Puppies are naturally noisy and hyperactive. Puppies are exuberant when greeting, playing and when expressing friendliness and appeasement. However, adult dogs are noisy and hyperactive because they are untrained and have unintentionally been encouraged to act that way. For example, eagerly jumping puppies are petted by people who later get angry when the dog jumps up as an adult.
Sadly, adult dogs receive considerable abuse for expressing their enthusiasm and exuberance. For example, “trainers from the Dark Side” recommend teaching a dog not to jump up by shouting at the dog; squirting him in the face with water or lemon juice; swatting him on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper; yanking on the dog’s leash; hanging the dog by his choke-collar; squeezing the dog’s front paws; treading on his hind paws; kneeing the dog in the chest; or flipping the dog over backwards. Surely these methods are a bit cruel for a dog that’s just trying to say hello. Indeed, in the words of Confucius: “There is no need to use an axe to remove a fly from the forehead of a friend”. Why not just teach dogs to sit when greeting people? Be smart. Be kind. Teach your dog to settle down and shush when requested and how to greet people in a mannerly fashion. Both dog noise and exuberance may be controlled and channelled into appropriate outlets.
Sit and Settle Down
Lure-reward train your puppy or dog to come, sit, and lie down. Simple instructions such as “sit” and “lie down” are extremely effective solutions for nearly all doggy activity problems. Rather than telling the pup “no, no, no!” and “NO!” for everything they do that annoys you, simply ask them to lie down, and then praise and reward them for doing so. If they lay down obediently, they cannot run around the living room, chase their tail, chase the cat, hump the cat, jump on the furniture, jump up and down in the car, run out the front door, or chase and jump on children. Lying down and most behaviour problems are mutually exclusive; your dog cannot lie down and misbehave at the same time. Take the initiative and direct your puppy’s behaviour by teaching them to lie down on request.
Rather than feeding your puppy from a bowl, weigh out their kibble in the morning and use individual pieces as lures and rewards during oodles of five-second training interludes throughout the day. Practice in every room of the house, in the car (while stationary) and on walks. Pause every 25 yards and instruct your puppy to perform a series of body positions: for example, sit-down-sit-stand-down- stand. Within just a couple of days you’ll have a totally different dog.
Simple reward training methods work wonders with out-of-control adolescent and adult dogs. Hold a piece of kibble in your hand but don’t give it to your dog. Stand perfectly still and give no instructions: simply watch to see what your dog does. Characteristically, the dog will run through his entire behaviour repertoire. Your dog will wiggle, waggle, circle, twirl, jump up, lick, paw, back-up, and bark… but eventually they will sit or lie down. Praise them and offer the piece of kibble as soon as they sit (or lie down—your choice). Then take a gigantic step and stand still with another piece of kibble in your hand. Repeat the above sequence until your dog sits immediately after you take each step and then begin to progressively increase the delay before offering the kibble. Maybe count out the seconds in “good dogs” good dog one, good dog two, good dog three. If they break their sit while you are counting, simply turn your back on them, take a three-second time out and repeat the sequence again. In no time at all you will be able to count out 20 “good dogs” as the dog sits and stays calmly, looking up at you expectantly.
Move from room to room repeating this exercise. When walking, stand still every 25 yards and wait for them to sit, then praise them and continue the walk. After hand-feeding your dog just one meal in this fashion indoors and on one long walk with sits every 25 yards, you’ll have a calmer and much more attentive dog.
Jumping up deserves a special mention because it is the cause of so much frustration and abuse. Right from the outset, teach your puppy to sit when greeting people. Sitting is the obvious solution because a dog cannot sit and jump up at the same time. However, it may initially be difficult to teach your dog to sit when greeting people because they are so excited that they don’t hear what you say. Consequently, you will need to troubleshoot their training.
First practice sits (as described above) in locations where your dog normally greets people, e.g., on-lead outdoors, and especially indoors by the front door. Then invite over ten friends for a dog training party. Today your dog’s dinner will be hand fed by guests at the front door and by friends on a walk. After eventually getting your dog to sit to greet the first guest, praise your dog and have the guest offer a piece of kibble. Then ask the guest to leave and ring the doorbell again. Repeat front-door greetings until your dog greets the first guest in a mannerly fashion three times in a row. Then repeat the process with the other nine guests. In one training party you will probably practice over a hundred front-door greetings. Then ask your all your guests to leave one at a time and walk round the block. Put your dog on lead and walk around the block in the opposite direction. As you approach each person, instruct your dog to sit. Praise them when they do so and have the person offer a couple of pieces of kibble. After five laps, you will have practiced 50 greetings. Now your dog will be ready to sit to greet guests at home and strangers on the street.
Put Doggy Enthusiasm and Activity on Cue
To be fair to your dog, make sure that they have ample opportunity to let off steam in an acceptable fashion. Sign up for flyball and agility classes. Play fetch with tennis balls and frisbees and do yo-yo recalls (back and forth between two people) in the park. Formalise “crazy time”: train your dog to jump for bubbles, or play “tag” and chase your dog around the house. And maybe train your dog that it is acceptable to jump up on cue – to give you a welcome-home hug.