Calming a Crazy Canine

Learn how to turn your wild dog into a courteous companion.

After adopting Oscar, a black Labrador Retriever mix, and his littermate Simon, Kim and Dan Johnson of Richmond, Texas, thought the two would be good companions. Instead, the pair was soon acting up in unison: running through the house, jumping on visitors, and fence-fighting with the neighbors dogs. When a hole in the fence allowed them to finally make contact with the dogs in the next yard, the resulting fight led the Johnsons to seek training help.

Owners of excitable dogs often assume their dogs were just born that way and believe there is little they can do to change them. However, when the Johnsons consulted Lore Haug, DVM, a behavior specialist at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine, they learned that they could teach Oscar and Simon self-control and by offering rewarding alternatives to their wild behavior. The following keys can help your dog, too.

1. Control and Manage the Environment 
Don’t let your dog practice the behaviors you want to change. The more he repeats them, the more entrenched they’ll become. Be a good manager: Keep the garbage pail out of reach, put your unruly dog on leash before you answer the door, and don’t leave him outside unsupervised. Using a crate within reasonable limits or acclimating your dog to a dog-proofed room can provide a quiet retreat while keeping him out of trouble.

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Behavior and Training · Dogs