This situation is common with all kind of dogs. Everything from little Chihuahuas, German Shepherds and Rottweilers get overly exited when meeting other dogs while walking and they look so exited you get the impression they are going to blow up.
It is of course worse when you have a big powerful dog dragging you along and there seem to be no way to gain control over it. It is not only embarrassing but can also become dangerous as there is no way of knowing what will happen and how it is going to end.
Excitement Aggression or Stress?
It can be difficult to know the feelings of your dog when it is in a really exited state and about to meet other dogs. Is it just exited and happy, eager to play or is feeling nervous maybe scared? It might also be a question of aggression, when a dog is in such an exited state it really is hard to tell.
Just imagine how to other dog might see it when your dog is approaching, barking, pulling up on its rear legs, eyes bulging and gasping for air. You get the point, this might really scare and fire up the other dog and you might find yourself in a difficult situation.
What to do in a situation like this
In order to avoid getting into this situation there are three different options you can use. I will explain each one of them to you in detail. It is important to have a clear plan of action that you can rely on when getting into a situation like this. The first option is used when things are fine and your dog is calm and the two other ones are useful when your dog is getting overly exited and hard to control.
These are the only three options you can use and it is very important that you have established yourself as the PACKLEADER before trying it out. If your dog does not see you as its leader it is simply not going to work. Here is a post on how to become the pack leader your dog admires.
Now to the point, here are the three different options you can use:
1. Calmly approach the other dog. If your dog is calm then approach the other dog while keeping your hands firmly on the leash, stay out of the way and let dogs introduce each other. This is what you are aiming for and what you should try to achieve but this requires that you manage to get your dog calm first.
The thing with dog training is to reward good behavior and ignore bad behavior. If your dog remains calm and in control when wanting to greet another dog then it should be allowed to do so.
2. Keep well away from the other dog. If your dog is barking wildly, pulling the leash and is completely out of control you better keep away from the other dog. Trust your instincts here, if it is very hard to calm down your dog then you better just walk past the other dog, this especially applies if the other dog is old, small or seem scared and uncertain. It is also a good lesson for your dog to make it understand that you do not get to meet and greet every dog on a walk.
3. The third option is to first calm down your dog and then make a decision of what to do. If your dog is overly exited distract it with some play or training and once it has calmed down you go and greet the other dog. One very simple method that works well with an overly exited dog is the “calm freeze method”. You simply put your hand underneath your dog’s collar and you calmly hold it. No need to talk, simply hold your dog and he/she will feel your “calm energy” and soon calm down. Here is a video on how to perform the “Calm Freeze”
A post on how to calm down an overly exited dog will be released soon.
Once your dog is calm the you can go and meet the other dog. This will also reward your dog and make it understand that if you stay calm then you are rewarded with good things such as meeting another dog.
Now if your dog does not calm down within any reasonable amount of time you stay away from the other dog. You must at all cost avoid to reward bad behavior. That is if your dog is overly exited and you let it meet another dog then you have done just that. You have rewarded the behavior you don’t want your dog to have and next time you meet another dog, your dog will pull, bark and show exited behavior because this is what worked last time and so it will do the same thing again.
Think of it like with a child who wants a toy or a candy and will not leave you alone until he gets what he wants. So you give him what he wants just to get some peace and quit. Of course this works at the moment but the next time the child wants something he will of course whine, cry and complain until he gets what he wants.
This is because you rewarded bad behavior and gave him what he wanted because he bothered you. Now if you do the contrary instead, Ignore the child who is crying, whining and complaining. You wait until he calms down and then give him something. Now you have rewarded good behavior and he will understand that if you he wants something he must behave well and stay calm.
The same things goes for a dog. If they always get what they want when they misbehave they continue to misbehave but if they get rewarded for behaving well then they will continue to behave well. So the bottom line is: you have to reward the behavior you want your dog to have.
So, which one of the three options mentioned you should use depends really on the situation and if you manage to get your dog to calm down. There is of course a difference between individual dogs, some dogs get far more exited than others and the breed also matters a little as some breeds of dogs have much more energy than others. The age of the dog also make a difference and younger dogs will more difficult to calm down than older ones.
Finally, as mentioned before, in order to make your dog listen to you (and especially if it is in an exited state of mind) your dog must consider you as the Packleader. It is a natural instinct for dogs to follow their leader and if they consider you as the pack leader they will follow you. Once your dog sees you as its leader it is going to look to you for advice on how to behave and how to act. In this case if you remain calm and in control your dog will do so as well.
There are Five Golden Rules on how to establish yourself as the pack leader. You will find them by clicking the link below.
A post on how to calm an overexcited dog will soon follow. If you have any questions or tips and tricks on what to do in a situation like this then please leave them below