One of the common problems in dog trainings is over-excitement. A dog gets too excited by treats or by desire to please and training becomes impossible. For instance, Milo can get so excited by treats, that he would start randomly offering all his tricks. Milo is extremely food motivated, and an opportunity to earn treats is a big deal for him. Some dogs can get too excited during training, because they are too eager to please their owners. Although I am not a fan of submissive and dominant dogs theory, I admit that some dogs are more submissive than others. Submissiveness is demonstrated by body language (lying down, ears down, hiding tail, rolling over etc.) and behaviour (urinating, licking, whining). I will not get into details about treating submissiveness now: it is a complicated and sensitive issue. If you recognise your dog in this description, please, consult a dog trainer in person.
Regardless of the underlying cause of over-excitement, there is one thing you can do: do not reward it. Attention is a reward, hence it reinforces behaviour. If your dog becomes too excited, do the following:
1. Stop talking. We, humans, tend to repeat the same words over and over, often increasing volume, even if it obviously has no result. If your dog didn’t obey your command the first time, it is unlikely that the dog will obey the second or the third time. Unless you want to teach your dog to respond to repeated cues only. Most importantly, however, is that talking to a dog equals giving it attention, which, in turn, means reinforcing whatever the dog is doing.
2. Hide your treats. This should be obvious: if your dog is like Milo and can’t concentrate, if he sees food, than hide it, at least temporary. There is a number of treat pouches on the market.
3. Fold your hands and turn away. This is an attention withdrawal technique, which I find very useful, when I want to show a dog that I don’t like or I’m not interested in what it is doing. Avoid eye contact and turn away from the dog for 20-30 seconds. Your dog should calm down. If you ever watched dogs communicating with each other, you might have noticed them turning their head away, when they are annoyed by other dogs. Turning away means “leave me alone” in dog’s language.
4. Let your dog relax. Take your dog for a short walk (1-2 minutes should be enough). Sniffing around will help the dog relax and come back to training session fresh and ready.
Finally, the more you train your dog, the more confident and used to training process it becomes, the easier it will be for your dog to focus and to control itself. Just remember that it is normal to be excited about spending quality time with their favourite person and getting lots of praises and treats. After all, wouldn’t you be excited too?