Can Praise Hurt Your Dog?
Believe it or not giving your dog the wrong type of praise, can create a dog that is over stimulated and has trouble following commands and listening to the rules. Fortunately, with just a little bit of understanding and small changes in habits, you can help your dog be successful in making excellent choices.
The first step to determining what type of praise is best for your dog is to carefully observe their body language and over all interactions with you. If your dog is higher energy they will exhibit signs such as fast and continuous tail wagging, zoomies (running around frantically out of excitement), spinning, whining, obsessive licking, adamant jumping up, inability to hold still, shaking, or dilated pupils. While it can be endearing to be loved so much by your dog that they have trouble containing themselves, the downside is a dog that is more prone separation anxiety as well as over stimulated behavior that gets worse as it becomes a habit. If you notice your dog gets over excited and has trouble calming down when interacting with people, read on!
The next step is to consider when you want your dog to be in a high energy state (such as outside running around) and when it would be better for your dog to be calm (inside time). We typically advocate that interactions inside and those directly with people (cuddling, petting, greeting) be low energy activities for dogs who have issues with being overly excitable. High energy dogs need an outlet for their energy, so don’t forget to give them time to run, romp, and burn that excitement off so that you can ask them to be calmer inside, when manners are needed.
The last step is focusing on how you praise your high energy dog. Firstly, get in the habit of ignoring your dog when they are pushy, demanding, invading your space, and acting frantic or wild. If you engage with your dog when they are acting in these ways, you are rewarding their over excitement and they will continue the behavior. Once your dog has calmed down and isn’t pushing your for attention, you may give them affection. Be VERY careful to keep the calm energy going by:
-Speaking in a calm, slow, and soothing tone
-Moving hands slowly, more massage like than rapid petting
-Keep affection short if your dog starts to over stimulate
Think of your praise as a zen like, massage experience to help your dog practice accepting calm affection.
Not every dog owner needs to implement the calm praise protocol. But if you are having an issues with your dog simply getting too excited with people or affection in general, this can be a life saver in teaching your dog that calmness gets them what they want!