In this post, I’d like to devote a little time to the idea of calmness in our dogs. I know some people might want hyper, crazy dogs for hunting or other activities. But in general, most owners want a dog who is calm and controlled.
One thing I’m fond of telling people is that calmness is a skill set. A big pet peeve of mine is when people say: “Oh, just wait until the dog gets older. He’ll calm down.” What they’re saying is that calmness is a product of age, and that a dog just needs to get older to naturally calm down. There are two problems with this logic, the first being that it’s just wrong. Plenty of ten-year-old dogs are still very hyper.However, even if this logic is correct, it means that you have to wait years to really enjoy your dog. That’s why I try to help people understand that calmness is a skill, and that it can be learned and taught.
How do you teach calmness? Very simple: you remove the ability to behave in the opposite way. The opposite of calmness is craziness. A dog who jumps all over the place, hops on the couch and runs around the room, barks at people, and so on. That’s what “craziness” looks like for many dogs. By getting rid of the craziness, we get the calmness by default. If a dog is running around the house, barking at every sound it hears from outside, we need to get rid of that behavior. The result will be calm behavior.
So if your dog is running around, teach him to stay. If he’s barking, correct him. Allow your dog to play, but don’t be afraid to use training to eliminate behaviors that you’ve deemed inappropriate. Do that consistently, and you will teach your dog the skill set of being calm. Even a highly hyper puppy can learn to be calm. Though it’s likely that a trained year-old dog will be calmer than a six-month-old dog, dogs older than six months old are capable impulse control.
Don’t accept the narrative of “waiting until your dog gets older,” and don’t hope that your dog will suddenly develop the desire to be calm later in life. Start teaching your dog calmness from a young age.