How to Calm Down a Dog
Anxiety in dogs can take many forms; try systematic desensitization therapy to reduce negative attachments to stimuli. (Flickr.com/edp-pics)
Summer is a season for rest and relaxation, but often humans’ fun can affect our four-legged family members.
Calming a dog down involves learning how to diffuse your pet’s particular type of anxiety. Dog anxiety typically results from one of two common factors.
- Canines’ hypersensitive ears have almost twice the range of human hearing, causing loud or deep noises to affect them more.
- Other dogs have anxiety that is situational, caused by being left home alone or interacting with other dogs.
While it’s difficult to let your dog suffer, sometimes physically comforting the animal can do more harm than good, as it provides positive reinforcement for a fear response. In severe cases of dog anxiety, medication or behavioral therapy may be necessary; see your vet for any sudden changes in behavior.
For dogs with a storm phobia, a Thundershirt can provide some relieve by compressing nerves – just like a hug. (Flickr.com/blucier)
Dogs’ fear of thunder is well-known; a survey by pet outwear manufacturer ThunderShirt estimates over 17 percent of dogs suffer from a noise phobia. Why are dogs afraid of thunder? Animal behaviorists haven’t narrowed down which part of a thunderstorm unnerves dogs the most – flashes of lightning, thunder rumbling, or severe wind and rain rattling windows. One theory posits pets can feel the drop in barometric pressure or the electrical charge in the air.
Thunder anxiety in dogs may be affected by breed; herding dogs and hounds have a higher incidence of storm phobia. This may be attributable to inbred characteristics like quick reflexes and non-aggression, which lead dogs to repress emotions after an intense reaction to thunder. Pets with a history of abuse or abandonment are also more likely to experience a thunder phobia and more anxiety in general. This may be due to a negative association with the sound of thunder or from lack of socialization. Rescue dogs in particular experience more anxiety due to the high-stress nature of shelters or past traumatic events.
Systematic desensitization therapy is recommended for dogs with noise-association anxiety. This involves recreating the thunderstorm environment on a smaller scale, such as playing thunder booms at low volume or mimicking lightning with a flashlight. The dog is rewarded only when signs of anxiety or fear aren’t present, gradually reducing the sound’s negative association. Always consult your vet before beginning any new lifestyle changes. If therapy is not an option or shows no improvement, medication may be required.
Distract an anxiety-ridden dog with a puzzle toy or rawhide chew, especially during thunderstorms or firework shows. (Flickr.com/clover_1)
Every 4th of July dogs across the nation cower in terror. Dogs and fireworks are mortal enemies, thanks to the pyrotechnics’ low decibel sound. To human ears, fireworks are a dull whine – dogs hear, see and smell the pretty lights as a mortal danger to them. Dog Whisperer Cesar Milan says a dog’s anxiety response is “a survival instinct,” designed to keep the animal alive in potentially dangerous situations.
Fireworks can be even scarier to dogs than thunderstorms, which at least provide animals with some warning signs of the impending noise. (Remember, dogs feel the drop in air pressure and increased electrical charges that precipitate a thunderstorm.) It is possible to retrain a dog’s natural fear instinct through repeated exposure, as in the previously discussed systematic desensitization therapy. For best results, start when your pet is a puppy and acclimate him to a variety of loud noises including car horns, children yelling, and motorcycles.
If all else fails, try your best to comfort or distract your dog. Before the fireworks begin, create a soothing environment for your pup, including a favorite bed or crate as well as toys. Rawhide chews or puzzle toys can distract dogs for hours, or put on some scientifically-sound music for dogs. If your pet is accident-prone, take a potty break before you settle in or lay some absorbent potty pads down as a precaution.
Some pets may need doggy daycare or a canine companion to stave off separation anxiety. (Flickr.com/scarty)
This type of dog anxiety is very common, especially among dogs who were previously surrendered or abandoned. Dogs are very social animals who typically prefer living in “packs,” be the members human, canine or even feline. When a dog with separation anxiety is left alone, he may believe he has been abandoned again; often this results in destructive behaviors as the panicked pet attempts to escape or look outside.
Young, male, mixed-breed dogs are the most likely to develop separation anxiety. Animal behaviorist Dr. Barbara S. Simpson denies any relationship between so-called “spoiling” a pet and the development of separation anxiety, but does note that close dog/pet parent relationships are more likely to result in separation anxiety.
With the rise of the pet-friendly workplace, many pet parents find taking their dog to work solves the issue. Doggy daycare or adopting a canine companion may reduce the feelings of isolation that lead many dogs to engage in destructive acts like soiling the carpet or chewing furniture. A long-term solution involves the pet parent modifying his or her routine; dogs learn and associate behaviors like putting on shoes with leaving the house. Dr. Simpson suggests practicing “graduated departures,” like putting on shoes and then returning to the couch for a while. In an American Veterinary Medical Association study, 62 percent of dogs with separation anxiety improved through simple acts by pet parents – no punishment for destructive behaviors, providing a chew toy before leaving, and increasing exercise.
Some pets are nervous in social situations with two- and four-legged friends. Start desensitizing your pet to loud noises at a young age to avoid social anxiety. (Flickr.com/luckyno3)
Even dogs find themselves uneasy in some social situations. Just as select pets are aggressive, others are shy and suffer from social anxiety. Often the two overlap – a scared dog is more likely to lash out – with anxiety-related fear leading to aggression. Before placing your pet in an unknown environment, consider how he or she deals with certain stressors. Crowds, children, other dogs, food smells, and loud music are all very stressful for a dog. Symptoms of dog anxiety include trembling, urination, growling, and classic body language signs like a tucked tail, pulled back ears, and avoiding eye contact.
Social anxiety in dogs can be caused by a variety of factors, including a traumatic event like a dog fight. Cesar Milan notes that the issue sometimes relates to poor self-esteem, recommending confidence-building activities and interactions with other dogs. Throw a ball for your pet, giving praise when he returns with it; even providing treats for a successful potty break will boost self-esteem.
Lack of socialization is usually the culprit, says author and dog trainer Victoria Stillwell of It’s Me or the Dog. “When you have a puppy, you have to introduce it to 100 new experiences and all different kinds of people and…dogs in a lot of different environments.” Start slow with adult dogs, gradually introducing stressful sounds and rewarding non-fearful responses. At the dog park, redirection is key to helping your pet stay calm. Introduce a tennis ball or run some obstacles, introducing one dog at a time to your pet. Ask other pet parents with solo leashed dogs if you can introduce your pet one-on-one for a practice round.
How to Calm Down a Dog
Dogs are generally regarded as one of the most amazing domestic creatures to own. Apart from the fact that they are lovely to play with, they also serve as wonderful and loyal companions. Dogs are owned for different reasons, while some own one for the sake of security, some prefer it as a mere pet and believe they keep the house busy and lively. Either way, they are believed to be wonderful creatures.
Nothing beats having a happy and an active dog, either as a pet or for security. When they are over excited or hyper though, they could be a handful to deal with and sometimes, might lead to unnecessary behaviors, hence, the need to calm them down.
Dogs can be emotional beings and tend to respond to emotion flows around them and so they have tendencies to get excited, anxious and hyper. At this moment, they are driven by what they see and tend to get over excited and hyper. At this period, they can suffer unrest, disturbing and might even be making noise, jumping at whatever they see.
Causes of Hyperactivity in Dogs
Most of the times, dogs use body language to express how they feel. When you notice your pets seem quite hyper, unease and unnecessarily excited, it could be a sign of anxiety. Symptoms differ in dogs; some others might experience shivering, constant yawning, shaking and loss of appetite.
Anxiety and over excitement in dogs can be as a result of some numbers of reasons. Some of these reasons include:
- Abuse by past owners
- Sudden loud noises like thunder
- Environmental factors
- Medical factors, etc
Some might be as a result of other natural or habitat factors. Hyper and overexcited dogs are calmed based on the cause of the anxiety.
In this article, we will consider the various ways to calm your hyper dogs. Most of these methods not only calm the dogs down, they also prevent a similar occurrence in the future.
How to Calm Down Hyper Dogs
This is arguably the most effect way to relieve anxiety and calm a hyper dog. Sometimes, anxiety in dogs could be as a result of lack of exercise. Anxiety has a way of creating unusual and uncontrollable energy.
To relieve the anxiety, exercise is very important. Generally, if you want a well behaved, calm and obedient dog, you need to constantly exercise him. Exercising your dogs, like humans, not only calm their nerves and make them feel good.
It also has a way of positively affecting their general well-being including their appetite, making them more fun filled and happy. You can decide to take a walk with your dog in the morning or evening.
2. Physical Contact:
This is another way to calm a hyper dog. Sometimes, all the dog needs are physical contact with the owner. You can try petting the dog, sitting close to it, touching its head and check if the anxiety and over excitement subside.
According to research, physical contact, like in humans, helps dog relieve anxiety and calms them down to a reasonable extent.
3. Develop a routine for the dog
Dogs are smart, they tend to follow basic routines and tend to be insecure and uneasy when there is nothing for them to do. Hyperactive could be as a result of the dog not having anything to do not having any idea of what it is to do.
Developing a daily routine will go a long way in setting the dog’s mind of what is expected of it at a particular time, making it less idea, thereby relieving anxiety.
For instance, you can build a routine where you take the dog out every morning, play games with it, and take a walk with the dog to smell flowers.
In the evening, play with the dog, eat dinner and take a walk. The routine does not have to be detailed, just an idea of what the dog expects to happen per time.
4. Obedience Lessons
Obedience training help builds a proper understanding between the dog and the owner. This goes a long way in calming the nerves of the dog because it teaches the dog what is expected of it and how to behave.
5. Check Your Own Behavior
Reacting negatively to your dog’s anxiety and hyperactivity might cause will do little to help the situation and state of the dog. Try your best to calm your nerves and act calm. This, to a large extent, calms the hyper dog.
6. Engage their Nose
Generally, it is believed the most sensitive part of a dog is the nose. They react to whatever they smell and owners can take advantage of that, especially when the dog gets hyper. Some scents including vanilla generally calm dog down and reduces their hyperactivity at a point.
You can surround the dog with some of the scents that calm them down or walk them to fields that have plants with wonderful scents.
You can also see this video for more information.
Like humans, at some points, dogs experience anxiety and tend to be hyper, getting unnecessarily overactive and overreact in simple scenarios. This condition could be as a result of various factors including past events, sudden noises and environmental or medical factors.
Dogs can be a handful to deal with in this condition and calming them down could be quite tasking. This article highlights some simple basic techniques to calm the dog down in this condition.
It should be noted that the way the owner reacts during this time is an important factor in determining how calm the dog will be afterward.
Keeping a dog happy and calm is not just for the sake of calmness, it also makes the dog more lively and fun to play with. Nothing beats knowing the techniques to keep your dog calm whenever it gets hyper.
How To Calm A Dog
One of the main behavioral problems often mentioned by dog caregivers has to do with the hyperactivity of the dog. This high energy level can make a dog appear; restless, nervous and/or anxious, thus making coexistence in the household or with other people, difficult.
A loud and hyperactive dog is, in addition, one of the main excuses for dog abandonment. It is therefore very important to learn how to have a well-trained and calm dog. For this reason, in this AnimalWised article, we will be discussing how to calm a dog, allowing you the opportunity to enjoy a happy coexistence at home.
What to consider before adopting a dog
Dogs, have their own individual character, so we should not assume that all dogs are immediately: affectionate, playful, quiet or obedient. Thus, before adopting a dog, it is important that you consult with the people initially responsible for the dog. Find out about the dog’s individual characteristics and temperament. By doing this, you can then decide whether this is a dog that you believe you can handle and care for.
If you are wondering how to have or calm your dog, you must understand that its energy is congenial with ours. For example: if you live in a small space, work a lot and cannot meet the needs of a puppy, whose unspent energy will most likely lead to destruction.
Before we move onto how you can calm down a dog, you also need to considered whether or not your dog is suffering from anxiety. For more, we recommend taking a look at: 10 signs your dog is stressed.
Calm down a dog: Importance of exercise
If we want to understand how to train a dog to be calm, you need to be aware of the importance of exercise. While the intensity of this will depend on the dog’s individual characteristics, in the end, they will all need daily exercise. Dog walks are fundamental in keeping a dog calm. Dogs can also benefit a lot from other forms of exercise, such as: agility sports, games and swimming.
Dog experts recommend walking your dog three times a day. They advise going on two 15 minute walks, and one longer walk of 40-60 minutes. You should however, always take your own dog into account as these times will differ depending on size, weight and age. If you have a puppy, you must remember that they should not be in contact with other dogs unless they have received all of their necessary vaccinations.
Even animals that live on large farms will need to be taken for walks. This is because these dogs become familiar with their own land and get bored, showing signs of restlessness. This restlessness can possibly lead to them them escaping or becoming destructive. A dog that exercises sufficiently and has the opportunity to channel all of its energy, will naturally feel calmer.
Calm down a dog: Education
It is not that our dog responds to our indications in a mechanical way, but when a dog knows the basic obedience commands it can help us, and them, remain safe and calm. These commands are those that include:» sit down, walk next to me, lie down and wait.» To know more about how to teach these basic commands, take a look at our article on; dog training guide- basic level.
Teaching our dogs such commands can bring them calmness. They will have clearer direction and guidance and therefore feel more secure. For example, if you are in an unknown and/or hostile place, such as a veterinary clinic, our dog may find itself confused and nervous, which it might demonstrate through barking or jumping on people.
In such moments of uncertainty, hearing the sounds of their owner’s voice and/or a word that they know and are familiar with: can help to calm a dog. We recommend and remind you to always train your dog using positive reinforcement. Fighting or punishing a dog is counterproductive to their development.
Calm down a dog: Play
Playing is another fundamental pillar in the development of a calm dog. We recommend trying different games with your dog to find out which one they seem to like the most. For example; some prefer to run aimlessly, while others prefer to chase a ball.
A good game session is sometimes all a dog needs in order to channel and release energy, leaving them calm, quiet and receptive. However, we suggest avoiding games which cause an animal to feel overexcited, nervous or obsessive. We also advise you to allow your dog to play with other dogs, as long as both are well socialized and vaccinated appropriately.
Calm down a dog: Relationship between dog and owner
Now, one of the most important aspects in having a calm and comfortable dog is based on the: strength of their bond with their owner. If a dog is with their owner and they feel safe and secure, they will immediately remain calm.
In order to encourage this bond: share walks together, give your dog love and affection and focus on using positive reinforcement. The behavior of a dog will reflect that of their owner. Therefore, if we (as their owner) shout and gesticulate, a dog will catch on to this emotion and possibly mirror us.
Calm down a dog: Why is my puppy hyper?
A hyper and loud puppy is more common than you may think. In order to have a calm and quiet puppy, some things need to be taken into consideration. The first to remember, is that you should ensure that the age of separation of the puppies from their mother has been respected. If a puppy is separated from their mother too early, it will appear and result in a stressed and nervous animal.
At what age does a dog start to calm down?
We must know that it is completely normal for a puppy to be active and want to: play, walk and nibble all the time. This is a behavior that, if managed, will remit over a couple of months.
Therefore, in order to have a quiet dog during this stage you must: establish clear limits, dedicate a lot of time and offer your puppy fun and appropriate activities. If you are finding this training process difficult, you have the option of consulting a puppy specialist for advice. Remember that taking care of a puppy takes time and effort, and this needs to be considered before adoption.
If you want to read similar articles to How To Calm Down A Dog: Dog Anxiety, we recommend you visit our Basic care category.
How to Calm a Dog Down
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Training a Hyperactive Dog to Calm Down
May 2011 Issue
You can improve your high-energy dog’s behavior with these management and training tools!
By Pat Miller, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
[Updated August 24, 2018]
Boy, do I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say their dog was “hyperactive” or “ADHD” – I’d be a wealthy woman. In fact, those are clinical terms referring to very specific behavioral disorders (canine and human) that are relatively uncommon in dogs. In reality, most “hyper” dogs are just under-exercised. A couple of days hiking at the Peaceable Paws farm and you’d hardly know them.
Like many young dogs of active breeds, Squid needs a lot of intense exercise in order to be capable of focus and participation in training. Walking around the block doesnt cut it for dogs like this.
Not every dog owner has access to large tracts of acreage upon which to exercise their unruly canines, and in any case, “wild child canine syndrome” (WCCS) is more than just lack of exercise; it’s also lack of appropriate reinforcement for calm behavior – i.e., training. Unfortunately, all too often a dog loses his happy home – maybe even his life, as a result of his high-energy behavior.
We’ve seen several of these WCCS dogs at the training center in recent weeks. One private client decided to return her Shar-Pei-mix to the rescue from whence the pup came. Despite her best intentions and efforts, the client had mobility challenges that made it impossible for her to provide the pup with the exercise and management she needed. As painful as it was for the owner, returning the pup was the right decision.
Hyper dogs often include inappropriate biting in their repertoire of undesirable behaviors. We currently have a temporary foster resident at the training center: a 13-week-old high-energy Jack Russell Terrier who failed his assessment at the shelter for using his mouth in protest when restrained. Little Squid is a perfect example of the kind of dog who needs to learn self-control and the art of being calm.
A successful hyper dog behavior modification program contains three elements: physical exercise, management, and training. While any one of these alone can make your high-energy dog easier to live with, apply all three for maximum success. Let’s look at each of these elements in greater detail.
Exercise is Key for Managing Over-Excited Dogs
Squid’s day begins with an hour of barn-play while we do chores. He delights in harassing our dogs (and our pig). He gets at least one long hike around the farm per day, preferably two, or even three. He also gets one or more sessions of ball/toy fetch in the training center, and some puppy socialization/play time when there’s a class going on. Finally, he wraps up his day with evening barn chores. Does it tire him out? No. I have yet to see him tired. But it does take the edge off, so that when I work with him to teach calm he is able to focus and participate in the training. The physical exercise sets him up for training success.
The Manners Minder enables you to dispense a treat to your dog some distance away from you.
Not everyone has an 80-acre farm to play on. If you’re farm-deprived, there are other ways to provide exercise for your WCCS dog. A placid walk or three around the block won’t do it. Nor will leaving him on his own in your fenced backyard. He needs to be actively engaged.
Outings to your local well-run dog park can be a good exercise option. If you don’t have one in your area, invite compatible canines over to play in your dog’s fenced yard. If you don’t have one, invite yourself and your dog over to your dog-friend’s fenced yard for play dates.
Absent any access to a dog-friendly fenced yard, play with your dog on a long line. A 50-foot line gives him a 100-foot stretch to run back and forth and work his jollies off.
Caution: Work up to 50 feet gradually, so he learns where the end of the line is. You don’t want him to blast full-speed to the end of his long line and hurt himself. Also, wear long pants. A high-speed long-line wrapped around bare legs can give you a nasty rope burn.
If none of those work for you, having him wear a pack when you walk him, or even better, pull a cart (which takes significant training), or exercising him (safely) from a bicycle may be options for using up excess energy.
Games for Hyperactive Dogs
If outside exercise is simply out of the question, here are some indoor activities that can help take the edge off:
Most dogs love to use their noses. Take advantage of this natural talent by teaching yours the “Find It!” game:
1. Start with a handful of pea-sized tasty treats. Toss one to your left and say “Find it!” Then toss one to your other side and say “Find it!” Do this back and forth a half-dozen times.
2. Then have your dog sit and wait or stay, or have someone hold his leash. Walk 10 to 15 feet away and let him see you place a treat on the floor. Walk back to his side, pause, and say “Find it!” encouraging him to go get the treat. Repeat a half-dozen times.
3. Next, have your dog sit and wait or stay, or have someone hold his leash and let him see you “hide” the treat in an easy hiding place: behind a chair leg, under the coffee table, next to the plant stand. Walk back to his side, pause, and say “Find it!” encouraging him to go get the treat. Repeat a half-dozen times.
4. Again, have your dog sit and wait. This time hide several treats in easy places while he’s watching. Return to his side, pause, and say “Find it!” Be sure not to help him out if he doesn’t find them right away.
You can repeat the “find it” cue, and indicate the general area, but don’t show him where it is; you want him to have to work to find it.
The find it! game can be played indoors or outside. Nose work is surprisingly tiring for dogs.
5. Hide the treats in harder and harder places so he really has to look for them: surfaces off the ground; underneath things; and in containers he can easily open.
6. Finally, put him in another room while you hide treats. Bring him back into the room and tell him to “Find it!” and enjoy watching him work his powerful nose to find the goodies. Once you’ve taught him this step of the game you can use it to exercise him by hiding treats in safe places all over the house, and then telling him to “Find it!” Nose work is surprisingly tiring.
If you prefer something less challenging, just go back to Step 1 and feed your dog his entire meal by tossing pieces or kibble from one side to the other, farther and farther, with a “Find it!” each time. He’ll get a bunch of exercise just chasing after his dinner!
Hide And Seek
This is a fun variation of the “Find it” game. Have your dog sit and wait (or have someone hold him) while you go hide yourself in another room of the house. When you’re hidden, call your dog’s name and say “Find me!” Make it easy at first so he can find you quickly and succeed. Reinforce him with whatever he loves best – treats, a game of “tug,” petting and praise, a tossed ball – or a combination of these. Then hide again. As he learns the game, make your hiding places harder and harder, so he has to really search. A trainer friend tells me she has hidden in bathtubs and closets, under beds, and even inside a cedar chest.
If you are into higher-tech exercise, use a treat dispenser called the Manners Minder that spits out treats when you push a button on the remote control. A Maryland trainer friend, Elizabeth Adamec of Sweet Wag Dog Training, shared her exercise secret with me for her high-energy adolescent Golden Retriever, Truman. This one is especially useful if you don’t feel like exercising along with your canine pal or can’t, due to physical restrictions of your own:
Teach your dog to use the Manners Minder, by showing him several times that when he hears the beep, a treats fall out of the machine. You can use his own dog food, if he really likes his food.
1. Set the machine a few feet away and have your dog sit next to you. Push the button, and let him go eat the treats. Repeat several times, encouraging him, if necessary, to go get the treats when he hears the beep.
2. Put the machine across the room, and have your dog sit next to you. Push the button, and watch him run over and eat the treats. If he’s not doing this with great enthusiasm, repeat Steps 1 and 2 several more times with higher value treats, until he really gets excited about the treats when he hears the beep.
3. Set the machine in the next room, and repeat the exercise several times. Call him back to you each time, so he runs to the Manners Minder when he hears the beep, eats the treat, and runs back to you to wait for the next beep. Gradually move the treat dispenser into rooms farther and farther away from you, until your dog has to run all the way across the house, or even upstairs, when he hears the beep. Now you can sit back with the TV remote in one hand, your dog’s remote in the other, and enjoy your favorite show while canine pal gets exercise and dinner, all at the same time.
Watch a video of the Manners Minder in action here.
There are tons of other ways to provide your dog with indoor exercise. Play tug. Teach him to bowl. Teach him to catch, then repeatedly toss him his ball 10 feet away and have him bring it back to you. Some trainers use treadmills and canine exercise wheels to exercise their dogs. (These must be carefully trained and supervised.) Get creative. Get busy. Have fun. Let the indoor games begin.
How to Calm Your Dog with Positive-Reinforcement Training
Successful positive training, especially for high-energy dogs, relies on the appropriate use of management tools to prevent the dog from practicing – and being reinforced for – undesirable behaviors. In between his many daily exercise and training sessions, Squid is either parked in an exercise pen in the barn tack room (with plenty of bathroom breaks outside), or in an outdoor kennel off the side of the training center.
Squid has learned a modicum of calm behavior, and now offers a calm sit or down when he wants something, such as the opportunity to go outside. This is quite a contrast to his previous behavior of frustrated jumping and mouthing.
Here are examples of when to use various management tools for your wild child dog:
Crates and Pens. Use crates and exercise pens when you can’t directly supervise his energy to consistently reinforce appropriate behaviors and prevent reinforcement for inappropriate ones. The best times for the appropriate use of crates and exercise pens include:
- When you can provide adequate exercise and social time in addition to his time in the crate or pen.
- When your dog has been properly introduced to the crate or pen and accepts it as a good place to be. Note: Dogs who suffer from isolation or separation distress or anxiety often do not crate or pen well.
- When you know you’ll be home in a reasonable period of time so you don’t force your dog to soil his den – no longer than one hour more than your pup’s age in months, no more than an outside maximum of eight to nine hours for adult dogs.
Leashes and Tethers. Leashes and tethers are useful for the “umbilical cord” technique of preventing your wild child from being reinforced for unwanted behaviors. With your dog near or attached to you, you can provide constant supervision. Also, with your dog tethered to your side, you should have many opportunities to reinforce him for appropriate behavior.
The leash can be hooked to waist belts that are designed for that purpose, or clipped to your belt or belt-loop with a carabineer. Your hyper dog can’t zoom around the house if he’s glued to your side.
If inappropriate mouthing behavior is included in his high-energy repertoire, however, this may not be the best choice. Tethers are better for keeping this dog in view, with easy access for reinforcement of calm behavior, while keeping his teeth from your clothing or skin. Appropriate situations for the use of leashes and tethers include:
- For dogs who get into trouble when they are unsupervised.
- When your activities don’t preclude having a dog connected to you – okay for working on the computer; not okay for working out.
- When you want to keep your dog near but not directly connected to you, to teach good manners and/or prevent inappropriate behaviors.
Baby Gates and Doors. Baby gates and doors prevent your dog’s access to vulnerable areas when he’s in wild child mode. A baby gate across the nursery door keeps him safely on the other side while you’re changing diapers, but still lets him be part of the “baby experience.” Not to worry if the older kids left their stuffed toys strewn across the bedroom floor; just close the bedroom door when your dog is in a “grab toy and run” mood. The most appropriate uses of baby gates and doors include:
- To prevent your dog’s temporary access to areas during activities you don’t want him to participate in.
- To prevent your dog’s access to areas when you can’t supervise closely enough, to prevent inappropriate behaviors such as counter surfing or getting on forbidden furniture.
5 Training Exercises for Your Hyperactive Dog
The final element of your hyper dog behavior modification program is training. The more training you do the easier it is to communicate with your dog. The better he understands you, the more easily he can follow your instructions and requests. With a high-energy dog, in addition to basic good manners training, invest a lot of training time in impulse-control behaviors.
Click When Your Dog is Calm
Start by simply clicking your dog for calm behavior, beginning with clicks and treats for any pause in the action. One challenge with a high-energy dog is that the instant you try to praise or reward, he’s bouncing off the walls again. With the clicker, an instant of calm elicits a “click” during the calm behavior. Even if the delivery of the treat causes excitement, your dog still understands it was calm that caused the click-and-treat to happen. An added advantage of the clicker: when they hear the click, most dogs pause in anticipation of the coming morsel, drawing out the brief period of relatively calm behavior even longer.
The goal of clicker training is to get your dog to understand that he can make the click happen by offering certain behaviors – in this case, calm. At first you won’t get long, leisurely stretches of calm behavior to click. Begin by giving your dog a click and treat just because all four feet are on the floor at the same instant. Be quick! You want him to understand the behavior he got rewarded for was pausing with all four feet on the floor, so the click needs to happen the instant all four feet are down. If you click late, you may reinforce him for bouncing around – the exact opposite of what you want!
If your timing is good and you click for four-on-the-floor several times in a row he’ll start to stand still deliberately to make the clicker go off. This is one of the most exciting moments in dog training –when your dog realizes he can control the clicker. Your clicker is now a powerful tool; you can reinforce any behavior you want, any time it happens, and your dog will quickly start repeating that behavior for you.
Make sure your dogs crate is comfortable and equip him with a nice chew or food-stuffed Kong.
How does “pausing briefly on all four feet” translate into calm? Very gradually. You will “shape” the pause into longer periods of stillness, by extending the time, in milliseconds at first, that he stands still before you click and treat. As he gets better at being calm for longer periods, be sure to reinforce randomly – sometimes for shorter pauses, sometimes longer. Do the same thing with “sit” and “down.” Down is my favorite calm position: the very act of lying down evokes relaxation.
Do several short training sessions every day. You’ll have the most success if you practice “clicking for calm” right after one of your dog’s exercise sessions when he’s tired anyway. When he understands that “calm” is a very rewardable behavior, it will work even when he has more energy.
When your dog will remain still for several seconds at a time, add the verbal cue of your choice, like “Chill out,” that will eventually cue him into calmness. Over time you can phase out the click and treat for calm behavior and use other rewards such as calm praise, a gentle massage, or an invitation to lie quietly next to you on the sofa.
“Sit” As Default Behavior
“Sit” is one of the first behaviors we teach. Even after the dog knows it well we reinforce “sit” so heavily that it becomes his “default behavior” – what he does when he doesn’t know what else to do. Teach your dog to sit by holding a treat at the end of his nose and moving it slowly back a few inches, clicking and treating when his bottom touches ground.
Alternatively, shape it by clicking and treating for slightly lowered hind end until touchdown, and/or click for offered sits. Then shape longer sits. If he already knows sit, start reinforcing it every time he does it until he sits for anything and nothing. When you have installed “sit” as his default, things like the “Wait” exercises (below) and “Go wild and freeze” (See “More Steps to a Calm Dog”) happen very easily.
“Wait” is especially useful for dogs who are short on impulse control. I teach it using food bowls and doorways. “Wait” then easily generalizes to other situations. Learn how to teach «wait» and «stay» here.
Wait for Food
With your dog sitting at your side, tell him to “Wait.” Hold his bowl (with food in it, topped with tasty treats) chest-high, then move it toward the floor 4 to 6 inches. If your dog stays sitting, click and feed him a treat from the bowl as you raise it back up to your chest. If your dog gets up, say “Oops!” and ask him to sit again. If he gets up several times in a row, you’re asking for too much too soon; lower the bowl in smaller increments.
If he remains sitting, lower the bowl 4 to 6 inches again, and click and treat for his continued sitting. Repeat several times until he consistently remains sitting as you lower the bowl. Gradually move the bowl closer to the floor with succeeding repetitions until you can place it on the floor without your dog getting up. Finally, place the bowl on the floor and tell him to eat. After he’s had a few bites, lift the bowl up and try again. Repeat these steps until you can easily place the bowl on the floor and he doesn’t move until you give him permission.
Caution: If your dog guards resources such as his food bowl, consult with a qualified positive behavior professional before trying this exercise.
Wait at the Door
With your dog sitting at your side, tell him to “wait.” Reach for the doorknob. If he doesn’t move, click and treat. Repeat this step several times. Then jiggle the doorknob. Click and reward him for not moving. Repeat this step several times. Slowly open the door a crack. Again, click and treat if he doesn’t move, and repeat. Gradually open the door farther, an inch or two at a time. Do several repetitions at each step, with clicks and treats each time. Read more about door darters here.
Eventually you’ll walk all the way through the door, stop, and face your dog, without having him move. Wait a few seconds, click, then return and give him a tasty treat. Of course, occasionally you’ll actually give him permission to go out the door!
Squid does a variation of “Wait at the door” in his pen and kennel. With the dog on the inside and human on the outside, I reach for the latch. If he jumps up, I pull my hand away. If he sits, I continue with the gate-opening process. Each time he jumps up, the process stops. If he exercises self-control the gate opens and he earns his freedom.
A Happy Future
Using a combination of exercise, training, and management, I am wildly optimistic that I can help Squid chill out, pass his shelter assessment, and find his forever home. If, after reading all this you still think your dog suffers from clinical hyperactivity or ADHD, then it’s time to visit a qualified behavior professional for help. More likely though, using the same combination of exercise, training, and management, perhaps with a sprinkling of additional tools, you can ensure your own dog’s calm and happy future in your family.
Pat Miller, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA, is WDJ’s Training Editor. She lives in Fairplay, Maryland, site of her Peaceable Paws training center. Pat is also author of many books on positive training, including her newest, Do Over Dogs: Give Your Dog a Second Chance at a First-Class Life.
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10 Tips to Calm Down Your Dog During Fireworks on the 4th of July!
With so many dogs terrified of fireworks, 4th of July can be a frightening time for pups everywhere. In fact, July 5th is often the busiest day of the year at animal shelters, as pets run off from home in fear, found lost and confused the next day.
How to Keep Dogs Calm During Fireworks
1. Desensitize Your Dog
Begin by getting your dog accustomed to the sound of fireworks – this video on YouTube is a great starting point!
As the fireworks sounds/video is going, play with your pup! Break out toys and treats to get your dog to begin associating firework sounds with good, fun things!
2. Provide Your Dog With a Safe Space
Some dogs will feel comforted by having their own safe space to hide when frightening fireworks go off. Consider purchasing a crate (we have a list of the best crates for separation anxiety – these will serve as great comfort crates for other stressors as well).
Add some cozy blankets, a crate bed, and a few favorite toys to make a true comfort den for your nervous canine.
3. Distract Your Dog With Tasty Toys
Give your dog something better to do than worry! Give him a good chew to chomp on or a dog puzzle toy to keep him occupied. Another popular dog distraction strategy is to fill a Kong with tasty wet food and freeze it – your pooch will spend the next few hours licking away at it.
Some ultra-terrified dogs may not be interested in eating when they are so scared, but others may be on board. If you begin this practice with your puppy, it will further reinforce that fireworks = fun!
4. Update Your Dog’s Collar & Tags
It’s not uncommon for dogs to escape and bolt during fireworks out of fear. In fact, July 5th is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters, as they spend most of the day making phone calls and trying to reunite missing pets with their frantic owners.
Make sure your dog has a properly fitting collar and ID tags with contact info, just in case he takes off. It’s also smart to have recent photos of your dog on hand to send to shelters so they can keep an eye out for your pooch.
If you know your dog is especially prone to taking off at the sound of firecrackers, consider getting your pooch geared up with a dog GPS tracker so you can locate them once things have calmed down.
5. Exercise Your Pet
Earlier in the day, try to take your pooch for a good long walk to tire him out. As the saying goes – “a tired dog is a happy dog.” Tuckering your pooch out can reduce his anxiety and may prevent him from getting overly anxious later in the evening when the fireworks go off.
Just make sure to adhere to basic summer safety guidelines when it comes to exercising in the heat. We recommend a nice long walk in the AM!
6. Try a Thundershirt (Or Make Your Own)
Many owners swear by the power of the Thundershirt – a wraparound vest your dog wears that is said to instantly calm them down through the use of gentle pressure.
Grab the official Thundershirt, or try making your own DIY version using a scarf or ace bandage.
7. Leave the TV or Radio On
While we mentioned playing firework sounds to desensitize your pet early on, it’s also not a bad idea to keep the radio or TV on if you plan on being out during the fireworks. Other sounds may distract your pet from the booming firework noises.
8. Shut the Curtains
Close the windows and curtains during fireworks to minimize sound and keep your dog feeling safe. If you have any areas of your home that tend to be more sound-proof than others, opt for those sound-dampening areas to alleviate your pup’s anxiety.
If you have a basement, taking your dog down there can help reduce noise. Throw in some laundry and put on some music to drown out any firework noise.
9. Consider Anti-Anxiety Medication
For some dogs, medicine might be the best way to go. See our list of the best anti-anxiety medicine for dogs, including calming treats and other over-the-counter options you can order online, as well as medications that would require a veterinarian’s prescription.
One owner notes that a few drops of Frankincense essential oil placed along the back of their dog’s neck helped keep him calm during the 4th!
Other popular anxiety-reducing medicines include Zesty Paws Calming Chews – which are natural dog treats formulated with L-Theanine to promote canine relaxation – and Rescue Remedy, which is a liquid formula of natural stress-relieving remedies that can be added to your pup’s food.
10. Stay Home (If You Can)
Obviously, this one isn’t for everyone, but ultimately it’ll be best if you can stay home with your four-footer during 4th of July fireworks. They’ll feel much happier and safer with you by their side!
If you can’t be home for the 4th, consider grabbing a Furbo Dog Camera that will let you monitor your pooch’s progress remotely. Plus, with Furbo, you can dispense dog treats from the camera to distract and encourage your pup when things get scary!
Here’s a snapshot of some of the essential stress-reducers we suggest taking advantage of to calm your pooch during the 4th!
Pictured: 1. Busy Buddy Kibble Nibbler 2. Thundershirt 3. Zesty Paws Calming Chews 4. Rescue Remedy 5. Furbo Dog Camera
Keeping Your Canine Safe on the 4th of July Infographic
We’ve created this handy infographic to help owners keep their dogs safe during 4th of July fireworks (these tips apply to New Years fireworks and any other situations involving fireworks as well).
Share this infographic to spread the word and keep canines safe this 4th!
Please include attribution to K9 of Mine with this graphic. <a href=”https://www.k9ofmine.com/calm-dog-during-fireworks”> <img src=”https://www.k9ofmine.com//wp-content/uploads/2016/06/dog-fireworks-infographic-2.png” alt=’Dog Fireworks Infographic’ width=’800′ border=’0′></a>
Do you have any other tips for keeping dogs calm during fireworks? Share your advice in the comments!
How to calm a hyper dog
By Cesar Millan
If your dog seems hyper, or overly-excited, the problem likely stems from boredom and a lack of stimulation. So in order to address the problem, you have to assess the way you are interacting with your dog and the kind of activity your dog gets on a daily basis.
Here are some simple techniques you can try at home to calm your hyperactive dog.
Ignore the hyper dog behavior.
Dogs seek attention from you. By paying attention to the hyper dog during outbursts, you’re reinforcing the very dog problem behavior that you’re trying to eliminate. The next time your dog is jumping or nipping at you in an overexcited way, give it a try — no touch, no talk, no eye contact — and see how you fare. You might be surprised how quickly the dog settles down.
Give your dog a job.
Having a task to focus on can help tremendously. Hyperactivity in dogs can come from psychological needs as easily as it can from physical needs. By giving your dog a job to do, you are removing his hyperactive dog behavior and are redirecting his energy elsewhere. For instance, having your dog wear a backpack with extra weight will keep your dog focused on carrying instead of getting distracted by squirrels and other things.
Go for a dog walk to redirect dog’s high energy.
If your dog has a lot of built-up energy, a really vigorous dog walk is another excellent way to redirect it where YOU want it to go. Once you’ve burned that extra energy away, your dog should be pleasantly exhausted and too tuckered out to jump and nip. Without that frustration, he’ll find it much easier to relax.
Check your own energy.
Your dog is your mirror. Any energy you project, he will reflect back. Are you in a calm assertive state of mind? Are you projecting a confident pack leader energy? Are you stressing out over an argument, or burdened with the worries of the workweek? Nervous or anxious moods can translate into nervous or anxious body language or tones of voice, and can affect the energy of your dog. So be the pack leader and stay in tune with your energy.
Try out aromatherapy.
Don’t forget that dogs experience the world primarily by scent! Just as the smell of lavender is said to relax human beings, a soothing smell can also have a very calming effect on your pet. Talk to your veterinarian or consult a holistic professional to find out what smells may work for your dog and which dispersal methods are the safest for him.
What are the main triggers for your dog’s excitement?