excitement towards other dogs

Posted by tahitisweety
Mar 6, 2010
My 20 month old shepherd/ridge-back mix gets overexcited at the sight of other dogs when we are walking. He whines, barks, jumps, and runs towards them because he must meet them. Since he is large, this scares many owners/dogs away.
He is NOT aggressive, only interested, and if he does happen to greet the other dog, sniffs a few times then loses interest. We have tried many different tactics to reduce his exuberance with limited success. Any suggestions?
Posted by KOPsRobyn
Mar 8, 2010
Hi there

It sounds like your dog is just really friendly and likes to socialize with all the dogs in the park. 20 months is still very young and it seems as though your dog is just being over exuberant and showing his age.

However, you are right in saying that he is very big and although he means no harm, it can be quite frightening to owners of smaller dogs if he runs up to say hello. Therefore your best course of action would be to gain full control over him so that he is allowed to play with the other dogs, but only on your terms. To do this, you have to establish yourself as the alpha dog of the pack. You can do this by insisting that you walk ahead of him through doorways and when walking on the leash, and feeding him after you have finished your own meal. You must ignore him if he comes up to you for attention, as he has to learn that attention from you is earned and not just given out whenever he wants it. Before you pat him or play with him, give him a command, such as 'sit-stay' so that he will see that your attention is a reward for good behavior. This will act as an incentive for the future. If you are playing a game with him, make sure it is you that chooses the toy and when you decide that you have had enough, take the toy away with you so that he realizes that it is you that controls playtime. When you first come home, you should greet the rest of the household first before saying hello to him, which will help him realize his place in the hierarchy. All these things can be incorporated relatively easily into your normal daily routine, although it will require some patience and perseverance from you. He may struggle initially as he sees himself as the alpha dog and therefore being in the submissive position to you, who he sees as a subordinate, is distressing. Soon, though, he will settle into his new place in the hierarchy and should become a more relaxed dog, as he has been relieved of the stressful role of protector.

Initially when other dogs approach you, it would be a good idea to distract your dog to ensure you have his full attention and to stop him taking off to see them. You should give him a command, such as ‘sit-stay’, and make him hold this until you decide that he can go and greet the oncoming dogs. Don’t forget to praise him lavishly if he remains sitting calmly the whole time that you require him to. You could also give him a reward occasionally, although you may find that he sees being allowed to go and play with the other dogs as a sufficient reward in itself. You may also find that teaching him the ‘watch’ command is useful, because him will be focused on you, instead of becoming agitated and watching the other dogs.

If you continue to find that he is pulling you over when on the leash, it may be a good idea to try a ‘halti’ or ‘gentle leader’ on him. This doesn’t hurt him or restrict his breathing, but allows you to control his direction of movement because he won’t be able to fight you. It may take him a little while to get used to the ‘halti’, but if you persist with it you will see a difference in a very short time.

Keeping him up to date with daily training sessions is also really good, as this will keep him sharp and responsive to your commands. As your dog is obviously very active and has lots of energy, you will need to provide him with lots of exercise to keep him mentally and physically stimulated. You may want to incorporate ‘random walking’ into your training sessions, which forces your dog to think and try to anticipates your moves. This is another great way of re-asserting your dominance, as it enforces your leadership over him by determining their exact movements. You can do this by taking your dog to an open space with few distractions, putting him on a short leash, and then walking off, constantly changing the direction that you are heading. To make things really interesting you could even change the speed that you are going. This forces your dog to look to you for directions, instead of assuming that he knows where to go. Keep in mind that this is mentally very taxing on your dog so keep the sessions short and sweet. By doing this, you are channeling his boundless energy towards something positive, and you should soon find that he is much calmer on walks and less likely to get so excited when other dogs are around.

I hope this helps and all the best with the training!
Posted by sandy99922
Mar 17, 2011
I just posted a more lengthy version of your problem. My dog is a 2 year old english mastiff that weighs 220 pounds. There is no training aid that would stop him when he see's another dog.
He is also very friendly like your dog is.
I hope you find a solution to your (and mine) problem.