One of the issues that new Labrador puppy owners find difficult to deal with is an excited puppy.
Today we’re going to look at how to calm a puppy down from biting, nipping, growling and generally getting himself hyper and silly
If your puppy pees when excited – head on over to my puppy pees on visitors where we explain what to do
Over-excitement lies at the heart of all kinds of common puppy problems.
From frenzied biting at fingers to biting at clothes and generally behaving in a crazy manner, these are all signs of an over excited puppy.
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 or hyper? And what is the best way to calm him down? Let’s take a look
My puppy bites when excited
The first thing we need to know, is how to tell when a puppy is getting too hyper, too excited.
Excessive biting is one sign to look out for, but of course all puppies bite at times. So how do you know when things have gone too far?
You’ll find some clues below.
If your regular games with your puppy ever involved any of the following, then it’s a sign that your excited puppy is getting too wound up, and needs your help to calm down
Signs of over excitement in puppies
- 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.
- Your excited puppy’s biting is accompanied by much snarling and he tugs at your clothes until they rip.
- The puppy is barking rapidly at you, or snatching at toys as you try to take them off him or get him to obey simple commands
- Games involving your children end in tears with the puppy jumping and snapping at their arms and legs.
- 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 (the zoomies).
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 my puppy aggressive?
It is not normal for puppies under six months to become aggressive. Though it is easy to mistake over excited play for aggression.
If the behavior started with a game, and if the puppy’s tail is wagging and he is tearing around in an uncoordinated way, he is playing.
Even if he sounds ferocious!
Aggression 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 to do when your puppy is over excited?
You need to take decisive action and immediately
- Stop any game you are playing with the puppy
- Put the puppy in a safe place to calm down and withdraw from him if you can
- Decide on a strategy to help avoid over excitement in the future
How to calm your Labrador puppy
Sometimes you can calm a puppy in your arms. If you are not at home, you may have no choice but to do this. Carry the puppy away from the source of the excitement and hold him firmly and quietly.
Often, with a very overwrought and biting puppy it is much better to put him down somewhere safe and move away from him
Normally a puppy’s 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.
The idea is to reduce mental and physical stimulation of all kinds – so if he can see less, hear less and is being touched less, this gives him chance to recover quite quickly
Don’t incarcerate him for long periods of time. A few minutes is normally sufficient to enable a puppy to become calm.
What causes puppy 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 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.
Children also tend to handle a puppy excessively with constant stroking and petting, so that he never get’s chance to relax and calm down.
How to stop a puppy from biting when excited
It’s very important that a puppy learns not to bite as quickly as possible.
After all, biting of any kind is not acceptable in grown up dogs, no matter how excited they may be.
You’ll find our in-depth guide to controlling puppy biting, full of helpful information
Managing a puppy for calm behavior
Puppies benefit from a predictable routine. A time to be lively, a time to relax, a time to eat, sleep and so on.
Every interaction with a puppy is potentially exciting. Even stroking and cuddling. Noise and masses of things going on around your puppy are exciting too.
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.
As he gets older, this guide to how to calm down a dog will help you navigate new kinds of excited behavior and respond constructively.
Helping children to calm a puppy
You may need to spend time showing your children how to calm a puppy with gentle stroking and quiet 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. Being an excited puppy is part of growing up. Puppies 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 a little too lively.
Hang on in there, it gets easier!
More information on puppies
Published in April 2014, the Happy Puppy covers every aspect of life with a small puppy.
The book will help you prepare your home for the new arrival, and get your puppy off to a great start with potty training, socialisation and early obedience.
The Happy Puppy Handbook is available worldwide.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website