As a professional dog trainer for over 25 years, and having worked for numerous veterinarians over the past 20 years, I have heard a lot of tales (not tails ) about a puppy or an adult dog that won’t sit still.
This is very common and no cause for panic or alarm!
This problem is actually fairly easily fixed with a few lifestyle changes, training, time and the ability to understand your puppy or adult dog and his needs. Teach your dog what you want!
I seemingly say this in almost every article as of late. People just don’t recognize the needs of their puppies or dogs.
Your dog and/or puppy is not human but still has distinct requirements that are sometimes very similar to the needs of a child.
People and dog owners either love or hate the fact that I often make analogies between dogs and children. Sure, dogs are different but some of the parallels are very similar and much easier for parents to understand when likenesses are drawn between the two.
How often does your puppy get exercise or a walk?
How often does your child or toddler get exercise, a walk, or a trip to the park?
How often does your puppy get training, attention, and mental stimulation?
How often does your child or toddler get your time and attention while you teach them something new or expose them to a new experience or environment or play with them?
Would you expect your toddler to sit still for hours on end without mental stimulation, exercise or play?
Why then do we expect our dogs and puppies to sit still without putting in the effort to play with them and help them?
We spend time with our children teaching them and playing with them when they are young, because we know it is detrimental to their mental and physical growth if we are not meeting their needs and spending time with them.
As a dog owner you need to recognize that your puppy and your adult dog also needs exercise, mental stimulation, petting and attention in order to grow up into a healthy canine companion that is capable of sitting still and controlling his impulses! Training your dog and meeting his needs doesn’t have to be difficult or stressful.
Let’s face it… physical exercise is important to all living things. Exercise is important to keeping us humans healthy and avoiding obesity and disease and pain. Even people who are in chronic pain are encouraged to exercise, even if it is just a walk around the block. A sedentary lifestyle leads to more ridged joints and more chronic pain. And no one wants to be in chronic pain. Just 30 minutes a day can significantly reduce pain and discomfort.
Your puppy and dog need exercise for many of the same reasons. Physical exercise helps to reduce obesity and increase muscle growth. Sensible weight helps to keep your dog from developing hip dysplasia and joint pain. Muscle fibers can even help to keep the joints of geriatric dogs stronger and reduce the pain of aging. Keep your dog healthy and pain free by making sure exercise is consistent.
Physical exercise not only reduces pain it also entertains and stimulates his brain.
However, if you aren’t moving fast enough, he will take the opportunity to stimulate his own brain and running back and forth and sniffing and pulling you from place to place.
I often relay this story to my students in my Companion Dog Training Program:
I teach my dogs to pull and run beside a lateral recumbent trike. This allows me to be able to sit while they get the physical exercise they demand. I am not ashamed to admit that I cannot run fast enough to tire or much less exhaust my high drive dogs! The trike helps them to move at a speed that they like and gives me the opportunity to help them on hills and also brakes for when we get to moving too fast.
A few years ago, I lived down by Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia and I would let my dogs pull me to the lake (about 6 miles), go dock diving and swimming and pull me home; each day. Keep in mind that this may be the kind of exercise your dog needs every day!
One day I saw a squirrel headed toward the trike. My dogs saw him too, he was, indeed, hard to miss! He ended up running through my dogs legs and across the street. They never even broke stride, much less reached down to grab him. Why? Because their minds and their bodies were stimulated! They were so busy on the task at hand that he didn’t even have time to act or react except moving in the same direction.
I am a firm believer that this is the same reason that Guide Dogs, Service Dogs and Police Dogs are so happy and well behaved and pain free. Their needs for exercise and mental stimulation are constantly met to give them a well rounded life.
I like to run my dog until he just gets started panting and then ease up. Too much panting can be a sign of heat exhaustion. So be sure to carry fresh water, cold packs and make sure there is plenty of shade if it is over 70 degrees.
To teach your dog what you want and what your expectations are is crucial to having a well trained and well behaved dog!
This is where I draw differences; dogs are a whole different species. They aren’t born knowing what their human dog owner wants. Training and mental stimulation is even more important than physical exercise.
Ian Dunbar a veterinarian and also a behaviorist has often said that mental stimulation is more exhausting than physical exercise. You must challenge your puppy’s mind with training in order for him to be happy and well rounded as an adult.
The good news is that dog training and your dog’s behavior is fairly simple once you understand a few simple concepts!
Let’s Talk About What you Need
Positive reinforcement has been proven through science, through the decades, that this is the best way for dog to learn through training your dog. Unfortunately dogs won’t work for petting alone.
Positive reinforcement also works on the people in your life, if you do it right.
This is why I strongly recommend clicker training.
In order to teach your dog what you want as far as dog training, you have to have a way to communicate when he does something right.
Just like “NO” (or whatever word you choose) tells a dog when he has done something wrong the clicker or marker tells the dog when he has done something correct. Load the clicker: click and treat, click and treat, click and treat. Use great food treats! It takes very little time for your dog to understand that the click brings his reward.
The marker is directly followed by food, a food treat or a reward; even a toy and a game so that the dog understands what behavior brings the reward.
Let’s take teaching your pup to sit. When the pup sits; click and reward. You can even use a food treat and lure his nose upward to until his rump hits the ground. To teach the dog to sit, he has to understand that the his, the dog’s behavior choice is what brings the food.
The leash helps you to control the dog and the space that he is in while you are training. I don’t want my pup to choose to get up and wander away while I am teaching him. And, yes, I recommend using the leash in the house where there are no distractions.
This will help to desensitize your pup to the leash over time, and help ready your dog for learning to walk nicely on the leash and finding heel, later.
Most dogs like toys! I even recommend building toy drive. It may just take a little bit of time to teach him to value toys.
Playing with a specific toy, in a fun and interactive way, with the dog owner can be even better than a food treat or food reward.
My dogs like food but they like toys better. I carefully built their drive with toys early in their lives so they could learn to control and cap their drive.
I often have people who don’t want to raise or work with a high drive dog, “Why would I want to increase his drive? I want to decrease his drive!”
And, I carefully explain to them that to build it is to learn to control it over time. If your dog is industrious and works and caps his drive which means he is learning how to control his impulses instead of letting them run rampant.
Working dogs, herding dogs, police dogs, guide dogs; all have to learn to control the drive they have for the things they love so it is not too much to ask from your dog!
And, it is a lot easier to carry a favorite toy than it is to always accurately account for food treats.
Even if you have had a dog that won’t sit still by following these simple steps you can teach your dog to sit still or lay still and just be a great canine companion.