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Home Training and BehaviorBasic Training Mastering Calmness: Proven Techniques for Excitable Dogs

Mastering Calmness: Proven Techniques for Excitable Dogs

by Dan Turner

Dealing with an excitable dog can be a roller coaster of emotions. There’s nothing like coming home to a furry bundle of energy, but sometimes, their excitement can be a bit much.

That’s where I come in. I’ve been down this road, working tirelessly to help my own dogs find their chill, and I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way.

It’s all about understanding what makes your dog tick and using that knowledge to guide them towards calmer behavior. From structured playtime to mastering the art of calmness myself, I’ve discovered techniques that can transform even the most hyperactive pup into a zen master. Let’s jump into these methods together, so you can enjoy more peaceful moments with your four-legged friend.

Understanding Your Dog’s Behavior

As someone who’s shared my home with an excitable dog, I’ve learned that the first step toward nurturing calm behavior is understanding what makes them tick. We often mistake their high energy for mere playfulness or naughtiness, but there’s more beneath the surface.

Excitable dogs have triggers, much like humans. Common triggers include:

  • Other dogs
  • Strangers
  • Loud noises
  • Sudden movement

Recognizing these triggers is crucial. It’s not just about what excites them, but also how they express their excitement. Some dogs might jump, while others could resort to barking or running in circles. My dog, for instance, turns into a furry whirlwind at the sight of a squirrel.

Why do they react this way? It’s partly genetics. Breeds like Border Collies or Jack Russell Terriers are wired for high-energy tasks. But, environment and past experiences also play significant roles. A dog that’s had limited socialization might find every new encounter overwhelming.

Understanding your dog’s behavior demands patience and observation. It’s about connecting the dots between what they encounter and how they respond. This insight paves the way for effective training strategies, ensuring you’re addressing the root of their excitement, not just the symptoms.

Structured playtime is golden for managing energy levels. It’s not about tiring them out but providing an outlet for their enthusiasm. I’ve found that games like fetch or tug-of-war work wonders, especially when they require mental effort. This approach channels their energy positively, reducing the likelihood of overexcitement in less appropriate situations.

Practicing calmness is another technique that’s made a difference for my dog. It sounds straightforward, but it’s about reinforcing the behavior we often take for granted. Rewarding my dog when he’s in a relaxed state, even if it’s just for a few seconds, teaches him that calmness is valuable. Over time, these moments of tranquility become more frequent and extended.

Remember, understanding your dog’s behavior isn’t a one-time task. It’s a continuous journey that adapts as they grow and change. The key lies in being observant, patient, and willing to learn from each other. Through this understanding, we can guide our excitable canine friends toward a calmer, more peaceful coexistence.

Implementing Structured Playtime

I’ve found that nothing zaps excess energy from an excitable dog quite like a good, structured playtime. It’s not just about letting them run wild; it’s about engaging their minds and their muscles in a way that’s controlled, yet utterly freeing for them. Let me share how I’ve turned playtime into a calmness-teaching tool.

First off, structured playtime isn’t about rigidity; it’s the opposite. It’s setting up a space where my dog can explore, play, and learn within some gentle guidelines. Here’s how I do it:

  • I start with a clear goal in mind. Maybe it’s working on commands during fetch, or teaching patience through hide and seek with treats.
  • Routine is key. We play at the same time each day, which helps my dog know when it’s time to let loose and when it’s time to wind down.
  • Variety spices things up. We rotate between activities like tug-of-war, fetch, and agility drills. Keeping it fresh means my dog’s always engaged and never bored.

Integrating commands and tricks into playtime has been a game changer. Here’s why:

  • It’s multitasking. My dog’s burning off energy while reinforcing their training.
  • It builds our bond. Every “sit,” “stay,” or “come” that’s woven into the fun strengthens our connection and mutual respect.
  • It preps them for calmness. When we wind down, I use cues like “enough” or “settle” to signal that it’s time to shift gears from high energy to relaxation.

Investing in toys that promote calm behavior is something I swear by too. Chew toys, puzzle feeders, and slow feeders are fantastic because:

  • They keep my dog mentally stimulated. Working for treats or kibble makes them focus and use problem-solving skills.
  • They slow down eating, which naturally eases their body into a calmer state.
  • They offer a positive outlet for their energy. Instead of jumping or barking for attention, my dog can chew or puzzle out a toy.

Teaching Relaxation Techniques

Let’s dive right into the heart of the matter—teaching our furry friends how to find their inner calm. Believe it or not, relaxation techniques for dogs aren’t just a fancy fad; they’re essential tools to help manage that boundless energy. I’ve discovered a few strategies over the years that have turned my excitable pup into a zen master. Well, almost.

Start with a Quiet Space: This is ground zero for teaching calmness. Select an area in your home that’s away from the hustle and bustle. A peaceful corner not only sets the right mood but also signals to your dog that it’s time to wind down.

Introduce Breathing Exercises: This might sound a bit out there, but focusing on your breathing can have a calming effect on your pooch. Sit with your dog and take deep, deliberate breaths. More often than not, they’ll mirror you, leading to a mutual chill-out session.

Use Gentle Massage: Just like humans, dogs respond positively to touch. Gentle massages can work wonders in relaxing muscle tension and promoting a peaceful state of mind. Focus on areas like the ears, neck, and back with soft, slow strokes.

Practice Calming Commands: Teaching specific commands such as “settle” or “relax” can anchor your dog’s calm behavior. Consistent use of these commands, coupled with treats and praise, can significantly boost their effectiveness.

Incorporate Low-energy Games: Not all play has to be high-thrills. Introduce games that require mental effort more than physical. Puzzle feeders are great, but even simple activities like “find the treat” can keep them engaged without ramping up their energy.

Gradual Exposure: If your dog gets hyper at the slightest hint of excitement, gradual exposure to these triggers, in a controlled manner, can help. Pairing these experiences with relaxation techniques reduces their anxiety over time.

Consistency is Key: Like any form of training, consistency is critical. Making these techniques a part of your daily routine solidifies them as habits in your dog’s mind.

Setting Clear Boundaries

Teaching excitable dogs to embrace calmness isn’t just about introducing them to relaxing activities. It’s also crucial to establish clear boundaries. Yes, our furry friends need structure as much as we do. By setting well-defined rules, we let them understand what’s expected of them, gradually guiding their behavior towards more peaceful patterns.

Here’s how I tackle this challenge:

  • Start Early: The sooner, the better. Puppies are surprisingly good at picking up cues. But, if your dog’s already an adult, don’t worry. It’s never too late to teach an old dog new rules.
  • Be Consistent: If jumping on the couch is off-limits, it’s always off-limits. Mixed messages just confuse our four-legged pals.
  • Use Positive Reinforcement: Reward calm behavior with treats, praise, or playtime. Positive reinforcement not only strengthens our bond but also makes learning much more enjoyable for them.
  • Practice Patience: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a dog’s discipline. Patience is key throughout this process.

One thing I’ve learned is that clear communication is paramount. Dogs might not understand our words, but they’re excellent at interpreting tone and body language. Standing firm and using a consistent command or gesture to signify “no” helps them understand the boundaries you’re setting.

Also, the environment plays a significant role in how effectively these boundaries are respected. Reducing environmental stressors, like loud noises or crowded spaces, makes it easier for dogs to remain calm. Similarly, ensuring they have a quiet, comfortable space of their own can be a game-changer. It gives them a retreat, signaling that it’s time to wind down.

Implementing these strategies requires time and commitment, but the payoff is well worth it. Imagine a home where your dog knows their limits, respecting the peaceful ambiance you’ve worked so hard to create. And as they grow accustomed to these boundaries, you’ll notice a significant shift in their energy levels. They’ll become more adept at switching off their high-energy mode, embracing calmness with open paws.

Practicing Calm Behavior Yourself

When it comes to teaching our furry friends to embrace calmness, I can’t stress enough how vital it is that I also embody the calm behavior I wish to see. After all, dogs are incredibly astute at picking up on our energy and emotions. If I‘m tense, anxious, or overexcited, chances are, my dog will mirror those feelings. It’s like they’re emotional sponges!

Here are a few strategies I‘ve found effective:

  • Deep Breathing: Whenever I feel my patience wearing thin, I take a few deep breaths. It’s simple but surprisingly effective. It helps me regain my composure, and my dog seems to respond by becoming more relaxed as well.
  • Staying Quiet:I try to keep my voice low and soothing. High-pitched or loud voices can amp up their excitement. I‘ve learned that speaking softly can actually encourage my dog to pay closer attention and remain calm.
  • Body Language Matters:I pay close attention to my posture and movements. Quick, erratic actions can send a message of unpredictability or nervousness. Slow, deliberate movements convey a sense of calm and assurance.
  • Modeling Calm Activities:I engage in activities that exude calmness, like reading or meditating, with my dog nearby. It’s fascinating how these activities can have a tranquil effect on both of us.

I‘ve also discovered the importance of routine. Establishing and sticking to a regular schedule reinforces a sense of security and predictability for my dog. Knowing what to expect from the day helps them feel more relaxed and controlled.


I’ve shared some key strategies to help your excitable dog find their inner zen. Remember, it starts with us. By embodying calmness, we set the stage for our furry friends to follow suit. It’s not just about what we do but how we do it—our energy, our voice, and our actions all play a pivotal role. And let’s not forget the power of routine. It’s more than just a schedule; it’s a comfort blanket for our dogs, offering them the predictability they need to feel secure. So here’s to a calmer, happier life with our dogs by our side. Trust me, it’s worth every moment of effort.


Dan Turner

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