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How I Calmed My Overexcited Dog On Walks

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Dogs are so lovely when they get excited about everything whether it is meals, playtime or walks.

But sometimes it is just too much.

Especially when your dog lunges or barks at people out of excitement, this is called leash reactivity.

Leash reactivity Aggression

People usually connect leash reactivity with an aggressive dog that wants to jump and hurt people but it may also occur due to pure joy.

Generally, it is a positive thing when your dog loves seeing people and animals rather than reacting aggressively towards them.

Take my Rottweiler as an example. As a pup, she got extremely excited when seeing people or other dogs (sometimes socializing means exposure, not interaction).

She didn’t bark but pulled strongly on the leash just to meet dogs and be showered with affection.

We leash trained her early on but when it comes to humans or dogs, she would completely forget her good manners.

Always be mindful that some fellow humans are afraid of dogs and excitement lunging and barking can put them as well as other animals (cats, horses, deer, etc.) in distress.

It is cute when you see a little tail-wagging puppy coming at you to give some love but when my Rottweiler hit the age of 10 months with a weight of 88 lbs, it was not so fun anymore for strangers.

And walking a Rottweiler that was temporarily in disguise as a sled dog is not for the faint-hearted.

How exactly can you stop your dog from being overexcited on walks and enjoy walks again?

Dog pulling on leash.
Photo by Aleksey Boyko on Shutterstock

First, make sure your dog is properly leash-trained and has a reliable “sit” and “look at me” command. This way, you can teach your dog impulse control at the right distance by focusing on you.

When Will My Dog Stop Being Overexcited?

You’re basically asking how long training will take. Well, for us it was around 6 months of consistent training, at least that’s when we saw some amazing progress with her.

Depending on your dog it might take a month or a whole year.

Age is of the essence here.

The older your dog gets, the less he wants to play or greet people and for some dogs, it might resolve on its own.

Humans, dogs, noises, bikes, every dog has a different trigger.

Cheer your successes because your training will eventually bear fruit if you’re consistent.

I’ve initially written this article while still strengthening my Rottie’s training and now that she’s an adult canine citizen, she got calmer.

Just some light leash-pulling on the first walk of the day (okay, maybe not so light with 100 pounds at the other end).

Completely ignores bikes, kids, wheelchairs, noises, and so on. Other dogs are still interesting.

You have to get to a level where you can manage your dog’s reactivity towards whatever it is that triggers him.

Don’t skip socialization though and always be able to control your dog.

Excitement on Walks is Self-Rewarding

Any excitement that your dog has towards his environment is self-rewarding, meaning that the more he gets rewarded when being excited the more excited he will get over time.

If you do not stop, it won’t resolve on its own and will get worse and worse.

Except for making sure she had good experiences, we started fairly late with restricting who she meets and how she meets them, so that’d be my first advice: Start right now!

We made the mistake of not paying enough attention to her when she was being petted by people.

Or rather, we did pay attention but just to make sure she wasn’t uncomfortable or anxious or anything.

Anybody could touch her and any dog would greet her, people love it when she was a pup and she loved it so why intervene, right?

Dogs quickly learn patterns and she got used to that.

It’s like giving your child some candy every day and one day you simply stop.

That’s hard to explain to a child and even harder for a dog.

So depending on how long this self-rewarding behavior continued, you will need a certain amount of time to fix it.

Leash Training and Impulse Control

Before you can work with your dog on leash reactivity, he will have to learn the general leash manners of never lunging or pulling.

If you have a dog that pulls even when no one is around, then go through the steps here and train with your dog every day.

We never ever let our dog pull us down the streets.

We leash-trained her right when she was a puppy because she would pull from day one.

Every time she pulled in any direction, I would stand still and wouldn’t let her move anywhere.

This way, you will show your dog that pulling gets him nowhere and that you are the one deciding where to go.

Leash pulling is self-rewarding just like excitement.

Your dog will remember that every time he pulls he will get quicker to where he wants to go.

You have to be very consistent with this even when you have to stop after every single step.

It also helps to just switch directions quickly and often.

Walk a few steps to the right, then turn to the other side and walk in a square.

If you suddenly change directions, your dog will start looking where you go as he is just used to walking straight.

Another pro tip: Don’t go with back-clip harnesses if your dog’s a heavy puller.

Yes, especially for large/giant breeds it’s good on the joints, but it makes pulling so much easier for your dog. Train him properly to walk with a collar on.

Impulse control is another extremely important topic that will help you with so many other behavior issues.

You can read the section on impulse control in this post which will also teach you some techniques to calm down your overexcited dog.

In general, overexcited dogs tend to develop other behavior problems such as jumping, barking, rough play, etc.

Those can be symptoms of a dog that lacks general guidance.

Improve your communication and bond by working on these issues.

Detox Training to Control Leash Reactivity

What we did first was completely stop any human or dog contact on walks because if your dog gets excited, pulls to a person, and gets physical affection THIS is the reward, this is what he wants.

So no pets or greeting other dogs when on a leash.

I wanted my dog to make the association that the leash is never a place to pull.

We visited 1-hour doggy play sessions twice a week at our local dog school so she gets enough dog contact anyways.

Try to avoid greetings with people or dogs as much as possible until your canine companion has learned that only if he is calm, he can go.

That means being on the lookout in public places or overcrowded parks and saying no if people want to pet your dog, don’t feel like you’re being rude for training your dog.

Always evaluate if your dog is stressed.

You can easily spot a stressed dog through his body language and signs like heavy breathing.

Choosing the Right Gear

Especially if you have a big and strong dog, controlling him is not easy.

The right gear will help you stop your dog from lunging.

For my dog, I have bought this strong front-clip harness and a gentle leader.

A front-clip harness gives you much more control over the body of your dog and will stop him from pulling.

A back-clip harness actually reinforces pulling.

The gentle leader helps to control your dog’s head and where the head goes, the body follows.

Leash Training with Distance

While training your dogs leash reactivity, the distance will be your best friend.

The more space you can get between the trigger and your dog the better he will comply.

Always try to get your dog’s attention on you rather than the environment.

If he gets too distracted, this means that you will have to build up more distance.

Carry your dog’s favorite treats with you outside and only use them for this training.

When you approach a dog or a human, build up distance and let your dog do some commands, like a simple sit.

It also helps to teach your dog to pay attention to you and look you in the eyes, which is explained in this video:

Having your dog’s eyes will ensure his full attention and I always use this before any training.

Work on this and stay patient.

Your dog won’t pay much attention to you the first time you get outside and if he continuously fails then you will need to build up distance.

When walking past another dog, get your dog into a sit and stay.

And here is a little secret tip of mine: when he lunges or gets up, correct him for breaking the sit command.

This will put the focus on his obedience and won’t necessarily punish his lunging to prevent frustration.

Reinforcing Calm Behavior

When you strictly follow the steps from above, you will see some first results and your dog will start ignoring other people or dogs.

Once he becomes calmer on the leash you can slowly reincorporate some contact to reward the desired behavior.

To still reinforce the concept of leash ≠ greeting, you will want your dog to experience the contact offleash.

So if you are walking in a park where dogs are allowed off-leash and you see someone you know, you can then remove the leash and allow your dog to play or greet if he remains calm.

If he gets too excited again, put him on the leash and remove him from the situation.

Release & Permission Before Dog Greetings

When letting your dog off-leash you do not just want him to run off the second you remove the leash.

A well-behaved dog will wait for his permission to go anywhere.

This will help you in many situations and can also be a lifesaver and keep your dog from running outside the front door or jumping out of the car.

What I always do is let my dog sit and stay while removing the leash.

I will then take a few steps back, get her eyes on me, and then give her the release cue.

If you do not know what a release command is, you can read the training steps here.

My release cue is “go” and I use it for everything.

For example, before she gets her meals or before she can get out of the car.

The release command is mandatory when teaching your dog “stay” as it needs to have a beginning and an end.

And because every command should have a built-in stay, the release command always comes in handy.

How to Stop Dog From Barking on Walks

If barking’s the issue with your dog, releasing won’t help much, right?

What will help is introducing a “bark” and thus also a “quiet” command as this will set you both up for great communication.

Your dog immediately knows that barking is undesirable at that moment if you use the “quiet” command.

Some breeds bark much more heavily than others (German Shepherds, Australian Shepherds, and especially Border Collies).

Make sure to show them that there’s no danger or anything else negative.

Calming down an overexcited dog on walks is all about discipline, leash training, and distance.

If you stay patient and consistent with your training, it will get much better.

Share your experiences with leash reactivity in the comments below.

My favorite products for overexcited dogs

Thanks for reading, I hope it’ll help you control your overexcited dog on walks.

If you’re interested in what I’ve been using with my pretty excitable Rottweiler, here are a couple of simple tools.

These are all products I’ve used and would recommend to my own family.

Dog training treats: Grab some high-value single-ingredient dog treats or your dog’s favorite toy such as the Chuckit Squeaker if you want to compete with the interesting stuff outside (beware of overstimulating your dog though).

Head Halti: While head haltis are designed to stop dogs from pulling, they also allow you to control your dog’s vision and avoid fido fixating on something interesting without listening to you.

Clicker: If you decide to train your dog to listen to a clicker device, the one with a target at the other end might be a good fit. In intense situations, you can fall back on conditioned behavior and steer the attention your way.

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Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any sign of illness, call your vet.

About Danielle

Equipped with 5+ years of expertise as a Rottweiler owner, I partner with licensed veterinarians and trainers to share research-backed and actionable advice for you and your furry friend.

Penny Lane

Friday 25th of August 2023

I wish I could say that I have. I picked up several things that I may have done unknowingly to reinforce her bad behavior, so I'll start on those things first. I think I have a long road ahead of me as there is no going out of the house whether walking or in the car or into a store without there being a scene made with her barking and crying. She is only eight months old and just 12 pounds but she can be down right scary when she sees another dog. She is great in the house but has no manners around other dogs and runs roughshod over my other little girl. I often have to intervene in her persistence to elicit play. This is a whole new experience for me as all of the other dogs I have had were quiet, polite and extremely obedient. It's funny, not funny, how when I got her my family said she would be another wonder dog because I was such a good trainer. Well, I guess I have a lot to learn! She it a test but I love this little button to pieces!

Vickie B

Thursday 7th of July 2022

My 3 (almost 4) year old beagle was a good walker until she had a traumatic experience at a year old with an unleashed dog that ran up to us when I was walking her and our other 8 year old beagle. Now, if we come upon any other dog while walking, she barks wildly and lunges toward the other dog. I’ve tried to limit our walks trying to avoid other dogs, turning around if encountering any other dog. Our other beagle has remained calm even though she also was with me. She also pulls so hard that she starts ‘sneezing’ and needs to sit down to catch her breath before we can move on. Our walks are no longer relaxing for me or her. What should I do? I have 2 dogs that need walks.


Thursday 7th of July 2022

Hi Vickie, never limit your walks and exercise just to avoid certain situations. It's perfectly fine to turn around if you see an unleashed or riled-up dog. But long term, you need to desensitize her. Training can be started in a controlled environment (get a trainer if you're unsure) and needs to be continued until properly socialized again.

It's normal that such an experience is more impactful for a younger dog who was perhaps in a completely normal fear period where these events have a lasting impact compared to properly socialized adult or even senior dogs. Perhaps walking them separately will help for now since your younger dog might be trying to protect the other one.

Consult a professional for proper socialization, it'll be worth it if you're unsure about doing it on your own.

Cheers, Danielle

Christine M Waters

Friday 24th of December 2021

Thank you for your articles. I have used your techs. Many times as I train trial and show my Rottweilers. Had the first Reg Therapy Rottweiler in Hillsborough Co Fla. Have had HIT female Rottweilers and many titled dogs. I esp liked your explanation of throwing your dog into defense. I never did this but some do. I just never found it necessary. My best day was getting my females ZtP from German Kormiester Johann Melhin who judged two of our Sieger shows


Thursday 10th of June 2021

Hi Danielle,

Thank you for this blog post I think it will really help. I have two dogs (sisters from the same litter), 4 years old going to be 5. They unfortunately get very excited on walks when seeing other dogs (whining, pulling, barking) especially when seeing larger breeds, and once they meet the dog all they do is smell and then are bored. The same when after they have run around the park and are somewhat tired they don’t seem to have a problem when seeing other dogs when on the leash. Though one is much calmer than the other I feel that they feed off each other’s energy, so when one is excited the other becomes excited and so on.

Using your methods do you think it would be more beneficial to try and train them separately? They both live with my aunt and cousins and are much more difficult to train together. Would having one come and stay at my house and train, and the other training at my aunts house be better?

Thank you, looking forward to your thoughts!


Thursday 10th of June 2021

@Danielle, Thank you for your reply, I will be trying this out!


Thursday 10th of June 2021

Hi Isabella,

your dog is the inverted version of my Rottweiler as a pup/young adult. She was very excited with a stiff posture and did pull but nothing vocal, no jumping etc. Once arrived at her desired dog destination, she did everything to get them to play unless they were seniors. So, you're kind of lucky that at least you won't have to deal with your dogs embarrassing you in front of other owners, big plus haha!

It can definitely be that one dog animates the other to get overexcited too, especially if they're sisters. However, total separation might make it worse since it can create a lot of uncertainty. So to clarify, they're your dogs, but one lives with your aunt and the other with your cousin? Why not take both dogs in and then just go on separate walks once per day and the other walk playtime together where you just avoid this situation.

When you can focus on one dog, it also allows you to perfectly time the reward, take the time to expose one to the same stimuli as long as it takes, etc.

Cheers, Danielle

Linda Cairns

Thursday 29th of April 2021

Hi I think you are giving really great advice and as someone with a Shepweiler I know you understand some of the reactive issues these lovely dogs can have.I have a question.My boy is 8 months old and walks great on a loose lead. He has issues with lunging and barking and he is becoming very powerful.You mentioned a gentle leader as well as a harness.Do you use both at the same time? Thanks Linda


Tuesday 4th of May 2021

Hi Linda, glad the article is helpful for you! Theoretically, you can walk your dog on the gentle leader alone. Personally, I always use the front or back clip of a harness as safety meassure, especially when the gentle leader is new and might slip off.

As the name implies, your dog is supposed to be easily led with the gentle leader anyway so you could even go with a collar.

If your dog wears the harness or collar in addition to the gentle leader you can also switch during the walk if you don't want to use the gentle leader all the way so that'd be the most practical solution.

Cheers, Danielle