.

I like to give a dog a time out when its energy level passes what I call “level 5” (of ten). By placing the dog on a tight leash and not interacting with or releasing the dog until it calms down, we can communicate that calm behavior is rewarded while unbalanced, out of control behavior will immediately be restricted.

I went over a few methods of communicating and disagreeing with unwanted behavior with her owner before showing her a leadership exercise I demonstrate for most of my clients.  The exercise teaches the dog to focus which can be very beneficial for twitchy, high energy dogs.

The record for this exercise is held by a very stubborn boxer who took one hour and 45 minutes before it understood what I wanted and surrendered by lying down. That record is still in place after Piper’s session, but not by much!  But as the exercise went on, Piper’s energy level continued to drop until she was at a level one, but she also became completely focused rather than packing around..

I suggested her owner practice this exercise several times a day to help piper learn to focus. In addition to helping the dog focus, it will also enhance the leader follower dynamic that will elevate her owner’s authority in the dog’s eyes.

To get Piper over her fear of the kennel, we incorporated some tasty teats, tossing them into the kennel from a few feet away. At first Piper wouldn’t come within ten feet of the kennel despite furiously sniffing the treats from a distance. We waited and watched as Piper slowly got closer and closer until she finally stuck her head into the kennel to scoop them up.

I advised her owner to stop picking her up and forcing her into the kennel. By spending the weekend tossing treats inside and bread crumbing them to the back with the door open, the scent of the treats will help entice Piper to come retrieve them. Allowing the dog to go in and out of the kennel this way will change the dog’s perception of the kennel. Instead of something the dog was forced to endure, it explores it at its own pace and is rewarded each time it does.

By the end of the session the flurry of energy formerly known as Piper was laying calmly on the floor. By giving her time outs when she gets over excited, practicing the leadership exercise and building up the dog’s confidence with the kennel, Piper’s owner can communicate the energy level and behavior expected from now on.

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