Dog Training: Calming “the Storm”

Today’s question was from Sam and she says:

“How do you calm down a chocolate lab? Very friendly, but very so not calm.”

 

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The first thing I do is think about the breed of dog I am working with and the known breed standard; along with what the breed was bred for…thinking of these things helps A LOT. I love “mutts” but this is one thing I like about purebred dogs…they hold true to their traits, most of the time.

So…labrador retriever…bred for: bird hunting. Energy level: Normally high. Trainability: Normally high. Maturity: Normally slow.

One negative thing about purebred dogs ~ they can become overbred, which in my opinion the lab has been. There is a very wide range of what you can get in “a lab” these days. Some are big and stocky and some are rather small and skinny. In this instance, I am not sure which we are dealing with.

The second thing I do is find out the age of the dog – as age is normally a VERY BIG part of behavior. (In my opinion, there is NEVER a dog that is too old to learn new tricks…we’ll just “nip that one in the bud” right now. *grin*) I asked Sam and she said it turned a year old the end of October. So for a lab, we are definitely talking still a young one.

The third thing I want to know…is it a boy or a girl and is it fixed, or not. All these factor in to the behavior. At this time, I do not know what we are dealing with – which is ok because to start with, my suggestions will be the same regardless (because it is so young still).

The first two things I always say and suggest for an overactive (meaning hyper) dog are: EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE. Okay, that was three words, but you get the point. However, one thing people tend to not think about is exercise for a dog oftentimes needs to be both physical and mental. Labs are normally known to be very intelligent dogs…intelligent dogs tend to need more “work” – they NEED their minds worked as well as their bodies.

So…suggestions:

Physical Exercise: LONG walks and play fetch (always a good one, especially for labs – since they are retrievers).

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Mental Exercise: Obedience training. Start with sit and then sit stay.

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Normally a big problem I see with “hyper” dogs that really bothers people – is jumping up on people. Sam didn’t mention that at this time but I’ll quickly touch on it. If you teach your dog to sit, then sit stay, then “desensitize” your dog to approaching people you will eventually have a dog that can sit and be petted by strangers. (The below picture shows the person smiling…that is the opposite of what I am talking about here. But it does show something else important: WHY DOGS JUMP. Normally, it is because they want to get to their owners face. But…that is a topic for another day.)

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One of my VERY FAVORITE classes to teach was “Beginner Class”  because the owners were normally at their wits end and had the attitude of “this is the last chance” – for those owner / handlers that worked with their dogs regularly, by the end of the six week training class – had a TOTALLY DIFFERENT DOG. They were astounded what a little bit of work can do! (Really, like 20 minutes a day.)

If you can do both types of exercises you should see a very big improvement.

Do you have a training question? Please leave a comment and I’ll answer it in another post.

Have a wonderfully blessed day!

Disclaimer: although there are “general rules” that can often apply / help a dog, sometimes more information is needed or there is a “special situation” that is unknown by the trainer. Therefore this answer may not work for all dogs at all times. With that said, please do not bash me if you have tried what I have suggested and it did not work for you. (You are more than welcome to leave a comment telling me so and asking for additional advice, if you’d like.) My training philosophy is “positive motivational” and starts with the least “harsh” option and works up as necessary. Additionally, all my advice is intended for dogs that live INSIDE the home. Although the training would basically be the same, I’ve found it takes much longer to train a dog that lives outside the house.

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2 thoughts on “Dog Training: Calming “the Storm”

  1. Sam @ Sam's Noggin February 22, 2012 at 7:47 am Reply

    Thanks, Dawn. Dallas is indeed purebred, and looks more like a show dog than stocky. He shows very classic skills when tracking scent, and is very concentrated on a task outside like that.

    He does well with sit, it’s the stay part he struggles with, as we are working on the desensitizing part-he is fine with just about everyone, but he goes crazy with me. He was fixed when he was younger, and shows no signs of aggression. He can get jumpy, but it is from excitement, and nothing more.

    We have never had a dog before, we have always had cats, but this guy needed a home, and we took him in. We don’t have to train cats, so this has been a challenge for us. We have had him almost a year, and can see he is smart and sweet, but also very slow to mature, as you mentioned. If you have any more tips based on my info, I will welcome it gladly. 🙂 Thanks!

    Like

  2. Tonya @ The Traveling Praters May 25, 2012 at 10:04 pm Reply

    Thanks for sharing this post with me, Dawn. Our dog is a beagle mix and he is very smart- but very spoiled. We play fetch with him a lotand he gets to go on regular walks. It sounds like I really need to just spend a bit of time working with him on sit, stay. I did that a bit today. I’d say sit and he would but when I thought he would jump up and said stay, he’d lay down. 😦 Do I call that progress? Atleast he wasn’t jumping on me. 🙂

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