Thursday, December 2, 2010

How to Teach an Excited Dog to Calm Down

By Linda Cole

Some dogs can get so worked up when it's time for a walk or a romp in the backyard they nearly knock you over on the way to the door. Frenzied barking and jumping is the sign of a hyper, out-of-control dog who could become aggressive if they remain in that state of mind and meet another dog or person once outside. Calming them down before they go out is the best thing to do – but how do you teach a dog to stay calm? Read on.

An overly excited dog isn't focusing on you. If you are trying to get them outside and they are jumping, barking and running away from you, they are controlling the situation. Teach a dog to stay calm with basic commands and get him to focus on you.

Dog training is important for any dog, but an excitable dog needs to learn how to sit and stay. The next step is to teach a dog to focus only on you. My dog Keikei goes bonkers every time we get ready to go outside. She bounces and barks insistently. The louder I get trying to get her to stop barking, the louder she barks and I know I've lost control because she can out bark me. According to dog experts, ignoring her is supposed to help calm her down. Most of the time it works, but not when we're ready to go outside. Her state of mind is running on high octane. The only way to put on the brakes is to have her sit and stay before she can go through the door.

To teach a dog to calm down, have them sit right in front of you. It's easy for them to forget their training when they become hyper, but an agitated dog can become aggressive and hurt you or them. It's important for them to sit and stay until you release them. Stay calm, no matter what happens. You are setting an example for your dog to follow and he will feed off of you if you become as excited as he is. Teach your dog to focus on you and nothing else.

The best way to teach an excited dog to calm down is to begin training them to sit, stay and focus on you. Take a CANIDAE Snap-Biscuit® treat and hold it up so they can see it. If they get up, they don't get the treat. They are rewarded only when they sit, stay and look at you. Give your dog a command to focus on you and give them a treat when they make eye contact with you. After he's focusing on you every time and pays attention to what you are saying, then you won't need to make him sit and stay. Have him focus on you every time he becomes excited. This helps him redirect his mind away from what's causing him to overreact. You need to be able to control your dog's excitement and helping him learn to calm down takes away stress that only adds to his excited behavior.

Dogs can be like kids in a toy store at Christmas time. For some children, no matter how much you holler at them to come back, your voice falls on deaf ears once those little eyes see all the toys. Yelling at your dog won't calm him down and will only reinforce his behavior because he is getting your attention, even if it's negative attention. His level of excitement is more apt to increase. Training your dog to obey basic commands and learn  to focus on you puts you back in control. Dog training should be done on a daily basis and reinforced daily after they've learned a command.

When trying to teach a dog, don't worry about doing it overnight. Take your time and make it fun. Stay positive, calm, patient and consistent. Keikei has been a challenge to work with. She is a spirited soul with a mind of her own, but she is learning what I'm trying to teach. One of the best ways to teach a dog to stay calm is for you to remain calm. For most dogs, ignoring them will help subdue their level of excitement. For a more head strong dog, they may need to learn how to sit and stay until they can learn how to control their excitement.

Photo: "Ellie" by Keira Bishop

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. how do I get a 4 month old standard poodle to stop peeing when you touch him to go outside. he is very shy? how long should it take a dog to be potty trained ? please help! Patti

  2. Hi Patti,

    If he's shy, he may continue to pee when he's unsure about things. A submissive dog is likely to pee when he's corrected and he may be thinking you're correcting him when you touch him when he's going outside. You may not realize it, but he may have had a negative encounter of some kind associated with going outside and could be confused or unsure about how to handle the situation. He could remember it, but you don't.

    I would try using a calm and soft voice with him with no sudden movements and avoid touching him. 4 months is a pretty young guy who is still a work in progress. Try to focus his mind on something positive when you're going outside like treats and lots of praise. Having him sit beside the door gives him a job to do while he's waiting for you to open it. You could also teach him how to ring a bell when he needs to go out. Another way to refocus his mind and give him something to do. Poodles are smart dogs and if you work with him, it shouldn't take too long to teach him how to ring a bell. Dogs are like kids and everytime they learn something new and you give them lots of praise for learning, it makes them feel good about themselves and gives them a positive attitude. I would touch him when praising him, though.

    When I'm giving my dogs praise, I cradle their head in between my hands and starting under their eyes, gently rub the side of their face and along the ears. Can't leave out a kiss on the nose, either. Anything you can do that gives them a positive feeling about you and a good feeling when you touch them. Make sure he associates your touch with a good feeling.

    By the time a pup is 4 months, he's old enough to control his bladder, so housebreaking then becomes you knowing the signals he gives when he wants out. By the time he's 6 or 7 months old, he should be completely housebroken as long as you're consistent with his training. I would still suggest you try teaching him to ring a bell. I have an article here on the blog on how to teach them. It's not hard to do and it's a good way for him to communicate to you when he needs out.

    Let me know how things go or if you need more help.


  3. hi,

    my dog gets WAY over exited when she sees an other dog coming our way when walking. I have thought her so many things. she walks perfectly next to me when walking, she stops every time I stop, very friendly and so on. I don't believe in making 'baby' sounds to an exited dog when teaching them to be calm because it just makes the situation much worse.



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