We tend to think that a dog that’s jumping up and down and barking madly is happy. In fact, the opposite is true. Serenity and calm are signs that your dog is content, while excitement can often spell impending aggression.

The first step to curbing excitement is recognizing that it’s a problem. The second stage is doing something about it. Here are our tips for discouraging excitable, potentially aggressive behavior.

Don’t encourage your dog

If we equate excitement with happiness, we’re very likely to pat a dog that’s excitedly jumping to and fro, thereby reinforcing the behavior.

What we want to do is ignore it completely. Only when a dog is in a state of submission should we dignify it with attention.

So if your dog is acting in an unruly fashion, simply turn away and ignore him, or push him down if he tries to jump on you.

The worse thing we can do is reinforce the behavior by paying attention to it.

Make sure your tire him out

We talk about the benefits of exercise all the time, and it’s particularly important if your dog is getting overexcited.

For one thing, the very act of walking should relax your dog, as it scratches a primeval itch: that of heading out to forage for food and shelter. Dogs are finely attuned to the activities of their ancestors, and just getting out the house does wonders.

Then, the physical benefits are worth their weight in gold. The walk will tire your dog out so he’s less likely to need to act out. When a dog has excess energy to burn, they’re far more likely to feel frustrated, and express that frustration through the typically “excited” acts we mistake for happiness.

Check your own energy

If your dog is an overexcited mess, it likely hasn’t happened overnight, and there’s every chance you’ve had a hand in this bad behavior. But change can happen – and happen quickly – provided you commit to staying calm and assertive.

Don’t yell at your dog – use non verbal energy and subtle physical cues to impart your message. Something as small as a grunt can work better than a long-winded phrase; a small touch far better than yanking the collar.

When it comes to controlling dogs, less is often more.

Finally, if you’re really struggling, be sure to consult your vet. They might recommend a scent for the room, as a lot of the time excess energy is the result of boredom. A dog, with its highly evolved snout, can be entertained through scent alone.

Most importantly, recognize that overexcitement and unruly behavior, and endeavor to fix it. This, in the end, is the first step to making long-term progress. 

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