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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 12 week old puppy and he is starting to get really out of control. He goes from happy play to excessively excited and unable to control his impulses in a second. I recently took him to his first obedience class and the trainer said that he is very unwilling to submit and that we need to work on rebuilding our relationship and roles in this pack (I very much agree).

At one point she used an alpha roll on him. As a disclaimer, I'm not fundamentally against this strategy (I know some people are). I believe that a highly trained professional can use it effectively in the right circumstances. I also know that I am NOT a highly trained professional, so I am not comfortable using this strategy.

What can I do to help my puppy calm down when he is getting out of control?

I've tried time outs for the past five weeks and I'm not seeing any success. I believe that, with a bold dog like mine, time out is just teaching him that I'll leave his space and isn't teaching him to calm down with me.
 

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First, this is a positive based forum, or it used to be, so you may be hard pressed to find many that agree with the idea that our dogs are trying to take over the world.

My suggestion, instead alpha rolling which will do nothing but scare your dog, is to stop the interaction. Just stop. You can put him away in another room, you can tie him to a table and walk away, or whatever, so long as you do not interact with him. The interaction is a reinforcement of the bad behaviour, therefore you need to put a pause on the interaction until he settles.Once he settles,re-start the interaction. If he gets over excited, stop again. Repeat.

Also it helps to 'click' to calm. Whenever your pet is quiet you mark with a reinforcer (like "yes" or a click) give treat and walk away. A default settle is also good. Basically you teach your dog to go to bed, crate, or to a mat until they chill then you invite them back out. You will also find you might want to train a lot with impulse control too, which will help with the your dog finding their 'stop' button. Kikopup is a great resource for training. I've provided links to the videos.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEx_KdF4p8M

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wesm2OpE_2c

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cQnMDOVbeA - For impulse control method
 

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The behavior you are seeing in your puppy is likely just overstimulation and probably normal.

Alpha rolls are pretty controversial in the dog training world... There are plenty of other nonphysical options out there for you to explore.

What works for me with my dogs has been to structure their days so that exciting stuff (play, outings, etc.) is followed by down time (food puzzles and chews, rest/naps, etc.). Teaches an off switch. Takes time and consistency when dealing with puppies but truely does pay off.

Training wise ditto impulse control exercises. super helpful and likely where you'll need to focus your time and energy. There is a sticky thread in impulse control in the training and behavior sticky subforum. I'm hoping someone will provide the link for you. If not, I will later.
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Exercise is the best medicine for over excited puppys.

Also a non physical alternative to an alpha roll would just be a sharp NO! Sharp and firm but not mean. Watch a mother with her pups, some times she will get physical and "alpha roll" an out of control puppy but often it's just sharp bark to let the puppy know "hey, you crossed the line".
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Thank you for all of your advice @Esand, @DriveDog, @kmes, and @KayWilson (I love kikopup; I watch her videos on repeat). I agree that it seems like just overstimulation (he is a puppy so I don't think he's crazy or aggressive) but he does go from playtime or focus during training to overstimulated-level-10-nuts in a matter of seconds.

I will look up the impulse control exercises.

As far as physical exercise, do you have any recommendations that help prevent or intervene with overstimulation/overexcitement? One of my problems is that we can't play fetch because he gets too excited and begins playing/biting my arms very hard and relentlessly. I haven't done a flirt pole because he has not learned "leave it" (or even gotten close) and I don't want to engage in tug-of-war without "leave it." I also can't do walks for very long because he starts leaping and biting after a few minutes. And if the suggestion is to leave him alone when he gets too wild, he's never going to get exercise. Help! :eek:
 

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Thank you for all of your advice @Esand, @DriveDog, @kmes, and @KayWilson (I love kikopup; I watch her videos on repeat). I agree that it seems like just overstimulation (he is a puppy so I don't think he's crazy or aggressive) but he does go from playtime or focus during training to overstimulated-level-10-nuts in a matter of seconds.

I will look up the impulse control exercises.

As far as physical exercise, do you have any recommendations that help prevent or intervene with overstimulation/overexcitement? One of my problems is that we can't play fetch because he gets too excited and begins playing/biting my arms very hard and relentlessly. I haven't done a flirt pole because he has not learned "leave it" (or even gotten close) and I don't want to engage in tug-of-war without "leave it." I also can't do walks for very long because he starts leaping and biting after a few minutes. And if the suggestion is to leave him alone when he gets too wild, he's never going to get exercise. Help! :eek:
One thing I've done to wear out a puppy, is tie something on a stick, and get him to chase it. After about 10 minutes of play time, sit him in your lap and cuddle. Stroke the ears, chest, etc. Sit and watch TV while you do this.
This is a nice quiet time.
 

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Please remember that this is a positive forum. Even non-physical corrections, such as a loud "NO!", can have long lasting negative repercussions on certain dogs.
 

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He's only 12 weeks, you don't need to exercise him too much because he's still a baby. On top of that, dog's just don't need physical exercise to tire out, they need mental exercise too. Just working on training commands, socialization, and learning to play fetch/flirt pole appropriately is plenty of exercise, but make sure you are breaking it up through out the day. You don't want to physically exhaust him, like making him run/chase until he's tired, for 2 reasons.
1. It's not good for his health/growing and 2. He'll get more and more fit, which will leave you with an over exercised, under stimulated puppy who can go for days.

That's why I always recommend mental stimulation over exercise any day. I have a lab/bc mix. I can exhaust her without actually doing anything, no walks/exercise, if I provide her with games like "hide and seek", "find it" and food puzzle toys.

I recommend just keeping to the training, teaching him how to play appropriately so you have a foundation of rules for when he's older. You can even begin working on leash skills in your house/backyard until he's fully vaccinated and then once he is vaccinated take him out for little walks. If you have a moment when they're just too hyped, and you're too tired/frustrated, then giving him a food puzzle or kong will help immensely in giving him some mental stimulation.
 
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I totally agree with mental stimulation. I can take my dog for a 13 hour hike up a mountain and when we get back to the base, she's running circles around me. When we work on tricks or obedience for 15 minutes, she sleeps for an hour haha.

Think of it this way, consistent exercise will make a dog super fit- just like a person. The fitter they get, the more exercise they need.
 

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The fitter they get, the more exercise they need.
This made me laugh. I remember saying exactly that to myself as I was creating a very fit puppy. It all worked out well as I truly enjoy the physical workouts I have with my dog but it is as you say.

Mental exercises are great as others have mentioned. My dog has a heck of a nose and once I discovered this, scenting and tracking exercises really seemed to tire my dog out as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
@DriveDog @Aspen726 @KayWilson

I have read over and over that mental exercise is more important, but I'm really struggling with HOW to give him enough. When we have training sessions, he gets super overstimulated 1-2 minutes in. I know that short training sessions are good, but what do I do in between when he's awake and needs exercise (mental and/or physical)?

It just really feels like he is either asleep or in overstimulation mode and I don't know how to help him be awake and calm/focused/happy.

I'm really struggling here. I want to give him a happy, focused, calm life and I feel like right now I'm just making him anxious and overexcited and miserable.
 

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You need to relax and remind yourself he's a baby right now, everything comes in time. Start first with the off switch/impulse control. Learning that is plenty of mental stimulation. Then move on to other commands/games. Don't go too fast and don't over do it. If you rush your just going keep getting overstimulation instead of learning. Find a reward that works for him too. Is he a foodie? Likes squeaky toys? tugs? will he work for just praise? Finding a positive reward that works for your puppy will help immensely in capturing his attention. You also need to make sure that you give that reward within 3 seconds of positive interaction this is called the capture window. It's the amount of time the puppy needs between the action and learning that the reward is for doing it instead of just because. Also make sure you're doing your play/training in areas that are calm and quiet and then slowly move up towards places that are busier. Too much external noise can over stimulate a puppy because life is just so interesting.
 

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As far as physical exercise, do you have any recommendations that help prevent or intervene with overstimulation/overexcitement? One of my problems is that we can't play fetch because he gets too excited and begins playing/biting my arms very hard and relentlessly. I haven't done a flirt pole because he has not learned "leave it" (or even gotten close) and I don't want to engage in tug-of-war without "leave it." I also can't do walks for very long because he starts leaping and biting after a few minutes. And if the suggestion is to leave him alone when he gets too wild, he's never going to get exercise. Help!
Thinking of my youngest (terrier mix) at that age (he's a year and a half so wasn't too long ago)...

Personally I keep play lower key intially and use play to begin teaching impulse control. The more intense the play the harder it is for a dog to control themselves and also to settle back down when finished, so I tend to build intensity overtime. I initially just sat or kneeled on the ground and played with toys around me. Not a whole lot of real fetch or tug. Just lots of follow and grab the toy with occasional short fetches (more a test to see if my guy would reengage or not). I also incorporated the two toy game, and trading treats for my puppy releasing the toy when we played with only one toy.

If he bit my hands hard, game stopped until he calmed down (generally looked for eye contact and some sort of calmer behavior). I often just pulled the toy to my chest and covered with my hands, looked down at the floor, and froze. Or maybe stood and practiced ''be a tree.'' His calmer behavior caused the play to start again. Taught him to just bite the toys, started to solidify his drop it, and is a beginner impulse control and focus exercise (teaches that his behavior impacts what I did and defined how to get what he wanted- lunging, biting, demand barking etc. didn't work. Sits, downs, eye contact, etc. did work).

At that age I didn't do walks in the traditional sense. All ''walks'' were really more exploring new things together and/or polite walking sessions.

You may want to try out encouraging your puppy to carry a toy. Not only can he not bite you or the leash when carrying a toy, but you also can use toy play as a reward and not have to carry it yourself. ;)

I also would suggest short sessions of ''choose to heel''. You can do it off lead in secure locations or on leash or long line in unfenced places. Pretty much you just walk in a big circle initially. Any time your puppy comes to you, drop a treat and move on or toss a treat towards the center of the circle and continue on without stopping. I generally have people with mouthy puppies do the latter as it really seems to minimizes jumping/mouthing (treat has to be tossed on the approach before puppy jumps and bites) ime even starts to teach polite approaches. Once your puppy is eating and immediately and quickly returning to you, you can begin bumping up the game by asking for following several steps alongside you (without jumping/mouthing) for a treat. Jumping/mouthing would result in you freezing/be a tree. A polite choice doesn't get a treat but does result in the game restarting. :)


@DriveDog @Aspen726 @KayWilson

I have read over and over that mental exercise is more important, but I'm really struggling with HOW to give him enough. When we have training sessions, he gets super overstimulated 1-2 minutes in. I know that short training sessions are good, but what do I do in between when he's awake and needs exercise (mental and/or physical)?

It just really feels like he is either asleep or in overstimulation mode and I don't know how to help him be awake and calm/focused/happy.

I'm really struggling here. I want to give him a happy, focused, calm life and I feel like right now I'm just making him anxious and overexcited and miserable.
You're doing fine! Really! :)
Puppies are adorable but also can be very difficult to handle!

Ime that pesky jumping and biting tends to be worst when a puppy is bored, frustrated, or tired.

You could try shortening your training sessions even more. Maybe even just 5 treats worth of training at a time for this week. You may want to look at your expectations. Perhaps you are moving too quickly with training or your puppy doesn't quite understand so getting the mouthiness. Or could be something you are doing (quickly moving hands, rough petting, high squeeky voice, etc) that is getting your puppy overly excited. :)

For mental stimulation, think brain games. Puzzle feeders are nice as are games like the clam shell or cup game (treat under cup, puppy have to sniff out the treat. At higher levels there's more than one cup but only one treat and also required sit/wait while treat is placed and cups moved around) or muffin tin game (treat(s) hidden in muffin tin under balls (again can work towards a sit/down stay). Games like the clamshell and muffin tin games are nice as you get to interact but the puppy is focused on the objects instead on the owner so tends to reduce biting/mouthing.;)

Also invest in a variety of chews like kongs (stuff them and use at meal times or in crate/pen), himalayan chews, hooves, horns, antlers, everlasting treat balls, etc. Immediately following play or training, give him a chew and encourage quiet time. Perhaps while in a crate or playpen if unable to supervise directly. I also highly recommend having some treats or even kibble in pockets so that you can give ''bonus'' rewards when quiet and entertaining himself. Really does help instill an off switch and teach puppies to settle down when owners are busy. It's just as important to teach them to relax/self entertain as it is to provide mental stim. and exercise. Start now when he's a baby. I see far too many adolescent dogs and adults who never learned this! Owners tried to provide interaction when ever awake when young and now the dogs are very demanding when it comes to attention and don't know what to do with themselves if they don't get it!:eek:
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
@kmes thank you so much. All of those suggestions are really helpful.

I'm wondering if you could tell me a little about your experience with time and expectations. I know that every puppy is different, but I'd just like to hear how you (or anyone else) has done it. I know I should try to read my own puppy to see if he's ready for change, but just looking for some guesstimations.

For example, with your first suggestion about calm play slowly progressing to more energized play or specific play like fetch and tug, how long did that take for you?

Also, how long did it take your pup to go from 5 treat training sessions to 5 minutes or longer?

Thank you again for giving so much advice. No matter how much time I spend researching and working with him (and I'm home all day), I still know so little and feel very little confidence about how we're doing.
 

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@DriveDog @Aspen726 @KayWilson

I have read over and over that mental exercise is more important, but I'm really struggling with HOW to give him enough. When we have training sessions, he gets super overstimulated 1-2 minutes in. I know that short training sessions are good, but what do I do in between when he's awake and needs exercise (mental and/or physical)?

It just really feels like he is either asleep or in overstimulation mode and I don't know how to help him be awake and calm/focused/happy.

I'm really struggling here. I want to give him a happy, focused, calm life and I feel like right now I'm just making him anxious and overexcited and miserable.
I see that kmes wrote a long one but I didn't read it yet- apologies if I repeat anything that she said.

If 1-2 minutes is all that your pup can handle right now, that's all that I would do. I would figure out that threshold and stop before he gets overstimulated. The trick is to keep them wanting more.

I would also structure the training so that most of the session is reinforcing what he already knows. If I walked into a 5th grade classroom and handed out a Calculus exam, those kids would never want to go back to school. Same concept for dogs. Reinforcing what they know builds confidence and strengthens those commands. For example, if he knows sit, stay and come but you want to start teaching down... I would do sit, stay and come for the first minute and a half (rewarding heavily) and work on down for only 30 seconds or so in the middle of the session. Always end with something he knows really well. Reward heavily throughout the session. If you only get 1-2 minutes each time, do 10 sessions/day, or whatever his brain can handle. Every dog is different.

When I'm ready to work with my girl, in a really 'cartoony' voice I say, "Aspen, wanna go to work?" I repeat it and I probably look and sound ridiculous but she gets excited before we even start. If we're working on something difficult, I make sure to have UNBELIEVABLE treats- for my dog, this is a hot dog (cut up). It's something she doesn't get often and she would do ANYTHING for a hot dog.

I also use whatever dog I have for the day. What I mean by that is if she's in a mellow mood (doesn't happen often haha), we may work on long distance stays or something like that. If she is jumping around a hyped from the start, I would NOT work on long distance stays- I want to set us up for success. On those days, I'll do mostly tricks with some obedience mixed in. If your pup is hyped up, work on things that keep him moving - leg weaves, spins, roll over, etc. I'm a huge advocate of trick training because #1, they look SO CUTE! and #2, they keep training fun for both dog and handler.

Some days, Aspen is so hyper she can't focus. On those days, she will literally stand in front of me and give me every trick she knows before I say one single word. On those days, she needs multiple sessions to burn some of that off. I may do heeling drills in session 1 and then in session 2, I may work on sit and short distance stays- heavily rewarding calm, quiet behavior. I may do 4-5 sessions that day and not introduce anything new.

Another thing that really tires Aspen out (although unless your dog has basic manners, I don't recommend this) is to take her to stores and other stimulating places. We have some dog friendly communities near us where we walk around town and 90% of the stores/restaurants allow dogs. There are so many things for them to look at and smell that after an hour, she's tired :) You can get him a vest that says "In Training" and ask that people not pet him unless he's sitting/laying down/standing calmly. I take my training to a variety of places and I think it really helps.

The thing to remember is that every dog is different. What worked for Aspen may not work for your dog or my next dog. It's a lot of trial and error and a TON of patience. Every session should be fun and a positive experience. If I ask for a stay and she gets up, I don't yell "NO!" or anything like that. She simply doesn't get a reward and I ask for the command again. Punishing wrong choices will make them nervous to try new things- general statement, I'm not saying you do this.

Look up Sara Carson. She's a trainer who I really like. She has 3 Border Collies- high energy breeds- and she runs a FB group, I think it's called the Heroic Spark Team or something. She's super nice and has done a great job with her dogs.

I hope this long post makes some sense. :eek: Please keep asking questions and posting here. Members here are very passionate about dogs and training and love to help others. Feel free to post a video of a training session! It may help people to give more advice.
 
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