Q: My 10-week-old Border Collie has boundless energy. Besides daily walks, she gets an hour of play and an hour of training every day. She’s super smart and already knows how to sit, lie down, and roll over. But how do I go about teaching an overly excited puppy how to settle down or be calm?
A: Puppies are adorable but don’t be fooled by their innocent faces! While fun, puppyhood can also be the most difficult period of owning a dog. Canines are born not knowing what they are expected to do, so getting excited and jumping on people is, unfortunately, our fault because we allow them to become like this.
When a puppy jumps, his behaviour is reinforced because he gets noticed, followed by a pat on the head. Excitement and not being able to settle down are also caused by humans because we allow a young pup to get excited and do not teach him impulse control, which involves controlling excitement. One of the highlights in my puppy classes, teaching impulse control is very important because most young dogs do not know how to control their excitement. They get frustrated when they do not get what they want, and the frustration may result in a mixture of behavioural problems such as barking.
Walking your dog, playing and training are good ways to tire your puppy. However, they have to be done correctly to avoid your little canine from learning more mistakes. If your pooch sees the leash and starts jumping up and down in excitement and/or whining, then you shouldn’t bring her for a walk until she calms down. If you play with your furkid and she starts to get rough, mouths or nips your hands and jumps crazily, then the playing should stop until she calms down.
To teach a dog to stay calm, the same methods have to be consistently applied to almost everything she does, such as waiting to eat, waiting for your attention and so on. By applying this to various situations, your dog will learn to generalise that she has to stay calm for everything. If you shout and scold Fido for the naughty behaviours, she will still take it as “attention” and the bad behaviours will continue. Start rewarding for calm behaviours and ignore all the jumping and excited ones. In this way, your little pup will learn that having all four paws on the ground, sitting nicely and lying down gets her more attention and she will start offering calm behaviours more frequently.