A lot of dogs are hypersocial – they get uncontrollably excited at the sight or sound of other dogs.
This is a really frustrating behavior problem that can be embarrassing – and I totally sympathize.
In today’s Ask a Behavior Consultant, we’re tackling this exact problem.
How do I get my dog to stop becoming uncontrollable around other dogs? She is not aggressive but an overexcited player, which startles other dogs, especially since she is 70lbs.
– Sincerely, Worked Up Pup
If you’re looking for answers to a similar problem, you might find some answers in other Journey Dog Training resources:
- This podcast episode on Hypersocial Dogs is EXACTLY what you need!
- How Do I Teach My Dog to Play Nicely With Other Dogs
- My Puppies Play Really Rough. Is that OK?
- My Dog Doesn’t Play With Other Dogs. Is That OK?
Unfortunately, us humans aren’t generally very good at teaching dogs how to be dogs. We can pretty good at teaching them tricks and manners – but dog-dog relationships are pretty hard for humans to nail.
“Worked Up Pup” is the owner of a one-year-old Goldendoodle. I see this sort of hyper-excited behavior quite a lot in adolescents, and especially in this breed mix.
If your dog is uncontrollable about other dogs, there are still several things that you can do to help teach him to be a bit more polite:
- Don’t greet other dogs on leash. At all. The tension from the leash can build frustration, you might get dragged around, and the dogs can’t freely play or retreat anyway. I teach my dogs and my clients that if the leash is on, it’s time to ignore others. Much easier!
- You can use a treat magnet (a fistful of treats) to lure your dog past other dogs at first. Or use an emergency U-turn to just get outta there!
- Avoid the dog park. It’s too unpredictable. Sure, many dogs enjoy rough-and-tumble play with 70-pound dogs. But many dogs don’t. If we’re trying to teach manners, we want to use good teachers. The dog park isn’t necessarily full of good teacher dogs.
- Find good dog teachers. Find other, similarly-sized dogs that are socially savvy. If you talk to local dog trainers, they’ll probably be able to help you out. You don’t just want to find other rough-and-tumble dogs. You want to find some dogs who set boundaries and set them well.
- My own dog Barley, for example, isn’t very playful. But he’s polite. If another dog is bugging him, Barley doesn’t let it go on – nor does he start a fight. He barks or growls, gives the dog a bit of stink-eye, and then removes himself from the situation. If your dog is totally uncontrollable around other dogs, this is actually the sort of “dog teacher” your dog probably needs.
- Using a drag-line during playtime can also be super helpful. If your dog is starting to get out of hand, you can use the line (attached to a harness) to reel him in.
- Teach your dog to focus near other dogs. Right now, your dog totally loses his mind around other dogs. That’s ok. Work on some of that using the games described here – go to the dog park and hang out nearby, but don’t enter. Just work on teaching your dog to focus on your around other dogs. Ready-Set-Down and Look at That are both useful games here.
- Use hand targets to interrupt playtime. Hand targets are a super useful tool for any dog owner to use. Once your dog is able to think a bit more clearly around other dogs, you can start using hand targets to interrupt play. Try to interrupt play before it gets too crazy. Once your dog is at 100% excitement level, you’ll never get him to listen! Try to interrupt before she gets there. You can always use the drag-line for backup.
- Consider hiking or parallel walks instead of playtime. Keeping the dogs moving forward can really work wonders for reducing crazy play antics. As long as you’re keeping the dog’s feet moving through jogs, hikes, or parallel walks, you’ll likely see some improvement.
What I’ve described here is an overview – but it’s a start. You also will probably notice your dog “chilling out” a bit as she gets older – but don’t count on that. Aging can be frustratingly slow with some dogs – they act like silly puppies until they’re six!
The main thing is that right now, playing really rough with other dogs is “working” for your dog. It’s fun for her. So we’ve got to control the environment as much as possible so that your dog learns that other ways of play are fun, too.
Kayla is from Ashland, Wisconsin but lives in Missoula Montana. She holds a degree in biology from Colorado College and has spent years working in zoos, animal shelters, and as a private dog trainer. When not working on Journey Dog Training, Kayla works at Working Dogs for Conservation. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. She shares her life with her dog Barley.