How to stop overexcitement on the lead
How to stop overexcitement on the lead
Today we’re going to be talking about ‘How to deal with overexcitement on the lead’
Excited behaviour is related to a high arousal state. That often goes along with a short attention span, quick change of focus, jittery behaviour. This is counterproductive to having a nice and relaxed walk with your dog. This state of mind makes it really hard for your dog to listen to you. Unfortunately people often induce an excited state into their dogs. Hence an important question is ‘What are you doing that encourages your dog’s excited behaviour?’ Many people unconsciously feed such jittery behaviour and then wonder why their dogs are so distracted and all over the place when walking them.
As it is there are enough distractions and many stimuli outside already. On the walk there is more energy, movement, sounds, sights, smells etc in the form of cats, other people, birds, cars and much more. Your dog is taking all of these in. What you don’t want is to start with an already excited dog. You should not be encouraging your dog to be too excited. You should also avoid associating a walk with excitement. Instead you want to associate the walk with a calm affair.
I remember a client of mine who has two dogs, two Kelpies. These two would completely loose it as soon as they found out they were going for a walk. When I picked up their leads they were jumping, barking and running around for a good few minutes before they stopped and realized that nothing was happening – as I had put down the lead and ignored them completely as soon as they started their display. When I picked up the lead again, they acted the same way but less intense and they calmed down sooner. The next time I picked up there was even less of an reaction. By the fourth time they just stood there, because they started realising that nothing is going to happen if we keep going nuts.
The idea is that you can get the lead out, put your shoes on, clip your dog on the lead, walk to the door, without there being exuberance going on. So that you encourage and induce a calm state of mind and you keep your dog in that state so that he can listen and not get carried away with the slightest distraction.
The next step is opening the door. What happens for many people when they open the door is that their dog rushes through the door. That’s really what you do not want. Walk your dog straight back in. You’re not going through that door before your dog can wait till you lead the way.
You can use all the sort of things to get your dog to wait. You can tuck on the lead. You can go try to distract him. You can walk back and forth. You can use your body to block your dog. All these things are there to interrupt and stop the excitement and intention of your dog. In a similar way, that needs to happen out on the walk.
The key is that you only carry on, you only encourage, you only feed the calm and relaxed behavior – not the excited, crazy energy. In order for that to happen, you need to keep the lead relaxed, and you need stay calm yourself. You don’t want rush down the road with your dog. You could just stop and wait. If you have the patience, that’s a way to work with it. Just wait till your dog calms down. Then you carry on, and when he gets carried away, you stop.
But you need a lot of patience for that. Most people don’t have enough patience. Alternatively you can use Stop-Start-Change-Direction. You basically turn around, change direction, and give your dog something else to do and something else to focus on till he starts following you and relaxes. The idea is that your dog starts paying attention to what’s going on for you, rather than what’s happening for him.
It is important for owners to learn how to interrupt behaviors when your dog begins to fixate on something down the road. Independent of what it is that your dog focuses on, you want to interrupt that focus and not carry on. Otherwise the focus will get more intense the closer you go and it will be more difficult for you to get through to your dog.
The main method for dealing with overexcitement is not inducing such a state of mind in the first place and learning how to interrupt focus/fixation. You want to induce a calm state of mind. Only carry on and only reward that type of behavior and state of mind.
I hope this gives you an idea how to start working with excitement on the lead. If you have questions, just post them at the comments on the bottom of this page. If you’re watching this video on Youtube, head over to my website if you have a minute to spare and just leave a comment or a question there. It’ll be much appreciated.
Thanks a lot and have fun!
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