Ask the Trainer | Tired dogs are calm dogs
We have a 1-year-old chocolate Lab named Mocha who is driving us crazy! We love him, but he just canandamp;#8217;t seem to sit still. He is constantly in motion both inside the house and out. His favorite activity inside is stealing any object he can and zooming around the living room. Weandamp;#8217;ve taught him the andamp;#8220;downandamp;#8221; cue, but he immediately jumps right back up. Outside he chases critters, butterflies, and sometimes his own tail. Is there anything we can do or will he always be like this?andamp;#8212; Crazy in TruckeeDear Crazy in Truckee,You get the dog you need. I canandamp;#8217;t remember who first told me this, but I really do believe itandamp;#8217;s true. Maybe Mocha was put in your life to teach you patience andamp;#8230; or perhaps to help you exercise more! Regardless, donandamp;#8217;t despair. Some dogs are born calm, but you can also create one. First off, a tired dog is a good dog. Always tailor exercise to meet your dogandamp;#8217;s physical capabilities, but for a young dog like Mocha it will take some real work to tire him. He needs a minimum of three good tongue wagging exercise/play sessions each day. Even a long leash walk wonandamp;#8217;t do the trick. Biking is a very efficient way to wear out a dog, but be careful about having him run for too long on pavement until his pads toughen up. You may also want to consult your veterinarian about how far a 1-year-old lab should run. They are prone to joint problems later in life and you certainly donandamp;#8217;t want to contribute to future issues. To ensure he doesnandamp;#8217;t overheat, take water breaks or plan your ride so he can take a swim mid-way. Throw a ball or stick so he can get a workout in the water. If biking isnandamp;#8217;t your thing, hike to the top of a hill and throw a ball down the hill. Running up and down is hard work. Mental stimulation can also be exhausting. There are many puzzle games for dogs on the market or you can create your own search game by hiding kibble, treats or toys around the house for him to find. The second step in creating a calm dog is management. Stealing your stuff and having you chase him around trying to get it is an awesome game andamp;#8230; for Mocha! Do your best to keep objects and toys picked up, but if he does get hold of something go get a treat and trade him then put the item up where he canandamp;#8217;t get it. Crates, tethers and baby gates are also useful when trying to manage an energetic young dog. Lastly, you need to develop a method of communication with Mocha and positive reinforcement-based training is hands-down the best way to do this. In PR training, we use a concept called a reward marker to tell the dog they have done something good and will be rewarded for it. Clickers are one type of reward marker that are especially effective with dogs like Mocha. Using a clicker, you can mark any behavior you want him to repeat, including moments of calm. The biggest challenge with a high energy dog is that the instant you try to praise or reward him, heandamp;#8217;s up and bouncing around again. By using a clicker, you can click the instant of calm and then deliver the reward. A good basic manners class will teach you the basics of using a clicker. If a class wonandamp;#8217;t work, one of the best books on basic PR training is andamp;#8220;The Power of Positive Dog Trainingandamp;#8221; by Pat Miller. Hang in there and have fun with Mocha. andamp;#8212; Carla Brown, CPDT is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of The Savvy Dog Training and Education Center in Truckee. If you have a pet topic/issue you would like to see covered in the Ask the Trainer column, please email her at email@example.com
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