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Dog Reactivity: Over Excitement in Dogs

Updated: Apr 22

Exuberant dogs can be just as challenging as anxious, reactive dogs!


WHAT IS OVER EXCITEMENT IN DOGS?

An over-excited dog is one who is overwhelmed or over stimulated, often in response to various things in the environment. It is very common, especially in adolescent dogs between 6 months and 1.5 years. Some dogs may take until 2-3 years old to make the transition from adolescence to adults. Excited dogs may display a range of behaivors, including: 


excited dog running
Excited Dog


  • Barking

  • Jumping

  • Nipping

  • Screaming

  • Leash pulling

  • Spinning

  • Raised hackles

  • Panting

  • Pacing

  • Difficulty Focusing






OVER EXCITED OR HIGH ENERGY?


Overexcited dogs are often mistaken for being high energy, high drive, or needing excessive amounts of exercise. This is understandable since they seem to be in perpetual motion! All dogs need exercise, and these dogs are no exception, however, they benefit greatly from slower activities such as scentwork that require them to think and solve problems, and help them learn to move more slowly and intentionally, rather than further revving them up with high octane exercise.



high drive dog focuses on environment
High Drive Dog


WHAT IS EXCITEMENT REACTIVITY IN DOGS?


Reactivity from excitement often looks very similar to anxious or fear reactivity, but for a different reason. Dogs who are excited are often frustrated, or are anticipating something they really want to do. Sometimes this can overlap with anxious reactivity. For example, if a dog is socially awkward, or perhaps has physical discomfort, he may be excited about seeing another dog, but apprehensive about how the greeting will go. This can heighten the response even more.


Excited dogs have difficulty regulating their emotions. They want to act on their emotions right away. When prevented from doing this, they can become frustrated, and this is often displayed through barking or some type of frenzied movement.


Common triggers for excitement reactivity in dogs may include:

  1. Seeing other dogs or people, especially if they are perceived as friends or potential playmates.

  2. Cars, bicycles, skateboards, etc.

  3. Prey animals such as deer, squirrels, or rabbits.

  4. Hearing certain sounds, such as the doorbell or car engine.

  5. Anticipation of exciting activities, such as going for a walk or playing fetch.

  6. Arrival of visitors to the home.

  7. Novel or stimulating environments, such as a crowded park or busy street.


WHAT CAUSES OVER EXCITEMENT IN DOGS?


Some of the top reasons for over excitement are those borne out of frustration.


Examples are:


  • Leash frustration.

  • Humans walk slower than dogs!

  • Inability to regulate emotions (want to go NOW!).

  • Being confined for long periods

  • Not having enough outlets for exercise or problem solving.

  • Too much fast paced exercise.

  • Lack of sleep

  • Lack of a calm and quiet space to retreat to during active family times.



screaming in frustration
Frustration


Overexcitement can also be a coping mechanism for the stress of loud or too active environments, not being able to control their own personal space bubble, and not being able to move away from unwanted people or dogs in their space.


HOW DO YOU CALM AND OVERSTIMULATED DOG?


3 Helpful Tips for Calming a Dog


1.To calm an overstimulated dog in the moment, it can be helpful to move away from distractions and put your dog’s nose to work. The simplest way to do this is to scatter some treats on the ground and pretend to help your dog find them until he starts to look for them on his own. Sniffing releases stress relief hormones that help your dog calm down.


2.Helping your dog learn to regulate emotions will go a long way toward a well adjusted dog. Teaching your dog to calmly watch the world go by from a distance is an excellent way to start this. It’s as easy as observing moderate activities in various places from far enough away that your dog can notice the activity, but be able to disengage from it after a few seconds without

your prompting.


ideal scene for calming down.
Place to help calm dog.

3.Practice sitting quietly with your dog at home, and let him know how great he is when you notice him take a deep breath. Then when your dog is excited, you will be able to take a deep breathe, and calm yourself. Your dog will recognize this because you have practiced it, and will become calmer too.


WHAT'S NEXT?


Future blog posts will expand on the concepts of reactivity, anxiousness, and over excitement. Subscribe here and make sure you don't miss them!


If you missed the blog on the difference between Excited and Anxious Reactivity, here is the link:


If you need more help with your dog now, request your FREE discovery call to get acquainted.







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You can also work with me, and my services can be found with the following links:


Reactive Dog Training help:


Anxious Dog Training help:


Get Help Walking Your Dog at Your Favorite Place:


Anxious/Excited Dog Training Classes:


Group Dog Training Walks (aka Pack Walks)


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