Dog Gone Problems is a weekly advice column by David Codr, a dog behaviorist in Omaha. David answers dog behavior questions sent in by our readers. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Dog Gone Problems,
We have a 6-month-old puppy we adopted at 8 weeks old. She is most of the time very sweet and we are currently doing positive reinforcement dog training. The problem with Sunnie is when she gets overly excited, she jumps and bites us aggressively.
We have been trying to “ignore” the bad behavior and walk away without giving her attention, but so far it isn’t working. She doesn’t stop until we get her back to her leash or her crate so that we can walk away. We also have her on a restraint in the living room so that it is easy to walk away instead of grabbing her to restrain her. I’m so afraid she isn’t going to stop!
Do you have any advice?
Excitement is the source of many dog and puppy behavior problems. Just like humans, there are many levels to a dog's excitability. The key is to stop the excitement train as soon as it starts to leave.
I like to say dogs have 10 levels of energy — one is barely awake and 10 is bouncing off the walls. Most people wait until a dog is very excited before trying to stop or calm them down.
I would suggest you watch your puppy’s energy level carefully. When you see she is starting to get excited, stop whatever you are doing that is causing the excitement. If you are playing, stop, stand up and hold still until she calms down (basically get boring). Don’t try to tell her to stop or calm down, as that can often make things worse.
If you learn to stop right away, she will be able to calm herself down quicker, as she isn’t so worked up.
While stopping your engagement when your puppy is excited will help a ton, it isn’t going to stop your puppy’s problems alone. Dogs sleep an average of 17 hours a day — and puppies sleep even more. I have found that increasing exercise can go a long ways towards changing unwanted puppy behavior. Here are some tips:
- Walks can be a good way to burn off energy without getting too excited. If your puppy gets excited when you are leashing her up, use this trick to teach your puppy to stay calm while being leashed.
- If you haven’t already gone to puppy school, I would enroll your puppy in one right away. Most puppy classes cover biting and nipping, but some also include a socialization time where the pups get to play with one another. This is a wonderful way for dogs to learn biting doesn’t feel good when they are on the receiving end from another puppy.
- Lastly, teaching your dog a focus exercise can help you stop your dog’s excitement and pay attention to you while staying calm and quiet instead.
Good luck and remember — everything you do trains your dog. Only sometimes you mean it.