A boisterous young Labrador can be quite a handful.
It is not unusual for young labs of between 9 and 18 months, to start causing injuries through their exuberance.
Knocking children over, barging into old ladies, and jumping up at visitors are a common crimes.
It can feel as though every social occasion is doomed to end up in tears, and it is no coincidence that this is the age at which many rescue dogs are abandoned.
So how do you calm your excitable Labrador and encourage more appropriate behaviour?
Very often the owners of the dog are unwittingly causing the excitability, or at least contributing towards it.
It is not difficult to ‘wind up’ a young dog.
Especially a bouncy, people friendly, labrador. You’ve all seen people do it.
Lots of over excited greetings, squeaky voices, rewarding behaviour when the dog leaps around, and a failure to reward when the dog puts his feet on the floor or stands quietly.
My husband took one of our dogs to the vet the other day for a booster. In the waiting room was an elderly couple with a golden retriever.
When they arrived, the dog lay down quietly and the owners ignored it completely, chatting to one another.
After a few minutes the dog whined and both owners turned to the dog and made a fuss of it.
They then started chatting again, ignoring the now quiet dog. Within a minute or two the whining began again. And each time the dog whined, the owners again paid it a shed load of attention, and each time it laid quiet they ignored it.
Needless to say, within twenty minutes, the dog was whining almost constantly and starting to become agitated, panting and pawing at the couple. On and on they went, encouraging and rewarding his behaviour. They were no doubt convinced that the dog was upset because he was at the vets, when in fact he had been perfectly happy when he arrived.
An important part of raising a young dog to be calm and polite in company lies in responding appropriately to the things that they do. This is a form of ‘training’ but one that needs to be carried out whenever it is needed rather than to your own schedule
Dogs do what works for them. If your dog wants attention and you give it to him when he whines, he will whine a whole lot more. If you give him the attention he craves when he is quiet, he will be quiet more and more.
What about DAP
Some of you may have heard that there is a product called DAP which can help calm a dog.
DAP is short for dog appeasement pheromone. Even if it were desirable to reduce excitability with some kind of drug, this is not the role of DAP. The dap diffuser is intended to reduce stress or anxiety not excitement.
A dog which is excited to see new people, is unlikely to be fearful.
Setting the tone
Training aside, your best chance of calming your dog is to be calm yourself. Keep your voice calm, your body movements understated and your praise low key.
Set the tone and your dog will follow. Whenever possible it helps to brief visitors.Talk to them about how you are working on your dog’s behavior, and how important it is to be calm around him.
If you are expecting visitors that you know enjoy deliberately winding up your dog, it might be simpler to put him out of the way until they have gone.
Show visitors how to reward the dog with a treat only when all four paws are on the ground or when he is sitting quietly in his bed. Most are only too happy to join in the ‘training game’. Carry a clicker and treats around with you and treat the dog for calm behaviours whenever and wherever you can.
Dogs learn fast if people around them are consistent and reward the right behaviours.
Information from www.thelabradorsite.com