How To Calm An Over Excited Puppy

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How to calm an excited puppy

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.

Find out how to calm down a puppy

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!

Check out our tips on how to calm your excited puppy
Puppies can get very over exited when play with other dogs.

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

  1. Stop any game you are playing with the puppy
  2. Put the puppy in a safe place to calm down and withdraw from him if you can
  3. 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.

How to calm a puppy down from biting and reduce over excitement

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.

2017 international dog name surveyIn 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.

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

Happy-Puppy-jacket-image1-195x300For a complete guide to raising a healthy and happy puppy don’t miss The Happy Puppy Handbook.

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.

 

47 COMMENTS

  1. My wife and I adopted a 4 month old chocolate lab, and she’s a happy, beautiful puppy. Smart, playful, and eager to please. However, sometimes she jumps on us and plays to rough (biting hands and arms, etc). I understand the concept of ending the game (even if I was quietly reading and not playing games at the time of attack), but the idea of the puppy crate confuses me. She’s used to her puppy crate, and goes directly into it at night (and right back again after her 3AM potty break outside) without a problem. No whines, howls, or barks — a real angel. However, wouldn’t using the crate as a rough play time-out tool make her learn to associate her crate with punishment? Please forgive me if I’m missing something. I’m new to dogs, and we’ve only had Margo for two weeks, so I’m mostly clueless. (Thankfully, I have your awesome website!)

    • I have a 1 and a half year old lab mix who was a dream to train. She frequently relaxes in her crate and enters it when she is afraid. We also use her crate as punishment, to leave the house, when answering the door, feeding (only because we recently got a new puppy who was starved so until she learns not to eat everything she sees we feed the dogs separately to ensure safety and adequate amounts of food intake) and even when playing hide and seek with her. She has never been confused by the use of her crate. The important thing is to reassure your new puppy so that she knows her crate is still a safe place for her to be. Placing toys or treats in her crate can encourage her to use it to relax or to ensure she still associates her crate as a good thing. I have trained dogs my whole life and I am only 20. I don’t agree with most dog trainers due to the fact that they like to change things too much and will sometimes not consider what the actual owner would like to use as far as equipment (crates) or gestures. I do hope that this helps though.

  2. My 2 year old black Lab since she was just a puppy likes chewing and retrieving sticks and branches. She will delimb it like a chain saw. When she is outside I’ll tell he to get a stick and if there isn’t one around she’ll go find one and bring it to me. I am concerned that will chewing on it that if swallowing the bark off it will do damage to her stomach. She never bites your hand when she brings whatever is left of the stick or ever has. Well disciplined Lab and non aggressive, just need to be patient and show lots of love. They are retrievers and like to run and play so get out there and do it. They also have a mind of there own sometimes so you have to let them know who’s the boss by training by command with a little aggressiveness .In time they’ll relinquish there will and always know who’s the boss and that’s youi.

  3. Hi

    Everything on the internet seems to be geared to puppy training not 3 yr olds. We have rescued two 3 yr old labs who have never been walked or socialised !!!!!. After a lot of work they are now ok out walking but our problem is that one of them keeps jumping up to give kisses. I am just under 5ft tall and he could put his front legs on my shoulders if he had the chance. There is no aggression but it can be disconcerting.

    Does anyone have any suggestions how we can overcome this.

    Regards

    Lin

  4. This has literally been the most helpful article that I could find on this topic. I really thought my little Gigi who is going on 9 weeks old was crazy or aggressive. She is a tiny lab shepherd mix who weighs 6.3 pounds but whom my husband and I call our little holy terror. She doesn’t go ballistic on him when playing like she does on me. But i do play with her more. I’ve taken to wearing boots just to take her outside because her little razor blades almost break skin now. Little land shark! I didn’t realize that being over excited and over stimulated was a thing. The other day she was running around me in circles, bumping into bushes, stumbling and then completely ran at me full force, jumped and was biting and growling as ferociously as something that tiny could. I will admit, I was 5% afraid of her. I will continue to help her calm down and not play with her as abundantly as I have been. I have been having her run back and forth, running away from her and then calling her excitedly. I just thought she might have a screw loose. I love her something ridiculous, but I don’t love that behavior. Thanks again.

  5. Hi Pippa, I have an 11 week old chocolate Lab but I’m having the hardest time getting him to stop biting me, especially on my hands, arms and ankles. I have tried “yeping,” I have also tried to “redirect” him with another of his many chew toys but he gets CRAZY for a few minutes where he runs around in circles and seems aggressive. I have even tried seating the bitter apple on my arms because of that but doesn’t seem to work. HELP, I don’t know what more to do!

  6. Hi Pippa, I have an 8 month old lab who on the best part is a lovely dog. The problem that I have is that when i take him out to the field and start playing fetch with the ball, he plays for a couple of goes then finds the ball thrower more exciting to play with and eventually starts jumping up and ripping at my clothes and I cannot distract him from doing this (he is not barking or growling). I stop the walk/play immediately and bring him back into our garden by his collar, and leave him outside to calm down. This is not a frequent occurrence but when he does its not very nice and alot of my clothes have been torn!! He does not seem to do this to my husband. I am at a loss as what to do. Is this over excitement?

  7. Hi Pippa,

    Great site, it’s been very useful while getting my lab as well as house-breaking him. He’s now a little over 2 months old and he’s biting like hell!! I have two questions:

    We sometimes run around the house and the pup chases us as a game… Will this make him over-excited and lead to more biting?

    Also, How do I train him to realize he is biting too hard?

    Thanks

    Regards,
    JoAnn

  8. Hi my puppy just turned 7 months and at 4 months he started jumping up on me on walks and biting my arm and not letting go. I’ve seen many trainers and have been teaching him leave it and he only does it sometimes on walks like if we go beach and ican see heirs over exited. He is now 70lbs and I’m only 100 and he just started doing it again and it is terrifying. The trainer said all is n do is prevent it but it keeps happening. Is this aggression? I’m at the point of thinking of selling him but he’s perfect most of the time and love him. My arm is scratched him but he’s not puncturing it with his bite. What can I do?? Will he grow out o this? The reason I got a dog was to go out on walks and runs with. Thanks

    • Hello, my dog ia 11 months old and he has been doing the same thing you described since he was about 4 months also. Have you resolved the issue? I have seen trainers and nothing has helped, and yesterday he did it to me after I had dropped the leash, he was biting me really hard and managed to bite break my skin through 4 piece of long sleeve clothing. Any help you have would be greatly appreciated.

      • We have got the same problem with our 15 mnth old labrador bitch .when we take her out for a walk she jumps and bites and barks with excitement bites and rips at our clothes we stand still and in the end she stops but every day we gain more rips in our clothing have taken expert advice got sprays etc but still have the problem the other day she became so excited she bit my skin through clothing and marked my hands and arms we are now thinking of using a muzzel on her just in case her excitement is directed at someone else. it’s a shame because in every other respect she is perfect, in the house good with kids, very friendly with all people and dogs, we would also welcome some advice.

        • My 6 month German Shepherd / Lab cross is doing this now (also started at 4 – 5 months). She only does it while walking on leash and usually when we’re walking somewhere I normally let her off leash. If I let her off she just runs around instead. It’s almost like frustrated energy because she can’t run (so she takes it out on me instead).

          I’ve also been training her to walk nicely on leash – but the training seems to exacerbate the biting. The way I’ve been training her not to pull is by stopping whenever she pulls, and waiting for the leash to go slack again before moving. At first it was working and she would turn around to look at me every time I stopped (I would then keep on walking). However recently this training has resulted in her turning around and either jumping on me, or nipping my legs to make me move again (which I refuse to do so we end up standing there for ages while she jumps and bites at me with me telling her “no” in a stern voice). I think I’ve basically accidentally taught her to herd me.

          I’m going to have to discontinue this training and try something else – and implement something to prevent her getting overexcited on walks (asking for sits, downs, stays perhaps? She focuses really well when she has commands to follow).

    • Oh my gosh! I’m not he only person that has a dog with this problem!! My Labradoodle is 7mths and whenever we play ball or fetch with him he turns from being playful to turning on me and trying to bite my feet and legs!! It really scares me as his whole look and body language changes. If I’m at home in the garden I manage to get inside and leave him in the garden to calm down. However, it happened in the park yesterday and I couldn’t do anything but stand there and get a treat to distract him. Luckily I was wearing welly boots otherwise I may have come out of it with ripped trousers!
      Like your dogs, he is fine most of the time. Very loving but highly strung. I have to think seriously about the consequences of this as I have kids.

  9. Hi, I have a 7yr old black lab and a 6 yr old sprocker, I am trying out clicker training with the sprocker to try and manage his manic behaviour, but my lab is afraid of the clicker. He seems to be able to hear it when he’s in the house and the sprocker and I are in the garden. I have tried charging the clicker with the lab, but he did takes the reward and runs away, can labs be afraid of the clicker?
    Regards Bob

  10. dear pipa
    I brought my puppy home when he was just 35days old
    He is in good health but tries to bite me all the time he gets very very exited and even after stopping him or pulling my feet away he follows and bites again.
    What should i do ?

  11. 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!

  12. 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

  13. 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

    • 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.

  14. 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?

  15. 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 …..!

  16. 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

    • 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

  17. 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?

  18. 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.

    • 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

  19. 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

  20. 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?

  21. 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.

      • 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.

  22. 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. 🙁

    • 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

      • 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. 🙁

  23. 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.

  24. 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,

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