A dog who overreacts to people or dogs needs an owner who is mindful of preventing this behavior in addition to working on coping exercises that will reduce the reactive outbursts.
How and when you speak to your dog is crucial to training success. It is important to remember that the more excited you get your dog the harder it will be for him to be calm and have manners. If your constant chatter is causing your dog to move faster, wag his tail, perk his ears, or act more alert or animated, he is probably becoming more aroused and might be more difficult to control. Here are several examples of what my clients have repeatedly said over the years and the over-aroused and unexpected responses from their dogs.....
......kind of makes you wonder
if you should say anything at all.
“Do you want to go for a walk?” Dog jumps up excitedly then runs toward the leash or the door, handler then must get the dog to settle or sit so leash can be clipped on. Client struggles with dog pulling on the leash as they go out the door.
“Oh look, it’s Auntie Sue!” Dog gets aroused and excited, runs to Auntie Sue and jumps on her. Client gets upset with dog for jumping.
[doorbell rings] “Who’s at the door?” Dog gets aroused and excited, runs to the door and barks and jumps. Client gets upset at dog for barking and jumping.
“Ratchet, do you want a cookie? Easy….EASY…..EEEEASY!” Dog hears the word “cookie” runs to the treat jar, drools and trembles anxiously while waiting for the delivery. Dog wants to lunge as the treat is handed to him because he is so worked up. He then gets more aroused as he hears “easy” get louder and LOUDER and more drawn out.
“No, Ratchet, you can’t have this chocolate. You know chocolate is not good for dogs.” Dog looks at client because his name has been said but he hasn’t a clue what the other words mean. He wonders if he should be doing something cute so client will give him the chocolate. Client has dog’s full focus but dog gets no reinforcement. Client struggles to get dog’s focus in future training sessions.
[vet looks into dog’s ear] “It’s okay. It’s okay. Ratchet, it’s OKAY. SHHHHHHHH!” Dog gets aroused from all the chatter and weird “sshhhhh” noise. He starts squirming and vet assistant clamps down tighter on his head making the dog more anxious and uncomfortable (I have had to stop a vet tech from speaking this way to my own dog).
“Ratchet, let’s go in the kitchen. Ratchet, you are so cute. Hi Ratchet, what are you doing? Ratchet, I can’t find my keys. Ratchet, mommy’s home!” Dog’s name is said so often that it becomes background noise and the dog becomes less responsive to his name. OR, dog becomes so accustomed to all the chatter that leaving him home alone in the quiet causes him distress.
Six ways to get a better response from your dog.
1) Take a moment to think before you speak. Are you saying it at the appropriate time? Do you really need to say anything at all?
2) The less you speak, the more your dog will pay attention when you do.
3) Use a calm, low-volume voice when you want your dog calm.
4) Use elevated voice if you are looking for arousal and action.
5) Speak simply and with consistency in tone and inflection.
6) Reinforce what you say with actions or with rewards.
Recently I was glamping in my friend’s motorhome and was ready to take my Labrador inside but did not take a moment to think before speaking to him. I got on the steps and called him BEFORE I had opened the screen door…..that he couldn’t see. Just finished paying that repair bill!
Hugs to you and your dogs!