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How I Calmed My Overexcited Dog On Walks

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. She gets extremely excited when seeing people or other dogs (guess we did too good of a job socializing her).

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?

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.

Dog pulling on leash

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.

Update: Our Rottweiler girl is now nearly 2 years old and she’s golden when it comes to walking.

Humans, dogs, noises, bikes (the latter two have never been an issue though) are no problem at all. Just the occasional potential playmate she wants to meet.

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

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 to not pay 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. 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 stopping any human or dog contact on walks because if your dog gets excited, pulls to a person, and gets pet 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 visit 1-hour doggy play sessions two times 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 off--leash.

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 letting my dog sit and stay while removing the leash. I will then take a few steps back, get her eyes on me, and then giving 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 Sheperd’s, 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.

Here are some of 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 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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About Danielle
I am the founder of PawLeaks where I share weekly tips on dog training and behavior. Sharing a passion for dogs and helping owners to solve problems through understanding canine behavior and modification is my number one goal.


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

Jennifer Rogers

Thursday 3rd of December 2020

This is all really useful thank you! Just one quick question…when you say: “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.” What do you mean by correcting him? We are really trying to work on this with our dog and he breaks his sit all the time!


Friday 4th of December 2020

Hey Jennifer, correcting your dog can be as simple as a sharp sound or "no!", whatever you usually use to let him know that you didn't like that. A correction can also be a jerk on the leash (without applying too much force, of course).

When in training, it's best to communicate with your dog and let him know when you like or don't like something. Btw: A reward doesn't necessarily have to be a treat, it can just as well be the positive voice or a toy. This avoids that your dog is getting too dependant on food. You can also opt for clicker training in which case you only condition your dog to the click. The latter prevents you from talking too much to your dog which many owners are inclined to do while training (e.g. saying too much, speaking in full sentences, repeating the same thing too often and saying "no!" time and time again which can frustrate your dog).

In the end, it all comes down to calm and simple communication so that your dog knows what's asked of him :). Obedience training will surely help with overexcitement and if you put your dog into a sit, not only will you correct him for lunging, you'll correct him for breaking that command. Teaching the pattern of walking past another dog = calm is a lot harder than breaking a sit command = bad if that puts the last sentence you mentioned into context.

Cheers, Danielle


Friday 23rd of October 2020

I just recently found this site and you have many good helpful tips. I have a 4 year old Sheltie. A good dog,but not a good walker when he sees other dogs. He wants to go to them and he's hard to control. I believe it is our fault for not having other dogs to socialize with. I want to correct him. I was wondering about the front clip harness and the gentle leader. Are you able to use both at the same time? We use the gentle leader now and that does help him be a better walker, but he sometimes gets out of control with his pulling when he sees another dog. What do you suggest?


Saturday 24th of October 2020

Hey Diane, in theory you can use the gentle leader together with a back or front clip or just with the collar, even the gentle leader alone should suffice. It's a good idea to have a second security measure though (in case your dog breaks free). Dogs need to get used to walking with the gentle leader but walking should be really smooth with that since you're controlling your dog's head.

Check the linked article if you want more information on socialization :).

Cheers, Danielle


Sunday 30th of August 2020

I have a 5 month old puppy. We started taking him on walks once he had all his shots. Since day one it’s been a nightmare. He cries and screams and pulls every time we see someone. It’s so embarrassing that sometimes I don’t want to take him outside... I want to do a lot of things with him but I feel I can’t take him anywhere. The way he screams it’s like he was just run over by a car, and I realize it’s because he wants attention from everyone. Please help me!


Sunday 30th of August 2020

Hi Rebeca,

first of all, it's a myth that one can only take his puppy outside once he has all his shots - so late socialization might be part of the reason why he's now so excited to see people/dogs/stuff. Check this resource for more (also linked in my socialization article).

I totally get your issue. While my Rottie was never really vocal, she dragged herself across the street, choking herself in the process just to then cough and sneeze strangely upon arriving. She's 2y old now and still loves to see people but absolutely calm in comparison.

The best component that will help with puppies is just aging. However, for proper training sessions, you could invite a couple of friends (strangers to your dog, unless he is excited by people he knows too) and let them ignore him. The problem with people he meets outside is that they probably give him attention (looks, making sounds, even petting, etc.) which reinforces this behavior.

If he understands that people won't give him attention until he calms down, it can be a lot easier. Treat him if he calms down or even better, show him what to do instead. This is called counter-conditioning and in the end, you want your dog to go into his bed on their own free will when guests arrive, for example.

Socializing means showing your dog the world, he doesn't have to be pet per se. Just make sure that people don't reward negative behavior and tell them politely your dog is in training. If they do pet your dog or give attention, make sure he pays attention to you before and is relatively calm.

Also, for the screaming/yelping/barking it can help to introduce commands for barking (or vocalizations in general) which automatically comes with an off switch. This way, your dog at least knows what you're asking of him.

It's a process and your dog won't be the most relaxed dog on earth tomorrow but it'll happen eventually if you stay on it :).

Cheers, Danielle