Case Study: What to Do About an Overexcited Dog

Learn what to do if your dog gets overexcited because he’s so eager to meet other dogs.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
6-minute read
Episode #105

Also, because Squid got so eager around other dogs, he couldn’t just hang out with everybody during lectures and discussions, but had to be kenneled instead. That kept him from getting amped up but probably also left him lonely and bored and made it harder for him to focus on Bob. Yet more take-home for you: If your dog is having trouble with a training lesson, think about what might be getting in the way. Dogs have reasons for what they do, and “blowing me off” is waaaaaaaay down on the bottom of the list.

Good Trainers Have Lots of Tricks Up Their Sleeves

Since this was a behavior modification seminar, there was a shortage of calm, relaxed dogs on the scene. With a placid helper dog, Bob could have worked with Squid using the “Premack principle.” David Premack was the scientist who first pointed out that you can use the chance to do a more likely behavior as a reward for doing a less likely behavior. For instance, if your dog loves to play Tug, then grabbing the Tug toy is a very likely behavior. Lying down is probably somewhat less likely. So you can use permission to grab the Tug toy as a reward for lying down on cue. In Squid’s case, Bob could have rewarded eye contact by taking a step toward the other dog. Good trainers have lots of tricks up our sleeves.

Bob had some recommendations for the future: A puppy socialization and good manners class, lots more systematic attention practice around other dogs, and plenty of the vigorous exercise that made it easier for this little ball of fire to learn. By the way, Bob worked on another problem behavior of Squid’s--hard mouthing during play, and a shark-like way of taking treats. Bob was able to report that “on his last day, Squid’s mouth manners were nearly perfect.” If you’d like to know what Bob did, well, it’s a lot like what I suggest in my article on puppy nipping.

If you need training or behavior help anywhere near Normal, Illinois, you can contact Bob through his website, here. Pat Miller sees private clients and offers trainer seminars at Peaceable Paws, in Hagerstown, Maryland. Squid is now a proud Manhattanite. Me, I’m in Brooklyn. And wherever you are, I hope you’re having a wonderful time with your dog. Send your questions and comments to dogtrainer@quickanddirtytips.com, and I may use them in a future article. I Twitter as Dogalini, and you can also find me on Facebook, where I post links to articles and videos and respond to your questions. Thanks for reading!


Thanks to Pat Miller and to Bob Ryder, who generously shared his notes and records about his work with Squid. And thanks to Squid’s trainer in Manhattan, Lydia Desroche, and his adopter, Claudia, for their kind permission to link to the video of Squiddy climbing a tree in Central Park!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).