Uncontrolled Excitement. Biting Arms. Attacking Feet.

A dog’s uncontrolled excitement is a challenge to deal with.

They let Tia out of the utility room and into the kitchen where I was standing. She flew at me, grabbing my arm with her teeth. She repeatedly jumped up.

There was no malice in her at all, but it can hurt! It was uncontrolled excitement with possibly some anxiety thrown in.

She can’t help herself.

uncontrolled excitement

Butter wouldn’t melt!

The young Staffie was simply so aroused she couldn’t help herself. Meeting all people triggers uncontrolled excitement, particularly those coming to her house.

When the doorbell goes, Tia goes mental.

When I arrived we had set things up so that when I rang the bell she was already out of the way in the utility room wearing her harness. They fortunately had my favourite harness – a Perfect Fit – so they could hook a lead to the chest.

I instantly had to start working on her to save my arms! I stood on the lead. She was physically unable to jump now.

I got out my clicker and little tub of food. I repeatedly clicked and rewarded firstly moments when her body relaxed and she wasn’t trying to jump. Before long she briefly sat. I gave her a little more rope and carried on. Fairly soon I dropped the lead and she had got the message and calmed down. (A special note here – the clicker itself isn’t magic! It’s about knowing how to use it).

Changing No to Yes.

It’s amazing how sometimes a clicker, used in the right way, can open lines of communication. It changes ‘no – don’t do that’ to ‘yes – this is what we want’.

Usually when someone comes to the house it’s a physical fight as they try to hold her on a short lead in order to protect the person from her rough excitement. It’s a fight to get her away from the door. There will be commands and chaos! The lady describes her as being plugged in the mains.

When I arrived we were all quiet and calm. Nobody reacted to all this uncontrolled excitement.

It was little more than fifteen minutes before she went and lay down. She stayed in her bed now until I was ready to go, relaxed.

The ten-month-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier is all the time extremely wired up and ready to go. Meeting people fires her up most of all, but so do other things like her humans walking about carrying something. She will then go for their feet.

In the evening they can be sitting quietly watching TV and one of them gets up. The uncontrolled excitement kicks in. She barks and attacks feet.

I am sure Tia is genetically predisposed to over-excitement. Too often dogs are bred for looks over temperament and Tia is certainly a stunning dog. She is also friendly, biddable and affectionate. She may be more sensitive than one might imagine. There are several things that scare her.

Clockwork dog.

Like most people, they have been trying to calm her down by doing things that will actually be having the opposite effect, wiring her up even more.

Surely physically tiring her out should calm her down? It’s almost impossible to exhaust her and on coming home she’s ready to chase feet in the garden.

They give her long walks with repeated ball chasing and don’t understand why, however much of this they do, she doesn’t change. It’s like the dog is clockwork with a key in her side, and she’s being fully wound up daily.

I am certain that just giving her the kind of walking she would be doing if by herself, mooching, sniffing, chasing leaves, maybe digging, will alone will get rid of some of her uncontrolled excitement.

They can change those things that lead up to the biting sessions and they are quiet easy to determine.

Also they can change the things they do afterwards in response to her flying at their feet.

They will work on the ‘doorbell game’. First the will ring the bell so many times that it no longer heralds anything special. Then it will be the cue for Tia to take herself into the utility room. It will take hard work and patience – and food.

Jumping, biting, attacking feet are symptoms only – of uncontrolled excitement.

To get at the root of all this, they will do everything they can to calm Tia down. She is permanently so aroused and stressed that it takes very little indeed to send her over the edge. See trigger stacking.

Currently it’s impossible to ignore her rough and hyper approaches – thus rewarding it with attention. Instead, they now will themselves introduce short regular activity sessions throughout the evening, doing things that use Tia’s brain. She will no longer need to do things for attention.

They should no longer respond to barking but initiate things when Tia is calm. This way they reinforce calm rather than demanding, uncontrolled excitement – of which there should be less anyway.

It will take a lot of patience and effort, but will be worth it in the end for their beautiful dog. I just love her!


NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Tia and because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same.  Listening to ‘other people’, finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where wild or uncontrolled behaviour. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

Opened the Door and the Dog Ran Off

Tibetan-TerrierMonty, a Tibetan Terrier, is 9 months old and a typical teenager! If you want an easy life, you don’t choose the bravest, biggest and most bossy puppy in the litter. This was Monty. He stood out from the rest as a character. Now adolescent, they are facing defiance and lack of respect big time – especially the lady.

We didn’t start off too well! As soon as Monty’s owners opened the front door to let me in, Monty legged it! The houses are surrounded by wooodland and as they tried all the tricks to catch him, Monty stayed just out of reach, teasing them. What a game! Fortunately with treats and patience and because he was curious about this new person in his house, I got him back in the end. The moral is that he simply must never be near the open front door – certainly not until a lot of work has been done with him, because it’s a certainty that given the chance he will be out again and they may not be so lucky next time. Despite the immediate rural surroundings, roads are not far away.

Monty is in charge. He makes most of the decisions. He decides where he sleeps, he eats in his own good time, he dictates when he gets attention and in his mind he decides where he goes on a walk – always well ahead on a retractable lead. He even goes on strike if he decides he doesn’t want to walk any more.  He has taken to jumping on the lady whether she is sitting down, standing or on a walk, leaping at her arms which are badly bruised by his teeth and biting her back if she turns away. They love him dearly and the lady understandably finds this bullying very upsetting. If she says ‘No’ to him it’s is like a red rag to a bull! The man has a bit more control but only because Monty is a bit scared of him. Monty is like a naughty spoilt child.

It can take an outsider in an objective way to wake people up to just what is happening. They can now see that a dog that rules the roost just like a spoilt child, is not necessarily a happy dog. Throughout the meeting we worked on his pushy behaviour, and then it was time for the gentleman to take him for his evening toilet walk. Instead of playing chase games before allowing his harness to be put on, we achieved a calm and cooperative exit from the house. If the man needed proof that the behaviour of the humans around Monty was affecting his behaviour, the transformed walk did it.

They are going to work on being non-confrontational. I suggested they avoid the word ‘No’ as far as they possibly can. ‘No’ doesn’t tell the dog what he should be doing, only what we don’t want him to do. There are more effective and positive ways of gaining Monty’s cooperation. They will set rules and boundaries and maintain them consistentaly and fairly, in a way that Monty understands. Real love is about being bothered to be consistent and just as with children, teaching them self-discipline kindly and the sort of behaviour that means they fit happily into society.

Brushing up on dog-parenting skills is, again, the key.

A week has gone by and they are off to a very good start: “I would say there has been a massive change with Monty, since your visit the house seems so much calmer and so does he. He is sleeping far more, it is almost like he knows he can chill out now because someone else is the leader and he does not have to worry about it anymore.  He also seems to enjoy the gentle “loose lead” walks, he does not seem to mind they we are not going further a field at the moment. The stress and angst from all three of us has disappeared, the difference it is making already is brilliant, I cannot begin to tell you how lovely it is to have a peaceful home back, with no shouting or running around like a lunatic after Monty. The word “no” is banned. When I think back now to all the shouting we were doing, no wonder he was stressed! I know it sounds silly, but he actually looks more like a puppy again in his face”.
Three weeks have now gone by: Theo, had to email to tell you about today. Monty and I went for a walk today harness on and loose lead, we met a lady who’s dog went to puppy social classes with Monty, she is also a dog walker and had 7 dogs with her! All on tight leads stretched out in front like her arm was about to be pulled off. The dogs were going mad, and one by one let off the lead. Normally Monty would have pulled on his retractable lead to full length, bark and be over excited. Instead whilst talking to her, he stood by my side on loose lead, as if to say “what’s all the fuss about”. It was like  he was the new boy at first  day of school with all the other kids running around and him thinking I will just stay with my mum. Played with the other dogs nicely when they approached but that was it. So we quietly turned around and walked the other way, leaving the women in a manic state screaming at all the dogs. So, Thank you, without your involvement, I couldn’t have been the proud parent I was today”.
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.

Continue reading...