How to Train a Dog to Calm Down
The kids have been pestering you for what seems like an eternity, and now you’ve finally buckled and got a dog.
While it's exciting to see your new furry friend bound around the house, the reality of the situation will soon come crashing down around your ears. As your new furry friend collides into that treasured antique, or spreads an unlimited number of muddy footprints all over your nice expensive couch. You may wonder to yourself, how on earth am I going to calm this four-legged lunatic down?
Well, wonder no longer, as we share our tips on how to train your dog to calm down.
Yes, your dog’s a bundle of uncontrollable craziness, but before we tackle that, we need to take a good look in the mirror. Not only do we need to train our dogs to be calm, but we also need to train ourselves.
We may not realize it, but our dogs feed off of our body language. They watch us closely and can notice even the slightest change in our posture or tone of voice.
When we walk in through the door after a hard day’s work, what do we do?
We’re so happy to see their furry faces; we start talking in a high-pitched voice and run towards them in an over-exaggerated manner! No wonder they respond by jumping around and barking with excitement.
They think it’s what they are supposed to do because that’s what we’re doing!
Try ignoring your dog when you first enter the house, take your shoes and coat off, put the kettle on, then greet your dog calmly.
If we remain calm, talk in a calm tone, and keep our energy levels low, they are much less likely to react in such an excitable way.
Ignore Bad Behavior
When your dog becomes overexcited, barking, and genuinely driving you mad, the best thing you can do is to ignore the excitable behavior.
Hard I know, but shouting at your dog to “calm down”, kind of defeats the purpose. Your furry friend may interpret your shouting and animated gestures as joining in and get even more enthusiastic.
Be the example and remain composed, and only engage with your dog when they have calmed down. Positive reinforcement for good behavior always trumps negative reinforcement.
Reward Calm Behavior
Ignoring your excited dog is a brilliant start to solving your problem. However, it’s equally important that we remember to reward them when they do become calm.
Don’t let those critical moments slip by unnoticed.
If your dog keeps jumping up and barking at you, do the following:
- Turn your back; this shows that you’re not engaging with your dog’s excitable behavior.
- Once your dog has calmed down, reward them with a treat or a favorite toy.
- If your dog gets carried away and becomes overexcited again, repeat the process.
Ignore bad behaviour, reward the good.
You’ll be surprised at just how quick our furry friends will catch on, especially when their favorite treats are the reward.
A Quiet Space
As we’ve mentioned, dogs that get overexcited easily become stimulated by what’s happening around them. Mostly, they feed off our energy levels, but sometimes it can be outside influences that trigger their excitable behavior.
Imagine your neighbor has got family visiting, and they’re in their backyard, playing music, laughing, and talking.
In your dog’s mind, that’s got to be worth constantly barking for 8 hours straight while jumping up at the fence like some mad kangaroo.
You’re not triggering your dog, your neighbors inadvertently are, and you can’t ask them to leave their own backyard.
So what can we do?
Remain calm; we don’t want to add any more excitement into the mix.
Take your dog inside, to a quiet room away from the action, this cuts off your dog’s supply of excitement. If you haven’t got one, it might also be a good idea to invest in a dog crate.
A crate gives dogs a safe, quiet space of their own to relax and escape the noisy outside world. The trick to crate training dogs is to not close the door straight away. We don’t want to make them feel trapped, as this can give them a negative association of the crate and create anxiety around it.
Try doing the following:
- Fill the crate with fun stuff, their favorite blanket, a Kong filled with treats, and chew toys.
- Let them get comfortable going in and out of the crate. This might take a few days/weeks.
- When your dog feels comfortable taking a nap in there, only then close over the door.
- Don’t lock the door; leave it slightly ajar so your dog can nudge it open.
- Once your dog is used to it, lock the door for short periods, slowly increasing the time.
Now we’ve got a space that our dogs associate with feeling calm and settled. When outside influences send our furry friend’s excitement levels off the charts, placing them in the crate will diffuse the situation.
Dogs are like children; they need to know what’s right, and what’s wrong. While putting your badly behaved child on the naughty step will teach them the negative consequences of their actions, dogs need a more positive approach.
Positive reinforcement training gives their minds a good workout while demonstrating that there’s nothing to be gained by exhibiting inappropriate behavior.
Crate training gives our dogs the space to calm down, and it gives us a place to keep them away from excitement triggers.
Your dog will soon discover that following instructions is fun and rewarding, and over time will develop a deep trust and respect in you. Know more about pet training here!
As a professional dog trainer, I see many clients with dogs of different ages, breeds, and temperaments. I might work on leash pulling with the first..