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Your doorbell rings and suddenly, your dog erupts in barking. She runs around the house, knocking things over and making more noise than you can stand. You try to hush her and hold her back, but as soon as you open the door, she’s straining at her collar. The pizza guy on the other side of the door shuffles back, sure you have a vicious dog. “It’s OK,” you say. “She’s friendly.” And then you admit to yourself that you have a hyper dog. If only there was some way to get her to calm down.
Training your hyper dog to calm down on command is an incredibly useful skill. Hyper dogs mean well. They just have a lot of energy they don’t know how to control. By training your pup to respond to a calming command word, you can teach your energetic dog good manners and protect your guests from being jumped on. Depending on the energy level of your dog, it may take several weeks for you to fully train her to calm down on command.
You want to use high value treats that your dog only gets during training sessions. You can also use a clicker. In the beginning, choose a relatively distraction-free area. However, you want to train your dog while she is excited, but not so roused she’s jumping on you. You won’t see too many results if you try to train your dog as soon as you walk in the door after a long day out of the house. Try taking your dog for a walk or giving her another way to shake off some energy before getting started.
The Settle Method
The first step is getting your dog excited, but not over-excited. Move around so your dog follows you, wave your arms, jump up and down, or make silly noises. You want her to be bouncy, but not jumping on you.
Once your dog is excited, stop moving, cross your arms over your chest, and say “settle.” You want to use a firm voice, but not shout at your dog. There’s no need to scare her.
Reinforce good behavior
If your dog settles down and places all four of her paws on the ground, you should use a marker word, such as “yes” or “good,” and give her a treat. If she doesn’t calm down, take a step back and wait. Once she settles, you can reward her.
Increase the difficulty
Practice a few times. After three or four attempts, increase the difficulty by only rewarding your dog if she does not put her paws on you. You want to make sure you are training your dog not to jump, instead of to jump and then stop jumping.
Practice a few times a day
You will need to practice in short sessions. The longer you practice, the more difficult it will be for your dog to settle down. Repeat the exercise with your dog about five times a day. You can speed the process by keeping your rules consistent when you are playing other games and rewarding your dog when she jumps but doesn’t put her paws on you.
Train with guests
As your dog becomes familiar with the 'settle' command, practice with other people to reinforce the behavior. Have a friend or family member ring your doorbell. Reward your dog when she settles and performs good behaviors, such as not jumping, not pawing, or not nibbling.
Use random rewards to proof the behavior
In the beginning, you want to reward your dog any time she performs a good behavior. After a few weeks of practicing this command, you can strengthen your dog’s ability to calm down by making rewards random and starting to wean your dog off treats altogether. Keep using your marker word and other forms of rewards, such as physical affection, sporadically.
The Clicking for Calm Method
This method requires patience. You will start off by rewarding your dog every time she practices good behavior with a click and a treat. Often, the challenge with training an energetic dog is that the treat excites her all over again. By connecting the clicker with the treat, you can gain a moment of calm from your pup and build from there.
Reward moments of calm
Begin rewarding your dog with a click and a treat every time all four of her feet are on the floor at the same time. You will need to be quick. The click needs to happen at the exact moment all four of her feet are on the floor, so she can understand that the calm is what elicits the reward.
Keep working with the clicker
Keep working with your dog and rewarding moments of calm where all four of her feet are on the floor at the same time. After a few sessions, your dog will realize she can control the clicker and get a tasty treat by standing still. Over time, your dog will start repeating the action for you to get a treat.
Make your pup wait for it
As your dog gets the hang of the clicker, you can make her wait for longer periods of time before clicking the clicker and giving her a treat. You can vary the amount of time between clicks, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter.
Add a command word
Keep practicing until your dog will stay still for several seconds in a row. Then you can add in a command word of your choosing, such as “settle down” or “chill out,” which can give a clue of when you want her to calm down.
Phase out the reward
Over time, you'll want to stop using the treat and clicker as a reward system and replace them with another type of calm praise, such as a gentle massage. This way, you can have your dog calm down without needing the clicker on you at all times.
The Mind Your Manners Method
Exercise before starting your training session
If you have a hyper dog, you want to make sure you exercise him before starting any of your training sessions. This can help your dog focus during training.
Teach your dog a basic 'no' command
Keep your sessions short and start teaching the 'no' command. When you say "no" or "stop", move your dog away from what he is doing and repeat the command and give your dog a reward.
Start adding additional commands to 'stop' or 'no'
You can use “no” to correct other bad habits your dog has. When your dog jumps or bites, simply say "no" along with the habit, for example "no jump." Using the same method you used to teach the 'no' command, consistently train your dog not to bite or jump. Do not scold your dog for bad behavior. Instead, reward your dog once he listens to your command.
Add in other basic commands
Following the same routine of exercising and then training, add in other commands which can help you control your dog’s behavior, such as 'sit', 'down', and 'stay'.
Teach your dog to stay quiet
Use this approach to discourage barking and reward quiet behavior when your dog is likely to get excited.
Be consistent and keep practicing
By consistently training your dog using these basic commands, you can help control your dog’s hyper instincts and instill in them a sense of calm and order.
By Christina Gunning
Published: 02/20/2018, edited: 01/08/2021