By Leatrice Miller-Natola, Certified Pet Dog Trainer
Why does calm create a happy dog?
Happy dogs are not worried about life. Visitors make them happy with excitement, but for short durations. Calm dogs greet people and other dogs with good manners. For example, they are able to sit when asked to do so! Calm dogs experience life events such as noises, strangers, other dogs, and other animals as non-events rather than as a trigger for over-excitement or anxiety. Calm dogs don’t get into trouble as much as anxious, overexcited dogs because they are not worried and have been helped by their humans to ensure they have a balanced sense of self confidence.
Why is over excitement bad for my dog?
Over excited or anxious dogs are demonstrating that they are struggling with something emotionally, and/or in the environment. Over excited dogs often feel overwhelmed and unable to process what is happening whether it is a visitor to the house, an animal in the back yard, visiting a new place, or encountering another dog while walking in the neighborhood. Over excitement is STRESS! These dogs often lack confidence which causes them to feel frightened and anxious sometimes over what we perceive as nothing, but to them it is a major event. Maybe its just that you have returned home after a short trip to the store. These dogs simply find it nearly impossible to cope with life. The most simple daily events are reason to explode like a missile into long bouts of uncontrollable crazy. This often includes lunging, leaping, barking, and a complete inability to process the simplest of directions from you. A simple sit becomes impossible because the dog is literally out of their mind. This level of over excitement takes a huge toll on the dog’s health; physical, mental, psychological and spiritual. And it does untold damage to your relationship with your dog.
However, there is always hope. You can help your overexcited dog by learning how to help him calm down, even if you have an anxious, or fearful dog.
STEP 1: TRACK THE TRIGGERS AND HOW IT AFFECTS YOUR DOG:
What triggers my dog’s over excitement?
Keep a simple list or dairy of what gets your dog barking, and over excited. You can simply jot each episode down on a piece of scrap paper and stuff it into a container. Track behavior for at least one week.
These triggers might include:
- movement and what is it that is moving?
- confusion/chaos/excitement from another source
- changes in their surroundings: ie: going to new places, or even
- something you can’t hear or see but your dog can hear or see.
- Briefly describe what you see your dog doing during these episodes
STEP 2: IDENTIFY THE MOST TROUBLESOME TRIGGERS: MAXIMUM 3
Select the 3 most troublesome triggers based on which ones you saw the most frequently.
Then, select THE ONE behavior you need changed as soon as possible.
Save the other two behaviors for later.
STEP 3: RAISE YOUR AWARENESS OF WHAT YOU MIGHT BE DOING TO ADD TO THE EXCITEMENT:
Avoid giving any attention to your dog when they are over excited.
Wait for them to sit, then reward with a calm, soft voice, and soft, slow petting. This shows your dog that you will reward calm behavior and ignore excited demanding behavior.
Avoid amping your dog up into a frenzy! If you say things like, “Let’s go for a walk!” or, “Look who’s here!”. When you put energy into something that is happening, your dog is going to match or even exceed the energy to exhibit. Just do everything calmly. Send them to place or put them in a crate away from the main entrance and keep them calm.
STEP 4: TRAIN YOUR DOG TO LOVE CALMLY SETTLING ON BOUNDARIES:
A boundary can be anything, but to begin is usually a mat, raised bed, and a crate. Dogs trained to settle in or on all of these will generally learn to settle whenever and wherever you ask for it. These dogs learn to be calm and to stay that way no matter what else is happening after you spend the time to train it.
Learn to teach your dog to stay in or on a boundary by attending a class that teaches it or check out Boundary Games at http://dogsthatlearn.com
Start your dog learning to be calm today!
Bonus: Most, if not all, of the other behaviors you wrote down on slips of paper will dissolve by helping your dog learn to play and settle at appropriate times.