Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Training Rant - Excitement

How many of you out there have a friend that comes over and plays rough with your dogs? The friend that comes, sits on the floor and plays with toys, heavy pats, picks up your dogs, spins them on the floor, etc. Perhaps he/she comes over and begins a game of tug with your dog which may or may not be a game you allow your dogs to play? Perhaps it is a child? Or an adult who won't listen to your protests and brushes them off as an over-protective owner?

Many dog owners train their dogs to be calm and collected. While this is a good thing to teach your dog and an important behaviour they should know, if the only thing you teach them is to be calm and collected, it will lead to some issues. The problem with this technique is ... what happens when they are in a situation that gets them excited and playful?? Do you make them be calm? How? What if they don't listen? Do you forget it and let them play? These are important questions to ask.

Some people, me included, believe that it is important to teach your dog how to come down quickly from excitement. The reason is simple - you aren't going to be able to control all the people that come to your house ... there will always be that one person who doesn't listen. Sometimes these people get the dogs excited and play hard with them. Although you can't control every person who walks in the door, you can control the behaviours your dog will exhibit and therefore control the situation in this way. The dogs need to know how to handle this crazy person even if their main handlers don't play that way.

You see a phrase, or command, in herding a lot with "That'll do". The way it works is the dog is working or excited, etc and the way the handler tells the dog that enough is enough is through the use of "That'll do" or "That will do". That command means "stop whatever you're doing and look at me regardless of the emotional state you're in or where you are". This is a helpful command when teaching dogs how to deal with overexcitement.

We use the same concept with our dogs when we are playing with them. They learn that at any time regardless of what they are doing, with the command of "That'll do" or "Enough" they settle immediately.

The only way you can trust your dogs in a situation is to put them in that situation and teach them how to deal with it. You won't be able to prep them for each and every scenario, but you may as well help them along and give them a good foundation. (This is another thing that default behaviours are for.)


Chef said...

You have a good point. I don't have that problem with people but with other dogs we encounter on walks who get Chef too excited. I don't have a word or phrase to calm him - it's a sound. It's almost like "Hey!" in a very low, gruff tone. It's very abrupt and it gets his attention. It usually works but sometimes I have to yank his leash at the same time. Then I have him sit.

Splash said...

I have been using the word "turn", usually followed by "look", which just means look at me.

I've never been able to solve the getting excited when people come over problem. Splash is very social, and loves his visitors.

DogsDeserveFreedom said...

Chef - sounds like that's pretty well the same thing. You've given a sound a meaning to your dog. That's really all commands are. They understand that the sound you make come out of your mouth means to do something - be that "Sit" or "Sshh" or "Hey" ... the dog doesn't really care what sound you make - so long as they can figure out what it means.

Splash - This is a common issue for people. It just takes time and a lot of people going through. It is a worthwhile thing to teach a calming command that you can use in any situation. (we use ours when people walk in, when they're playing, when they're bothering other dogs or cats and when they're doing just about anything that needs to stop)

I know one person now who has a Retriever pup (almost a year old) that goes crazy when people come over. I suggested that she get some of the local kids and neighbours to come over, ring the doorbell and come in for a snack. Then repeat over and over. From what I've heard, the dog is doing better, but it really takes a lot of time and a lot of work because in essense, you're undoing a behaviour that has been reinforced and rewarded (whether you meant it or not). These sorts of behaviours are more difficult to get rid of than the ones that you "nip in the bud" so to speak because the dog has already learned that if they do this behaviour (ie - bad doggie door manners), they get good things - be that their owners or the visitors cooing, or scolding, or touching (even if you're pushing off, you're still touching)

GoLightly said...

Eeesh, I cannot train my husband to encourage quiet behaviour from my girls when I get home. I don't mind excitement, but they need to be quiet and well-behaved before all hell is allowed to break loose.

Humans are SO hard to train:)

DogsDeserveFreedom said...

GoLightly - I think humans are more difficult to train than dogs :)

Misadventures of Widowhood said...

I've had this problem before with little kids, especially, playing harder with my dog than I like. I hadn't thought about the fact that I should be training him when to calm down instead of always expecting the kids to follow my instructions.

Yes, let's exchange links. I'll add you tonight.

Levi's mom