He's So Excited! What's wrong with that?

Owners naturally want to see the dogs they love enjoy life. They want to see them get excited about things like walks and dinner time, they want to see them rejoice that they are home from work. There are a lot of moments that I hear owners describe in this way and their explanation is that their dog is excited. The dog they describe might -Jump up on them, counters, or doors -Vocalise, bark or whine -Run in circles or pace around -Can't sit still for pats or their leash The dog might be excited to see them, to get in the car, go for a walk or see other dogs. So what's the matter with that? There is a very fine line between a dog that is just excited and one that is highly aroused, unfocused and overwrought. Owners often reinforce this state of mind by encouraging it, they think the excitement is cute. It is also extremely reinforcing to owners. We spend so much time providing our dogs with walks, play time, outings and food, many people see the excited state of mind as gratitude for everything we do for them. Gratitude is a very human concept and dogs aren't really capable of feeling thankful for things in the same way we are. What they are likely experiencing is something different. If they see something new or that they don't see every day, they may be on alert, if they are about to go for a walk and get excited, their arousal level is going up. When you come home from work they feel relief that they are no longer alone or no longer bored with nothing to do.

It can unfortunately lead to some really frustrating and even dangerous behaviours long term.

Jumping up for particularly big dogs can be painful to owners or dangerous for children, the elderly or pregnant women. Over-arousal can lead to pulling on leash or even reactive barking, chasing, and lunging at things going past.

So what should you do instead? Reinforce calm states of mind. Your dog can still look forward to your return from work or to their walk, but do it in a calm, responsive manner but they can only do this if you practice and if you are consistent with your expectations. Pick up your dog's leash and if they start running to the door or jumping, put it back down, repeat. Only attach the leash if they are sitting calmly. If you get home and go to let them inside and they jump on the door, walk away from them, come back when they have settled down. If they jump up again, repeat until they can sit until release.

Engrained habits can be hard to kick - you know this if you've every tried to stop biting your nails or eating junk food. Be patient, but with repetition and time, your dog will realise that those habits aren't reinforcing any more - they get nothing out of them - and they will stop. Lead by a calm example, relax your body and avoid feeling frustrated. Take a mindfulness moment, picture how much easier life will be without the jumping up, the running back and forth, pulling on leash, then proceed with the training.

You will notice a significant reduction in a number of troublesome behaviours and start enjoying life with your dog more!


Thanks for reading and I hope this helps you keep your commitment to canines!

Lucy


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