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I am a first time dog owner and my dog is way more excited than I bargained for. She is easily over stimulated. We have been working on it a lot over the past year and she has made huge improvements but there is still a lot of work to be done.

Problem: Despite a lot of work and a lot of improvement on over excitement related issues, we still need more work on it and I am unsure how to up the ante in a way my dog can learn from. Specifically, she gets frantic when tired, doesn't settle down well, lunges on her leash a bit (though this has been drastically improved), and completely ignores me when she is on her leash and there is something more exciting she wants to go see and she jumps on up on everybody but me and my husband.

Info: I adopted a mixed breed puppy of unknown parentage about 1 year ago. Two different vets have guessed her to be some sort of herding mix, maybe with some sort of hound blood. She is my first dog. Despite countless hours of research before getting her I am still mostly learning as I go.

Exercise:I don't think the trouble is a lack of exercise. We do a combo of walks/games/off leash park/swimming/training/mental exercises. Too much exercise and she gets frantic, so after altering her schedule a few times it seems like we have hit a good amount of exercise for her.

Gear: She wears a cloth collar with her proper IDs, a front-clip harness for walking, and she is learning to carry a light backpack. I am considering getting a head halter, but I don't know if that is a good idea for her issues or not. Open to ideas about it!

Training: Virtually all of her training was done by me. She knows house manners pretty well, can do all the basic sit/down/shake/stay sort of stuff. I have referred to a personal trainer for advice on puppy issues. We just completed a beginner level obedience class but it was honestly a rather frustrating few weeks. I am looking into other classes or trainers, but it is tough to find one. Neither my husband or I work especially long hours, but we do work late enough into the evening to make attending most classes in the area impossible. Either way, we are on our own for a least a couple more months.

Problem: Over stimulation/excitment. As a bit more background: As a puppy, she was WILD. A virtual furricane of teeth and paws rocketing about. Little by little, we worked through it. She is quite food motivated and that definitely helps. She used to be terrible to walk and would throw tantrums where she would turn on me, grab my clothes, and with complete focus she would tug and tear on my clothes, her leash, anything all the while leaping about and barking. Frankly, it was awful. I read up on the behavior on this forum from others who have had similar issues. I also reached out to a personal trainer that I know and she also talked me through ways to help. Well, we did a myriad of techniques to get her through it. Today is much better. We are working on loose leash walking and she has improved dramatically. Sometimes she still sort of tries to jump up on me and grab my clothes or the leash, but a firm "uh-uh" followed by me ignoring her as we walk has always done the trick. She is also leash reactive. Slowly but surely we have been working to reduce her radius of reaction to a much smaller bubble around her. I have mostly been doing a series of "watch me" when things that would make her react are around and giving her a treat if she will look away from them and focus on me instead. I do not have a good way to redirect her though once she gets laser-focused on something. I was trying to just turn around and walk the other way when she gets over focused, and only turn back toward it once she will focus on me again. In practice, that is very hard to do because I have no control over where the things she wants is moving. Also, she gets frustrated when I try to walk her away and that can be when some of the extra naughty reactivity comes out. I try going to a park with activity at it and then asking her to focus on me instead of the other activity. Again, lots of improvement, but she gets total tunnel vision if a kid comes too close and then refuses to even look at me until the kid has left her radius of reactivity again. Sometimes exciting situations culminate into her being too over stimulated. When that happens she has a bit of a breakdown and she just blindly pushes forward. She pulls to the end of her leash, ceases all responding, and just puts her weight forward desperately trying to reach whatever she wants while straining and panting. It is like she loses her mind and she will even mouth at you if you touch her collar or harness. It happens at home with guests too. I try to catch her before it gets that far, but I can't catch it every time, especially when it happens at home. When she gets too tired, she gets frantic. Whether we are at the park, at home, or visiting elsewhere. We have worked on the frantic behavior a lot and it is better, especially at home, but I need help in continuing to push it forward. Very recently I have started trying out the facial calming signals at home. I am hoping to use that to help her out in the world as well as at home.

Even if you don't have tips, I could really use some encouragement. I have spent soooooo many hours on this dog's training, between practicing and researching. I am very proud of all of her improvement and I have been told she will likely get a bit more calm with age as well. But, I do not want to count on that to fix her troubles. Though, I am sure it will help. :D

Thanks.
 

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Can you redirect her mouthy behavior to a tug toy? She needs an outlet other than you, as mouthing you and your clothes isn't ok, either. I had a dog who could be mouthy when overstimulated, and taught her to grab a toy instead when she was excited, or would let her tug the leash if she got riled up with no toy around. As long as you can control the game if need be, and make clear that mouthing humans and their clothes is not ok, I would probably encourage tug as an outlet. For example, with my dog, she would get super excited, whip around and look at me expectantly, and I'd either either offer her the leash to tug, or I'd give her a toy instead. Then we'd play tug for a second, after which I'd take the toy back, give an obed command (this is a good way to get her to heel away from those distractions), and reward with the toy again, so on and so forth. You could forgo the obedience portion if you just want her to move away from a stimulus, and just keep her attention on the game while you move, playing chase/keepaway and building drive for the toy.

I would work on building her tolerance for collar/harness touching under low stimulus scenarios, then increase the level of distraction. It sounds like she could be a risk for redirection bites if she gets excited/frustrated enough, and you don't want that. Maybe teach a high value attention cue, and use it for those situations where she's uber focused on something else to break leash tension and snap her out of her trance. I would also do your attention under distraction work at greater distances from the stimulus, as you want it to be fairly easy for her to pay attention to you, so she can have a good success rate and not practice bad behaviors.

If she's very food motivated, can you get her attention by holding a high value reward in front of her? If so, that may be a less confrontational means of getting her attention on you and getting her to move away from distraction than pulling her back. I would pair it with a cue word, and while you may initially have to move the treat right under her nose then lure her around to you, you should eventually be able to get her to turn to you instead for it. Once she's focused on you, ask for an easy trick and reward while moving away from the distraction.

If you can swing it (weekends maybe?), a reactive dog class might be a good idea, as they will be able to evaluate her much better in person and give ideas specifically geared toward her. Those sort of classes tend to be smaller, and offer more of a bubble since the dogs tend to have space/focus issues.

I would also work a lot on teaching her a solid sit or (preferably) down stay. If nothing else, it's a good way to temporarily stop movement, which can help settle some dogs. Work on long down stays in low distraction environments to teach patience and install a bit of a "relax" button. There are dogs that may be alert and ready to go at any moment during a 20 minute down stay, but most will eventually realize that it means you might as well just chill for a bit. Then you can maybe even transfer that to down stay on a mat for when guests come, and other times when you need her to be calm.
 
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