Redirection occurs when an overly excited, scared, or nervous dog willingly leaves a situation in favor of something else. It can be a self-soothing technique for some, or a way to redirect all the excited energy that the dog is feeling.
My dog has three different ways of redirecting herself. She either comes to me, goes to her bone (if we are inside), or runs a lap (if we are outside). The last two usually occur only when she is happy-excited and usually end with her coming to me for a pet and then going back to whatever excited her, but in a much calmer way.
Coming to me occurs when she doesn’t have her bone, can’t run in a circle, or when she is nervous or scared.
I LOVE when my dog redirects herself. Being an 80lb dog, she comes across as overwhelming to guests. She doesn’t jump, but still — a large dog coming over to lick you can be disconcerting. So redirecting herself to a bone after saying ‘hi’ gives guests a chance to get their bearings and calm down, too. It also helps that she comes to me when excited. It allows me calm her down and teach her to greet other people and dogs more calmly. Or, if she’s nervous or scared, it’s nice having her come to me for a secure base.
The Bare Bones of Redirection
Every dog is different. Only you know what will truly work for training and encouraging redirection. But here are some ideas for enticing your dog to happily redirect during moments of excitement. Choose the method(s) that work best for you, or find one that is better!
- Encourage Your Dog to Come to You
When your dog gets overly excited, happily entice him to you. It is important to make yourself a safe-space during excitement. Don’t yell. Encourage him to you and pet him when he comes. Scratch his favorite itch spot to encourage him to stay. Make him happy to be with you, even with all the crazy excitement.
Getting down to the dog’s level, calling him to you, and hugging him around the chest after he comes helps calm a dog and gives you more control over his actions.
2. Encourage Your Dog to a Toy
Once you have sufficiently focused the dog on you, try to get him to go for a toy. Again, be happy. If you show attention to the toy, so will the dog. If you’re only half-hearted about it, your dog won’t buy be fooled. Have you ever noticed that? Forget your interest in the guests and truly engage the dog with the toy.
Grab your dog’s favorite toy. Play a quick game of tuck of war, then have your dog lay down and give him the toy to chew. This helps redirect his excitement from the situation to a toy.
3. Be Ready to Intervene
Don’t leave your guests to the mercy of your excited dog. Get between them, face your dog, and calm him down. Maybe have him run through a quick set of basic commands like, “sit, down, roll over!” This, again, redirects him from his excitement and helps focus his energy.
Dogs get excited by what’s in front of them. By getting between the dog and your guests, you become what is in front and being the focus of his energy allows you to redirect it.
4. Encourage Calm Interactions
Make sure your guests now when they can and when they shouldn’t pet your dog. If guests pet your dog in the moments of high excitement or during unwanted behavior (such as jumping), then those behaviors will be reinforced. Once you have redirected your dog, give guests a quick run-through of what appropriate behavior from them and the dog looks like.
Your dog won’t leave guests alone forever. Guests are new and interesting. Once you redirect him, explain to the guests how to appropriately discourage and encourage behaviors.
Every dog is different. Some dogs may need leashing while you train redirection so you have a little more control. Some dogs may not have a favorite toy they’ll redirect to. Or maybe your dog has a favorite toy, and all you have to do is say, “go get your toy!” to redirect him. It’s up to your to figure out what works best. But ALWAYS BE HAPPY! Otherwise, it won’t work.
How do you redirect your dog?