the bluebonnet norfolk terrier club
Your Dog Does What???
© The Bluebonnet Norfolk Terrier Club
Tips from a Certified Animal Behavior Counselor
QUESTION: "Here is what Toby is doing. He gets totally in your face when you first meet him. Whenever a person comes over to my place, Toby gets overly excited and starts jumping up on the person over and over. If the person sits down he jumps up on the person’s lap and then starts jumping in the person’s face. Nothing aggressive in a mean way; he is just overly excited. Worse if Toby sees another dog. He goes nuts. Toby will run over to the dog and start jumping in the dogs face and jumping on the other dog’s side or chest. I hold him back now as he struggles and whines but have a sense this is not helping and may be adding to the stress and bad behavior. It has gotten to the point where I put a harness on Toby so I can better restrain him when he is near other dogs.
ANSWER Hi there - You describe classic, happy terrier “leap first, look later” approach to life. As you already know (as does anyone who has the pleasure of such a dog’s company) physical restraint does not create mental compliance or calm. What was a terrier bred to do when in pursuit of what he wants and thwarted? Power on! Escalate! Try harder! To be successful, Toby needs to learn some self control (yes, it IS possible, I promise). His brain must be engaged in the work. And if you do not yet know how to create mental compliance, then you’ll just end up frustrated with the dog. That’s when we humans tend to escalate - we may yell and get annoyed. And that may shut the dog down - often at the cost of their joyfulness and, possibly, show attitude. Which is a pretty high price. And one you don’t have to pay. Another unhelpful thing about that extremely common cycle is the dog understands nothing new that will help him make a better choice in the future. It does not build self-control, it builds you control (which is why you can do it for years and see no change in your dog). We can aim much higher than that! One of my mottoes is “Get to Good” meaning look at training as a way to create what you want, not as a means of correcting what you don’t want. I’d work on a few behaviors, when all is calm. Get those solid then start adding in distractions. My “go to” choices are The Simple Sit*, Head Turns and Say Hello (in My Smart Puppy - book with DVD). Each of these builds your dogs inner self-control "muscles" so they are stronger when you need them. Once those are in place you can use those to help you teach Toby how to be calmer around people and other dogs. Reward calmer choices and you will, in time, get a calmer version of your still happy dog. * Do not teach this if you are showing your dog as it will confuse your dog in the ring where upward leash pressure often means stack and stay stacked. Links:  "Get to good": Simple Sit Head Turns: My Smart Puppy on Amazon:
Email your question to Animal Behavior Counselor Sarah Wilson. Learn more about Sarah and how she helps you help your dog here. Visit Sarah's website at for additional tips.
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