how to teach your puppy to be calm

4 Ways to Teach Your Puppy to Be Calm

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An overexcited dog or puppy can be very nerve-wracking for every dog owner. It is really hard for a puppy to stay calm, especially for high energy breeds. The sooner you start reinforcing positive behavior the better your puppy will get.

Hyperactivity is totally normal in puppies and can be caused by high energy, stress or anxiety. In this post, you will learn about 4 ways to teach your puppy to be calm calmer and what you can do to control his environment.

1. Exercise and Nap Time

The most obvious thing to do with a hyperactive puppy is providing him with exercise. It is important for a puppy to have a certain schedule that it can adapt itself to. It has to include enough physical and mental stimulation.

Puppies are very good at entertaining themselves and their day mostly consists of exploring the world. But once your puppy gets older you probably have to engage him more into running and playing. Some dogs are fine with hanging around a backyard by themselves for a few hours but others need to be actively engaged.

Interacting with other puppies, for example, is great for both and also teaches your puppy how to communicate with other dogs which I covered in my post about socialization. If your dog has enough interaction with other dogs, he will be less likely to be excited when meeting dogs on walks for example.

Training should be divided into different sessions to not overwhelm your puppy which brings me to the next point. Dogs can also show overexcited behavior if they have been exercised too much. Most people don’t think about that.

A young puppy should get between 16-20 hours of sleep a day to develop into a healthy adult. Signs of too much or too less sleep can cause behavior issues like stress, anxiety or aggression.

Even if you tried everything and you can simply not tire out your dog, enough exercise will make him more responsive to any type of training. In between the exercises and napping, you can provide him with the fun HOUNDGAMES Doggy Play Mat that has several chew toys attached to it for maximum satisfaction and stimulation.

2. Impulse Control

Impulse control is an amazing way to teach your dog or puppy to resist the urge to do what he wants.

Your easily excited dog would learn to resist the urge to greet people or dogs or jump around the house. Instead, he would only get these things after he has calmed down and settled.

Now before we start teaching a dog impulse control, he has to learn a few basics first. To even be able to control impulses he will need some focus. Verbal commands like “look at me” work great for establishing focus because if you have the eyes of a dog you have the dog’s attention.

You can teach “look at me” or “watch me” by taking a treat between your fingers and moving it up close to your face between our eyes. This will guide the dog’s eyes and if he looks at you then you can give him the verbal command and treat him for that.

After you have repeated this a couple of times and your dog looks at you even in a distractive environment then you can move on to the next step.

Now, the easiest way to incorporate a bit of impulse control into your daily life is by simply using treats.

Start by teaching your puppy how to leave something alone. Grab a few treats and hold them with your open hand in front of your dog’s mouth. If he tries to reach them, close your hand and tell him to “leave it”.

Open up again and only release it to him if you say so, best would be if he looks at you before that. That way he has to learn to communicate with you first before making decisions.

Make it a bit harder by tossing the treats on the ground in front of your dog and tell him to “leave it”.

If he lunges to get him, quickly cover them with your hands and follow with the other steps. The faster you toss them and the closer you get the harder it will be for your dog so you have to be consistent with that.

3. Redirecting

If you do not want your dog to be excited in a certain situation than show him what to do instead. At home, you can start engaging in a tug game with him or give him something to chew on which reduces a great amount of stress.

A classic game for rainy days would be “hide and seek”. My dog loves it but she is not that engaged in finding toys. She rather likes to go on searches for me and she won’t stop until she finds me. Start with your dog in a stay position and hide yourself. Call his name and add a special cue if you want like “find me.”

If your dog looks for you in the completely wrong direction, call his name again until he finds you. You will want to start with some easier spots so your dog doesn’t get unmotivated because he couldn’t find you. Build up the difficulty over time and always show your dog that you are having fun too.

A proper sit and stay is also great if you don’t want your dog to be greeting people by jumping on them. Here is how you can teach him a perfect stay.

“Settle” is also a great command to train your dog. It teaches him to be calm on command. Lure your dog to his bed with a treat and tell him to “lay down” once he is inside.

Tell him to “settle” and give him plenty of treats as long as he remains calm in this position. After a couple of seconds, you can release him and repeat the training again. Increase the duration gradually.

4. Relaxing and Change of Environment

Try to block out as many triggers as possible to create a calm environment for your dog. I know that you cannot easily control the outside but try your best on providing your dog with a safe space.

If your dog reacts to certain sounds from outside, play some calming, classical music which soothes many dogs.

Provide him with chew and puzzle toys to keep him distracted and occupied. Really take advantage of training opportunities and reinforce any desired behavior.

If your dog paces from room to room, confine his space by closing the doors or installing some baby gates. You can also keep him on the leash for a short period of time. Try to spread as much calmness as possible. If you get angry or nervous every time your dog gets excited, it will only make things worse.

If your dog is still having problems and it kinda gets out of control, consider consulting a professional dog trainer to provide you with more help or enroll in a dog obedience class.

Solving Common Behavior Problems

How to Stop Barking

Barking is probably the most common expression of an excited dog. If he is barking at something specific, try to avoid this trigger as much as you can by using the methods from above. If you cannot avoid the situation, desensitize your puppy by giving him plenty of treats before barking occurs.

If your puppy is constantly barking, teach him the commands “speak” and “quiet”. Every time your dog barks, tell him “speak” and reward him for that. Once he has learned that speak means barking, you can then teach him the command “quiet”. Wait for a quiet second between the barks and reward him while giving the verbal cue.

Repeat this many times until you have control over the barking situation. In many cases, it also helps to simply ignore loud barking if you do not have neighbors.

Separation Anxiety

Many dogs are in great distress when their owners leave the house and their excitement is not containable when they come back home. I wrote a comprehensive guide on dog separation anxiety but here are the main points:

  • Using a crate provides your anxious puppy with a safe and comfortable space. Before he can be left alone you will have to crate train him until he shows no signs of stress. This not only treats separation anxiety but also prevents it from even developing.
  • When you leave, do not say goodbye to your dog and don’t make it emotional. Provide your dog with something that keeps him occupied like a stuffed Kong.
  • When you arrive back home, ignore your dog for the first couple of times until he has calmed down completely.
  • If your dog becomes stressed when you pick up the keys, you will have to desensitize him. Walk up to your keys a couple of times a day, pick them up and carry them around with you until you put them back again. The same goes for maybe a jacket. Put your jacket on, gather your things and go back to the living room to watch some TV. We want to show your dog that keys don’t mean an immediate departure.

What Not to Do

When your puppy gets into his overexcited stage, do not try to correct him if he is behaving badly. Any attention, even negative attention, is a form of reward for the dog. Experts recommend that you should wait for your dog to be calm again and eventually he will stop this behavior as he understands that this won’t get him what he wants.

You do not have to accept this problem. If no training method helps, seek professional help to make your and your dog’s life easier and more enjoyable. Make sure to choose a legitimate dog trainer that only uses humane training methods.

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