How to cope with an overexcited Labrador puppy

One of the issues that new Labrador puppy owners find difficult to deal with is an over-excited puppy.

Over-excitement lies at the heart all kinds of common puppy problems.

We want our puppies to play and have fun, so how do we decide when things have gone a bit too far?

How do you know whether or not your puppy is getting over-excited?

Is he over-excited?

  • If your puppy is biting and snapping at your fingers repeatedly and with increasing force as you try to prise him off your arms and clothes.
  • If his biting is accompanied by much snarling and he tugs at your clothes until they rip.
  • If he is barking rapidly at you as you try to take toys off him or get him to obey simple commands
  • If any games involving your children end in tears with the puppy jumping and snapping at their arms and legs.
  • If your puppy spins about nipping and growling as you put your hand down to restrain him

If any of the above occurs in a puppy under six months old, it may be the result of over-excitement.  Other clues to over-excitement  are that the behaviour is accompanied by a furiously wagging tail and interspersed with spells of tearing around the room bumping into things.

NB A puppy that growls to guard what he is eating is a different matter altogether. Check out this article to get help with your food guarding puppy

Is it aggression?

It is not normal for puppies under six months to become aggressive.  If the behaviour started with a game,  and if the puppy’s tail is wagging and he is tearing around in an unco-ordinated way, he is playing.  Even if he sounds ferocious!over-excited labrador puppyAggression is usually born out  of fear.

And frightened puppies do not usually race about bumping into things.

They normally attempt to freeze, withdraw, or even hide behind or underneath furniture.

If you are concerned that your puppy is aggressive then do consult your vet,  but the vast majority of people who are concerned about puppies biting and growling, own a puppy that is playing.

And if the puppy becomes over-excited during play he may well behave in the slightly crazy manner described above.

What should you do?

You need to take two decisive actions

  1. Put the puppy in a safe place to calm down
  2. Decide on a strategy to manage your puppy more appropriately

Calming the puppy

Normally his crate is the best place for your puppy to calm down.  Placing a blanket over the crate will help to calm him.  Failing that place him in a puppy safe and preferably darkened room.   Or outside in a puppy proof pen.   Don’t incarcerate him for long periods of time.  A few minutes is normally sufficient to enable a puppy to become calm.

What caused the over-excitement?

Before you make a plan to avoid a recurrence, it is a good idea to think about likely causes of over-excitement.  In the vast majority of cases, it is because someone has been playing inappropriately or excessively with the puppy.

Sometimes this is an adult,  sometimes another dog.  But most often it is the result of the puppy playing with children.

Children are not very good at judging when a puppy is getting worked up,  nor are they great at reading a dog’s body language, and they tend to give the puppy the wrong signals.  Such as getting down on the ground which in the puppy’s mind is an invitation to play rough.  Or screaming and shouting which the puppy interprets as play barking and growling.

Managing the puppy for calm behaviour

Puppies benefit from a predictable routine.   A time to be lively,  a time to relax, a time to eat, sleep and so on.

Some puppies get hyped up more easily than others with physical play, and many will need to be restricted to very short periods of this kind of interaction.

Lively play should be supervised and interrupted after a few minutes.  At this point the puppy may need an opportunity to relieve himself outdoors, and may then benefit from a period of quiet in his crate.

Helping children to calm the puppy

You may need to spend time showing your children how to calm the puppy with gentle stroking and calm voices.  They will soon see what a nice effect this has on the puppy and how much more pleasant he is when he is not overexcited.

In the long run it is far better for children to learn to interact with the puppy through training games,  than to roll around on the floor with the puppy.

This becomes increasingly important as a Labrador puppy grows because he will be a big dog and must learn not to jump on people.

You can start clicker training at any age and this helps to occupy the puppy’s busy mind and help teach him useful new behaviours.  Children enjoy it too.

There is an article specifically on biting here,   it is a difficult phase,  but bear in mind that it does pass quite quickly (even though it doesn’t seem like it at the time!)

Teaching children to play safely with a dog is very important,  especially as your dog grows and matures.   Check out our article on Playing safely with dogs

And don’t forget,  puppies will be puppies.  They do bite, race around, and behave in a crazy fashion from time to time.   You need to be a calming influence and step in when things get too lively.

Hang on in there,  it gets easier!

More help and information

If you enjoy Pippa’s puppy articles, you will love her new book: The Happy Puppy Handbook – a definitive guide to early puppy care and training.

 

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Pippa Mattinson

The Labrador Site is brought to you by Pippa Mattinson. Pippa's latest book The Happy Puppy Handbook is a definitive guide to early puppy care and training

by Pippa on April 21, 2013

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Hala May 9, 2013 at 11:52 am

Dear Pippa,

Thank you for the useful and informative website, my English lab is 4 motnhs old and i’m wondering when can he start mating?
Waiting for your reply.

Regards,

Reply

Pippa May 9, 2013 at 12:47 pm

Hi Hala
Here is an article you may find useful. A male lab can be used at stud once he is mature and has completed all his health checks.
Pippa

Reply

Priya May 21, 2013 at 7:15 am

I have a 5 months labrador puppy who jumps and bites us. He jumps over the bed and is all over it. If I try to put him down, he bites me very badly. He refuses to listen to me when I try to stop him by saying No sternly. I am planning for his training and have spoken to two trainers. We want him to be a good house dog with whom we all can have good time. His constant bitings and attacks force us to put him inside the crate or some room. Can you please suggest me a way out to make him calm and stop attacking us.

Reply

Teena Ann June 11, 2013 at 9:34 am

Hi hello Pippa,
Help me to teach my dog to listen to my commands he is a months old

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Shreya July 7, 2013 at 9:54 am

Hi Pippa,
My lab puppy is about 11months old.
She keeps on biting everyone. When I say no and scold her she jumps and bites harder with more force. We all are concerned about this. I try to keep her locked in a dark room when she bites but that doesn’t seem to work either. Can she be an aggressive dog? :( .. I try to stop her by saying “bad girl” and hitting her hip softly to make her realise she is wrong.. nd when she does someyhing good I pat her and reward her and say good girl.
Please help me. :(

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Pippa July 8, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Hi Shreya, you need to teach your dog some alternative behaviours in exchange for the attention she is seeking. When is she jumping at you? Is it when you first arrive home and she is pleased to see you? Is it when you are preparing food? Is it when you are playing with her? Can you give me some examples?

Pippa

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Shreya July 9, 2013 at 8:53 am

When I arrive home she is all happy and excited. She jumps but she doesnt bite then, she only licks and wags her tail.
She jumps and bites when I say “no” as her soft biting on my hand starts getting harder. And also when I wear my jeans to go out she jumps and pulls my jeans ..
I really dont know what to do. :(

Reply

Divya Hirekodi July 10, 2013 at 7:50 am

Hi Pippa,
We have a cute 8 weeks old, male lab puppy. He seems lethargic at times and also very moody. He does not respond when we call him during these “mood swing” period. We are very worried about this. He is happy sometimes.
Please advise if this normal.

Reply

Pippa July 10, 2013 at 11:01 am

Hi, best thing is to get your pup checked over by a vet. Pippa

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Divya Hirekodi July 10, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Hi Pippa,

Its me again. Thanks alot for your prompt reply. We have already taken him to the vet and were told that he’s quite healthy for his age. However, my husband had a dog previously, (Boxer – Dobermann mix) who he says, was very active and would actually be on guard, play fetch. But our Lab (Brady) is very passive. For ex. 1) the dogs normally greet their owners with a lot excitement, wagging their tails etc when they return home but Brady merely acknowledges our presence.
Ex 2 – Also while preparing his food he does not act impatient, like other dogs normally do. I don’t really know whether to call this behavior passive or patient.

He is very active though when we take him out for short walks outside the house. We have NEVER let him stay on his own ever since we’ve had him.

We love him alot.. and want to do our best for his well- being.

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John July 18, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Not sure what to do.

I have a 9 month old lab that it to excited. He viciously bites at times and is calm at other. I also have a bulldog that is almost a year old.

I do not want to get rid of the lab. I took them to a training class and heis still acting up.

He also barks excessively.

Any advice?

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Karran August 8, 2013 at 9:50 pm

If you want to stop a puppy doing something , eg jumping in the fish pond, chewing your hand, how do you say “no”. Having read your website I know it’s best to not let them get in the situation where you have to say no but I wondered what is the best way to do this.
About to take charge of a 9week old!
Thanks
Karran

Reply

Pippa August 9, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Hi Karran,
I think this article answers your question. Good luck with your puppy
Pippa

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Michael October 10, 2013 at 10:14 am

Hi Pippa,
We are reletivly new to labs and have just taken on a 20 month old Choc boy. He is still very boisterous and wondered if this a phase or whether or not these actions have to be controlled now before they manifest into an uncontrollable adult. He is constantly jumping up to the sides and any high surface to grab anything he can. If he does get something we do not chase him, just corner him and calmly take the item back without saying a word. He constantly jumps all over the furnature and us if we are on it at the time and again we do not acknowledge this, but simply push him back down again. Is this trainable behaviour or a passing phase?? Many thanks.

Reply

Pippa October 11, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Hi Michael,
Young labs can be very boisterous, but the problems you have won’t go away on their own. You need to do some training. You may find this articleand the other information of that site helpful, as well as the articles in our training section. Check out the forum too, where you can chat to other dog owners who have been through your experiences.
Pippa

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Michael October 13, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Hi Pippa,

Many thanks for your reply. My Lab / Hooligan is currently in clicker classes, but he has to learn sit, click, down, click, walk on a lead, click, come, click etc. If I now click when he puts all four paws on the floor instead of the sides and click when he eventually lays down in the living room, my question would be can a dog learn all these together or will the clicker loose its meaning?? or should we concentrate on one at a time?

Reply

piyush abrol October 26, 2013 at 5:29 am

this is a very nice site for labrador information its a great site love this it helped a lot

Reply

Bud November 30, 2013 at 2:51 pm

We got our English Lab at 8 weeks. She is now 16 weeks. From day one very mouthy. We have tried everything we can read and think about to halt the biting and now snarling and growling – tail wagging. She has been socialized, other dogs, lots of people, stores etc. and puppy kindergarten where she excels. Most biting occurs when my wife sits on the couch or during play time. We are shortening the play time, but couch time is another matter. She is completely crate trained, house broken and knows and does all basic commands Any suggestions to my email would be appreciated.
Thanks

Reply

alisha January 30, 2014 at 1:12 am

Hi pippa
I have a 15 week old puppy lab female shes a lovley dog its just her biting people especially my step son he walks in the kitchen and she jumps on the back of his leg and bits his calf really hard and ive told her no and tapped her bum also she tends to wee in her crate not on her pad and lies in it and her pooh I have to bath her every 2 days ive tried everything I dont no what to do shes driving me made

Reply

Pippa January 30, 2014 at 12:22 pm

How big is her crate Alisha, and how long do you leave her in there? Pippa

Reply

alisha January 30, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Hi its a large crate and 2 hours the most

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Margaret January 30, 2014 at 1:09 pm

We have a 2 year old and a 10 month old. The 2 year old has grown up quite a bit recently and calmed down a lot although she still has her ‘mad’ moments when her younger brother is leading her astray and they are running and jumping all over the house and furniture. I think you just need to persist and be consistent with your training, if there’s a behaviour you don’t want, you can’t stop it some days and then allow it sometimes when you can’t be bothered or are too tired to deal with it. It certainly isn’t easy and takes a lot of patience, and to be honest now that our 2 year old seems to have ‘grown up’ we kind of miss some of the puppy behaviour we had from her. On the other hand, her younger brother is totally different, into everything, barking at passers-by, would eat anything that you left down and gets totally over-excited when we have visitors – you need a sense of humour as well as patience with him, but we wouldn’t have him any other way – and we are certain that this stage will pass …..!

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Katie February 12, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Hi Pippa,

I have had my 9 week old Lab pup Dexter for nearly two weeks. He is doing really well on the toilet training front and is even starting to ask to be let out at the back door when he needs to.
Dex does however have a habit of getting extremely over excited which means biting, chewing and generally causing havoc! The problem is that he still isnt keen on his crate and whines and howls, which means if we put him in there to ‘calm down’ he does the complete opposite. We have tried crate training as advised, over short periods of time and leaving the door open for the majority but he still hates it, this is the same for when it goes in the back of the car… any ideas as to how we can improve to make it his safe place, rather than something he hates?

Reply

Pippa February 12, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Hi Katie, check out this article. And do join the forum to talk to other puppy owners. :) Pippa

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Ivy Radford March 15, 2014 at 1:36 am

Hi Pippa, I have a wonderful seven month old black female lab who has been desexed, she has been to obedience training and I walk and train her every day , but sometimes I what her to sit then drop she gets quiet and angry and growls at me is this a sign of aggression? thank you Ivy

Reply

Pippa March 16, 2014 at 11:51 am

It could by Ivy, I suggest you arrange a consultation with a behaviourist, who will need to observe your dogs behaviour before coming to a diagnosis.

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Rakshita August 1, 2014 at 4:38 am

Hi my lab pupy is 2an half minth old .but he bites a lot. I say knw n somtimes slap on his back but he bites den also… The unusual thing is that he never licks….lilke puppies do when they are happy he always bites us and never licks us

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Austin October 1, 2014 at 5:29 am

Hello,
My white lab is coming up on 3 months old now and shes starting to get crazier. As I was reading this article I was thinking about her obviously. She has been biting more and more recently, and it seems that her toys are not a way to distract her now. She has been having crazy hyper times, especially at night and in the morning. I was wondering what would be best for her? Or is it still just something to wait out? I already do most of what is written here, although I have started being a little lax in some areas. Any ideas?

Thanks so much!

Reply

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