Part of what we love about our dogs is their enthusiasm. Sometimes, all that exuberance gets the better of our pups and they don’t know how to calm themselves. This “Wild Dog” exercise will help harness your dog’s excitement and playful spirit. Practicing this exercise teaches your dog that settling down now brings future rewards. This will help him learn how to settle himself, even when he is very excited and full of wiggly enthusiasm.

How to Practice:

  1. Grab your dog’s favorite toy –something large enough for you and your dog to play with at the same time.
  2. Begin to play with your dog and their toy, keeping hold of the toy in at least one hand. Try dragging the toy along the floor, or employing its squeaker (if it has one). Tug is ok too as long as you have a reliable “drop-it” cue.
  3. Once your dog is excited about you and the toy and has engaged in your game, stand up and stop playing with your dog. Keep looking at him and bring the toy up to your chest.
  4. If your dog sits, immediately begin to praise and smile at him then resume your play session.
  5. If your dog jumps up to steal the toy, say “ah-ah” and put the toy behind your back. Wait for your dog to offer a sit before you let him play again.
  6. Once your dog has sat, you two can resume your play session together. Play for 20-30 seconds and then repeat this process. Continue to alter between playing with your dog and helping him settle.

Always share the item with your dog during this game. Don’t let him have full possession of the toy.

Tips!

Instead of asking for a sit, try to wait your dog out until he offer a sit on his own. This helps your dog problem solve and figure out the polite way to get things he wants is to sit (or lay down) without being asked.

If you have a drop it cue, this game is a great time to practice it and use it.

Troubleshooting:

If your dog doesn’t know “drop it” and won’t let go of the toy, grab a piece of kibble or a treat and toss it out on the ground near your dog’s nose, offering a trade. When he lets go of the toy, praise him and hold the toy behind your back while he goes for the food reward. Then wait for your dog to sit. Reward the behavior by going back to play with your dog and the toy.

If your dog has hold of the toy and won’t let go, stop pulling. Hold onto or step on the toy, but don’t tug back. For many dogs, the fun of the game is over when you stop pulling on the toy.

If instead of settling, your dog is jumping on you and following the toy as you move it around your body, try walking away from your dog entirely. Ignore him completely until he can get all four paws back on the floor, even walking into a different room if needed. When you resume the play session, keep it really short – maybe 5-10 seconds.

If your dog is always jumping up to get the toy and never able to settle, your play session may be too long. Vary the length of your play and your settle based on your dog. For example, if your dog gets excited easily, make your play sessions shorter and your settle sessions longer, perhaps requiring your dog to lay down, not just sit, for the toy.

If your dog is doing well, really amp up your play time, acting silly and adding lots of movement before each settle session.