How To Calm Down a Puppy
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We all love a playful, sweet puppy. But what if that puppy is always hyperactive and doesn’t settle down?
How to calm down a puppy is just as important as teaching basic obedience, potty training, or crate training.
Of course, a puppy should be energetic and not lethargic but a calm puppy is a good puppy 🙂
But too much undesirable, excessive energy will lead to unwanted behaviors such as jumping, grabbing your clothes and body, and otherwise being destructive.
Some of the puppies I’ve had have been really rambunctious.
My golden rescue Riley came to me after being rehomed a few times because of his out-of-control behavior. He was about six months old and about 45 pounds.
He would jump on people, pull on clothes, and generally not settle down. But with some training and the correct behavior modification, he became a model puppy. And a great adult dog.
In this article, I’ll discuss how you can teach your puppy to calm down.
Both you and your puppy will benefit. Your life will be happier. And people will be more likely to interact with a calm puppy.
Why Teach a Puppy To Calm Down?
We may think an eight-week-old puppy jumping on us and even tugging on our socks is cute.
But wait until he’s an 80-pound Labrador retriever bounding at you when you arrive home. It’s quite a different picture.
And I’m sure it wouldn’t be a behavior that you desire.
A puppy who doesn’t understand how to be calm when he’s young can easily become an adult who’s out of control.
The excitement of being hyperactive can be addictive to a dog. But a hyperactive dog is not really having fun.
And adolescent and adult dogs are often rehomed because of a lack of impulse control. So it’s important to teach your puppy how to be calm.
Why Puppies Become Overly-Excited
Some dogs are naturally more active, such dogs from the sporting, herding, or working groups. They were bred to do a job.
This includes golden and Labrador retrievers, border collies, and Australian shepherds, and Doberman pinschers and Rottweilers.
Other dogs may also naturally have more active temperaments.
Many dogs start to settle down somewhat between six months to a year.
Generally, most dogs noticeably calm down between 18 and 24 months. Of course, smaller breeds usually mature more quickly than larger ones do.
But all dogs should learn to be calm–and can if the correct methods are used.
Many dogs become overly stimulated by environmental factors. This can occur when a puppy sees or hears something.
This can be something out the window. Or seeing another dog or squirrel while on a walk. Or when you or a visitor enters the door.
Such events can make a puppy be overly excited. Even play can ignite a dog’s energy into over-drive.
An overly stimulated pup may bark, whine, growl, jump, spin, mouth you or clothes, and not readily settle down.
Of course, puppies will normally show some excitement when a stimulating event occurs. They shouldn’t be robots.
But not quickly being able to settle down is when a puppy goes over threshold and his behavior becomes a problem.
Methods To Calm Your Puppy Down
As is true of many dog training issues to be resolved, there are various techniques you can try. You may need a combination of them to be successful.
But, if you use the correct methods consistently, you should see a marked improvement in your puppy’s behavior.
PRO-TRAINER TIP: Always have a supply of pea-sized treats ready to reward your puppy. Make sure that they don’t upset your puppy’s tummy.
As is true of all canine behavioral work, the right amount of exercise is crucial to success.
Young puppies generally don’t require a lot of exercise. But, depending on your dog’s age and breed, he should have exercise as long as he’s physically healthy.
A short walk should help. Or even a play session of fetching or tug.
You can even play hide-and-seek to help tire your puppy out. This also can help his recall.
I always play this game when I have a puppy. After I adopted my Aussie mix puppy, we played this game every day.
She was 11 weeks old when I got her and games helped tire her out and train her to engage in acceptable behaviors.
You can have someone gently hold your puppy’s collar while he’s on the floor. Then hide around the corner in the next room or behind a chair.
Assuming he knows his name, call your puppy’s name in a happy voice. Praise and reward when he comes to you.
Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise for a puppy to be able to calm down. It helps wear him out in a positive way.
Of course obedience training counts too. And so do puzzle and other enrichment toys and games.
They help expand your puppy’s mind and expend energy. Even a low, fun puppy agility course can help with physical and mental exercise.
Of course, obedience training helps us communicate with our puppies and informs them of our rules in a positive manner.
Teaching behaviors that involve impulse control really can impact your puppy’s behavior. These include: sit, down, stay, wait, look, give, drop, quiet, and leave it.
After your puppy learns these without distractions, add low, then higher-level distractions until he performs them reliably anywhere.
A goal is that he’ll offer behaviors such as a default sit or down in circumstances that he would previously have been overly stimulated.
Also, do impulse control exercises of having him sit before he eats and before he crosses the street or goes out a door for a walk.
In addition to formal obedience commands, teaching tricks can also be tools in your arsenal for your puppy to engage in calm behaviors.
It’s important that your puppy doesn’t go over threshold when playing or engaging in any activity.
If you’re playing fetch or tug, make sure to take frequent breaks so that your puppy doesn’t get so excited that he can’t settle down.
Then start playing again for a short time. Always end before your puppy becomes over-stimulated.
Even when you’re training your puppy, end before he becomes out-of-control. For example, calling him to you should be exciting, but not so much that he starts to mouth and jump all over you.
A short period of downtime can really help. Usually, the break can be just a few minutes, depending on the puppy. Some higher-drive puppies can take longer to calm down.
Teach a “Settle” Command
Teaching a puppy to settle down on cue is like having an “off” switch before he becomes overly stimulated.
In teaching this, I first make sure that the puppy has enough exercise before the training session.
For example, after an on-leash walk, I’ll sit down in a chair with my puppy next to me while he’s still wearing his leash. A six-foot leash is generally best for this.
I’ll say “settle” and wait him out until he lies down comfortably. Then, I’ll calmly praise him (“good settle”) and give him a small treat. Or a frozen stuffed Kong can be his reward.
I’ll also practice after a play session inside by putting his leash on and performing the same training exercise.
If done consistently, he should learn that calm behavior gets rewarded.
Once he gets the idea of what you desire, you’ll praise and reward after he’s settled for a longer period. You may at first reward after a few seconds, later expecting him to be calm for more time before reinforcing his behavior.
The goal is eventually for your puppy to settle on his own.
Once the puppy understands what’s expected, you can even play with him after he’s settled for a while. Then, again have him settle.
It can be done. My Aussie rescue Millie is a very energetic dog. In addition to playing ball (her favorite game), I train her to perform obedience commands and tricks.
But teaching her to “settle” when she was a puppy was extremely important in our everyday life. If I didn’t work with it, she had no natural “off” switch and would start to engage in unwanted behaviors like excessive barking and jumping.
Another similar impulse-control exercise is to teach your puppy to go to a place, such as a dog bed.
You can give the cue “bed” and toss a couple of small treats on it. Praise when he’s on the bed.
You can also accomplish this by luring your puppy onto the bed, then praising and rewarding when all four legs are on the bed.
Over time, reward him after he’s on the bed for a few seconds. Gradually increase your criteria for rewarding him.
After he knows sit, down, and stay, you can also practice these on the mat.
Eventually, you can be able to send him to the bed and have him lie down and stay there. Of course, this takes a lot of patience and practice.
Rewarding Calm Behavior
This is similar to teaching a puppy to settle, but without giving a verbal cue. In dog training, behavior that’s rewarded will repeat itself.
So, when teaching a dog that we want calm behavior, calmly praise and reward when your puppy’s calm.
At first, you may even reward him when he sits on his own without barking or whining. Eventually, you’ll up the criteria and praise and reward other calm behavior such as lying down.
And then further increase what’s expected before rewarding his behavior, such as praising and rewarding only after he calmly lies down for longer and longer periods.
You may increase the expected time in seconds to be successful. Don’t expect too much too soon. If done consistently, your dog will perform the behaviors on his own.
When you capture your dog’s being more relaxed, shape more relaxed postures.
Observe whether his facial expressions and body language seem stressed or calm and whether his breathing is labored or relaxed. Shape and reward more relaxed postures.
I did this with Millie in many settings. I even captured other behaviors, such as when she was quiet when exiting the house to potty. I praised and rewarded her when she was quiet.
Eventually, her habit was to be quiet even when she was excited. It was a real win-win, as Millie’s a very high-drive dog with energy to spare.
Use Calming Techniques
It’s really important that you remain calm while attempting to teach your puppy to be calm. Don’t raise your voice or otherwise show excitement or agitation.
I know that this is easier said than done. But if you get excited, your puppy will most likely feed off of it and become even more agitated. Less confident puppies may even become fearful of you.
So, in addition to using the other techniques discussed in this article, stay calm. Turn your back or walk away from your jumping or barking puppy.
Don’t yell at him or push him away, which can even potentially lead to some reactivity and aggression.
There are other devices that you can use to help a puppy be calm. Calming music can help some puppies. There’s even been music that’s been developed for this called Through a Dog’s Ear.
A Thunder Shirt used correctly can help puppies calm down. And there are other holistic aids such as calming tabs that can help.
Always check with your vet first to be sure that these are appropriate for your puppy. There are even pheromones such as Adaptil that mimic a mother’s scent to help calm a pup. They come in a plug-in, collar, and spray.
Calming massage such as that described in the Tellington Touch can also assist in your quest for a calm puppy.
Manage Your Puppy’s Environment
If your puppy barks out the window when he sees someone pass by, close the blinds or otherwise obscure his view. Even have him in another room if this isn’t possible until he learns to ignore that stimulus.
The same thing goes for outside noises he barks or otherwise gets overly excited by.
Close the window, play a TV or white noise at a low volume to block the stimulating noise.
If your puppy barks and jumps at things while in your fenced yard, don’t leave him out there alone to keep practicing these unwanted behaviors. Instead, be present to redirect his energy to desired activities such as games or obedience commands.
Generally, it’s best not to leave any puppy unsupervised outside alone. They can ingest dangerous items or even escape out of the yard. And, unfortunately, they can even be stolen.
If your puppy becomes overly stimulated when someone comes in the door, work with that issue until he learns a behavior such as a default sit.
While he’s learning, have a leash by the front door and put it on him so that he can’t jump. Don’t yank him off. Instead, stand far enough away from the door so that he can’t reach the visitor.
Praise and reward when he’s calm. Of course, you should do some practice set-ups when working with him so that he’ll be able to be calm when the real situation occurs.
If your pup gets overly excited at things on his walks, such as noises, vehicles, people, or other animals, work with him at a distance he can handle. Then, reward calm behavior.
When he’s good at 20 feet away, go to 19 and practice. It’s important to go at his pace. If he ever regresses, just start practicing again at the distance at which he was successful.
Also, manage his environment indoors. Put items he shouldn’t have, like shoes, out of his reach.
Confine him to areas you can observe him in by using doors, baby gates, exercise pens, and crates as appropriate.
You can also manage his environment by tethering him to you so that he can’t perform unwanted behaviors. Also, you’ll then also be able to reward desired behaviors.
I caution though not to over-use tethering to you as it can potentially trigger separation anxiety in some dogs if they are always with you, and then suddenly are left alone.
Expect Some Natural Excitement
Of course, our puppies should get excited by new stimuli. I want my dogs to enjoy their lives and environment. And I’m sure that you do too or you wouldn’t be reading this article.
It’s just when they are overly excited and unable to calm down that we want to avoid.
This is true with puppy zoomies too. They’re normal. Many puppies suddenly start frantically running in certain circumstances, then suddenly crash and take a nap.
If they’re constantly occurring, that’s not normal. But, a few times a day is usually nothing to worry about.
If you’ve consistently tried proven techniques to calm your puppy down and you don’t see progress, a vet check may be in order.
There may be a medical reason why your puppy’s not able to be calm.
If you don’t see improvement using the above techniques consistently and properly, you should consult a positive reinforcement trainer or behaviorist who has successful experience working with the issue of calming puppies.
What NOT To Do: Don’t Try This at Home
It’s important to remain calm in order for your puppy to do so. Don’t yell or otherwise show excitement.
Also, don’t try to otherwise suppress your puppy’s behavior. Many years ago, some people used harsh methods such as pinning a dog or rolling him on his back when trying to correct a behavior. Some trainers still use them.
These methods are abusive. And they not only don’t work long term–but they can also lead to many more unwanted behaviors such as aggression.
Modern training methods are kind and science-based. And, if done correctly, they work!
How can I calm down my hyper puppy?
It’s important to provide enough physical and mental exercise for your puppy. Consider his breed and temperament too. Some puppies are more energetic than others. Also teach him obedience commands that teach impulse control, such as look, sit, down, stay, and leave it.
When will my puppy start to settle down?
Assuming that he has a sufficient amount of physical and mental exercise, puppies start to calm down between about six months to a year. Generally, smaller dogs mature more quickly than larger breeds. Larger breeds may not show a noticeable change until 18 to 24 months of age.
Why is my puppy so out-of-control and hyper?
Some breeds are naturally more active and high-strung than others. Working-type breeds are an example. But all puppies should be able to settle down if given a sufficient amount of physical and mental stimulation. A bored, inactive puppy will be more likely to jump, mouth, and bark than one who has a job.
Puppies are so sweet. But they can also seem to be out-of-control and hyper.
They bark, tug at clothes and our hands, whine, and run around with abandon. But you can teach them to calm down.
Ensuring that they have a sufficient amount of mental and physical stimulation can help. Remaining calm and rewarding your puppy’s calm behavior as well as managing his environment can help teach your pup to settle down.
Does your puppy not settle down? What have you done to help him be calm? Please tell us about it in the comment section below.
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