Over-excited Border Terrier And Tellington Touch?


New Member
Hi everyone,

I'm hoping someone can give me a bit of advice from experience with a dog who gets very hyper when certain guests visit.

Both my border terriers are very well behaved on the whole. I have worked hard to train them and they get plenty of exercise. They are part of an organisation similar to Pets as Therapy and visit a care home regularly to see the old people. I am always on the look-out to improve their lives and our relationship with them and do a fair bit of research into it which has led me to this forum.

My female is, and always has been, very hyper and over-excitable when it comes to seeing people she loves. We have worked very hard to train them good manners when guests visit and now the little critters are able to go into their bed and stay there the whole time guests visit. The bed is cleverly built into the lower part of a cupboard in a farmhouse style kitchen so they are with us when we have friends over to eat etc, but know they need to stay in their bed. They don't mind this as they just want to be near us. Their greeting style is very 'paws on' and we are working hard to teach them to stop jumping up on us and others and they are starting to get there. When the doorbell goes they both go mad and we have to lead them back to their bed, get them to lie down and stay, and then let guests in.....at this point when the guest enters the room they will generally break loose to say hello in a frenzied manner and will once again be led back.

This works 9 times out of 10 and we always ask our guests to completely ignore them and make no eye contact. Most of the time guests will remark at some stage how well behaved they are and we are generally extremely proud of them.

However there are a couple of people that my female CANNOT calm down around. She literally goes mad and cannot be calmed. She's leaping around, she legs it out every time we put her in her bed, she pants, she whimpers.....these are people she adores and has built up a strong relationship with. She loses control. We keep 'calm voices' on at all times as shouting at dogs achieves nothing and they just think you are excited too. We've tried a variety of methods....putting her out of the room, keeping her in the room, bringing her in on a lead .... but nothing seems to work. The reason this now has to change is said friends who she loves have recently adopted children and whilst the children love them in the great outdoors, it's worrying for them when the female legs it around the room getting all hyper and as we see these people all the time, we have to find a way of getting our female to chill out with these people.

I took advice from an animal behaviourist who has said that basically I won't be able to change her habit of going loopy for these people as it is ingrained.

I don't want to shut them outside every time these people visit as they visit a lot. Is there anything I can do?

I am using the Tellington Touch on the dogs now and they are getting used to it - I'm ok at it and both dogs relax when I do it.

If I use TTouch to calm the female down, am I meant to use it AT THE TIME the people visit or just have it as an ongoing thing and her behaviour will relax over time? I could really do with a method to implement to help her relax when people visit.

Any advice would be welcome as although they are well behaved dogs 99% of the time, have loads of exercise and basically everything else in thier lives is as it should be as we are very responsible dog owners, it is stressful when families turn up in groups and my female gets frenzied.

Thanks very much everyone!


Adrianna & Calvin

Experienced Member

Ah, the overexcited dog. It is not an insurmountable problem, but it takes some work and patience. I would recommend getting Control Unleashed: The Puppy Program by Leslie McDevitt (it doesn't just apply to puppies) and taking a look at her "Gimme A Break" and "Off-Switch" games. These teach the dog to self-calm, to bring himself/herself down off the cliff. You can also check out, online, September Morn's (yes that's a woman's name) "Go Wild and Freeze" game. All of these involve the Premack Principle which basically says that doing something fun as a reward for something less-fun, will make the less-fun thing occur more often.

A good illustration for this is here:
Barking is more fun than not-barking, but the dogs (in this very first lesson) start to quiet down so that they can get to the good part, which is barking. It makes a little loop-de-loop in your brain to think of it, but it really works. McDevitt uses an example in the book of her dog who looooves to swim. She used "go swim" as a reward for his recall from the water, and now he shoots out of the water like a rocket because the reward for it (going back into the water) is so high-value.

In your dog's case, wild behavior can be the reward for behaving calmly, with you gradually building up the calm time which will (eventually) eclipse the wild behavior. The learning curve is steep at first, but once the dog learns to self-calm, you have a 'forever' skill that will help you in all the years to come.

I don't know exactly what your dogs' motivation is, but I can also suggest re-direction of the excited behavior. My late dog was an over-the-top greeter but I found that redirecting him to a toy helped tremendously. The textbook recommendations of making him sit to greet, keeping him on leash, etc. did nothing but delay the inevitable explosion of energy -- he was wound up and needed to unwind somehow. So I took to making him grab a toy when he was excited, and he would run around with a plushie, showing it to everyone, play-bowing, pretending to put it down and snatching it back up when someone showed interest, etc. It gave him a way to relate to the new guests without jumping or getting in anyone's face. Once he got his ya-yas out, he was a much easier dog to deal with.

I would invest in CU if it's available in the UK, as it has a lot of great ideas for terriers and herders and other 'high mental energy' dogs.

Welcome to DTA :)


New Member
Thank you so much for a brilliant reply full of excellent advice! I will set about implementing it and get hold of the book you recommend straight away.