If your dog goes completely nuts out of excitement before a walk, you’re not alone.
It’s a common problem!
And what if you have two dogs? And they’re both excited, basically getting each other more and more worked up?
Heck, what if you have 3 dogs?
By “excited” I mean the dogs might be racing in circles, jumping on you, whining, barking, howling, wrestling each other, grabbing leashes, nipping at you, wiggling as you try to put on their harnesses, wetting themselves or maybe even humping each other out of excitement.
I think this situation is hilarious as long as I’m not the one doing the walking! OK, it’s still pretty funny if I’m doing the walking because I love dogs.
But obviously some people would like to break these habits because not only can it get really old and frustrating, but it’s also dangerous if the dogs are pulling and nipping. Plus, neighbors may not appreciate the barking, especially if you’re in an apartment like I am.
How do I get my dogs to calm down before a walk?
I’m going to share some of my tips as usual, but it would be best if you could weigh in with your own ideas.
First I’ll summarize an email I received explaining a specific problem getting two dogs to calm down before and during a walk.
In this example, the dogs get out for walks every day, but once their owner starts to get ready to take them out, the “mayhem” begins, as she describes it. 🙂
Some clips from her email:
It starts off with the dogs following me upstairs. They both stand outside my bedroom while I’m getting changed. Once I emerge from my room, they both dart down the stairs and wait at the front door. Then the fun part … the harnesses!! It takes me a good 2 to 3 mins to “saddle up” the two dogs. Both have harnesses and if it’s dark out I use LED collars which I also have to put on. This is usually when the whining and moaning begins. Phoebe fights me. Not because she doesn’t want the harness on but because she is too eager to go outside. …
Once I have them all set up and ready to go … the havoc really kicks in then! Chip at this stage is usually ok. She may be excited but she doesn’t jump or bark. Phoebe at this stage won’t sit still. She’s barking (LOUDLY!), whining, moving and just being generally quite uncontrollable. …
If I am walking to my destination, it takes about 45 seconds to walk from my front door to the entrance of my housing estate. Phoebe is whining and barking and pulling etc the ENTIRE time. It’s only once we get into the walk that Phoebe will calm down – usually after 2 mins.
She also describes how the dogs both bark in the car if they know they’re going to one of their usual “fun” destinations, and she is nearly deafened by the whining and barking and howling.
My suggestions for getting dogs to calm down before a walk
Oh where to even begin?
Here are some of my general suggestions for the person above but for anyone else in general, but I definitely do not have a simple solution.
1. If possible, work with the dogs individually.
Usually it’s one dog who is really the problem, and she ends up getting the other/s riled up too. So whenever possible, I would say walk them individually, assuming the other dog does OK when left behind. Put one dog in another room or in a crate and work with the other. Then switch.
Of course, I realize in the real world this is not always possible, so do what you can.
2. Start with really tiny goals.
The first goal might be ridiculously basic and easy like getting them to sit and stay quietly for 2 seconds before you even pick up the leashes. That’s progress.
And if that’s too hard, make it even easier. Like, get them to sit for a piece of hot dog while you stand next to the area where the leashes are kept. See what I mean? If something is too hard, you can always make it even easier. Then go from there.
Some other small goals to work on eventually would be to get them to:
- sit quietly while you hold the leashes
- sit quietly while you put on the leashes/collars/harnesses
- sit quietly before you put your hand on the door/gate
- sit quietly once your hand is on the door/gate
- sit quietly before heading out the door
Basically if the dogs aren’t calm before heading out the door, they’re not going to be calm once they’re outside either.
3. Desensitize the dogs to picking up the leash.
Besides reinforcing calm behavior before your walks, you could also desensitize the dogs to you picking up the leashes.
To do this, you would simply pick up the leashes randomly throughout the day during times when you are not about to head out for a walk. You would just pick up the leashes, hold them for a few seconds while completely ignoring the dogs and then set the leashes down again.
And some dogs might have other “triggers” other than the leashes. For example, the dogs in the email example above were triggered by their owner changing clothes. She could try putting on her “walking clothes” or “walking shoes” randomly throughout the day while totally ignoring the dogs.
I feel like I could go on and on with little tips like:
- use highly valued treats (real chicken, pieces of ham, etc.)
- stopping and refusing to move if the dogs are going crazy
- taking a deep breath and not getting angry and
- using the best training collar for the situation (prong collars? Gentle Leaders? you pick)
I know I’m making all of this sound easy. It’s not. It’s stressful and frustrating, and we have to pick and choose and do what we can.
And now I want to hear your ideas!
What other ideas do the rest of you have?
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