How To Deal With A Hyperactive Dog

How To Deal With A Hyperactive Dog

I’m Hyper

A hyperactive dog can make its owners crazy.

The origin of dogs: Why are they so active?

Dogs descended from wolves and then were bred by humans to be working animals. They were not bred to be couch potatoes. So it’s natural for them to need physical and mental stimulation, and a lot of it. Most people underestimate how much exercise their dog requires, and I think most behavioral problems stem from too little exercise. A dog who has been well-exercised will not be as likely to nip at your arms or pant leg or steal your shoes, and will be more likely to relax quietly enjoying a chew toy.

Exercise: The best cure.

Exercise is the best way to calm a hyper dog. If your dog is making you crazy by nipping, jumping, whining, and running about stealing things, he is telling you he needs more physical and mental exercise. Exercise may not eliminate bad behaviors, but coupled with management and training, it can dramatically reduce their frequency and intensity. Puppies will still nip because its part of their developmental stage, but if they can be managed the nipping will at least become manageable.

How much exercise does your dog need? Every dog is different, so you its good for you to have a bunch of exercise options available to you – games like fetch and hide and seek coupled with walking and dog play. Your dog’s behavior will tell you how much is too much or too little and what kind of exercise he needs.

Know your dog’s physical rhythm

Dogs are crepuscular, meaning their energy is highest in the morning and in the early evening. Just listen in your neighborhood and that is probably when you will hear the most dogs barking.

Puppy Energy

When my dog was a puppy, she would get the zoomies — running about like a wild thing grabbing shoes and anything else in her path —  between 4 and 7 pm.  Pre-empt the zoomies by getting him good and tired earlier in the day.  Then, plan on giving him good exercise again in the early evening.  If your dog had a good morning romp a game of tug and fetch in the evening might be all he needs.

Be patient. Most dogs quiet down with age.

Techniques to help you calm your dog

There are a lot of ways to help you deal with a hyperactive dog, these are

Play with your dog

Play exercises your dog but has the added benefit of helping you train your dog. Tug, fetch, the flirt pole, hide and seek, and doggie ping pong are all good.  These games help teach skills like coming to you, drop it, leave it, soft mouth, and other skills.

Does your dog know you want him to be calm?

If you feel your dog is getting enough exercise, yet still seems unable to settle down, ask yourself this question: does your dog know that you like him to settle down? Unfortunately, many dogs get rewarded inadvertently for crazy behavior. Dogs are ignored when they are good and calm, but when they act up, their humans say their names, get their toys, toss them treats, and use their hands to soothe and control the dog. They reinforce the dog to continue the hyper behavior.

So, let your dog know you like him to be calm by giving him attention when he is quiet. Try petting, treating, and say your dog’s name ONLY when he is relaxing.  Most people find this very hard to do, but it works.

The Do-Nothing Drill

Practice the Do-Nothing Drill. Sit in a chair, in a location with no or few distractions. Put your dog on a leash without too much length to minimize his wandering around and his access to distractions. Make sure the leash is long enough for him to lie down. Hold the leash steadily and tightly at your knees and be perfectly still. Do not say anything, do not move, do not give your dog attention. When your dog finally lies down give him some petting, say his name affectionately, tell him he’s a good boy, put a treat between his front paws. If he pops up from the down position, stop petting him, stop and saying his name, and ignore him. Tip: when you pet him make it soothing soft petting and not rough tussling of the fur and hair.

Use a Marker

If have trained your dog to respond to a clicker or other marker, click or mark your dog anytime he shows for signs of relaxation, such as putting his head down, shifting weight to a settled down position, or releasing his breath.

Teach your dog to lie quietly on his mat (or bed). See the video link below for a great you tube on how to do this by Sarah Owings Merrill. Once you have taught your dog to lie quietly on his mat, you can take that mat with you to other locations. When you build a strong history of reward and positive experience with the mat, the mat itself becomes a cue to the dog to lie down and be calm. For example, you can take it to a hotel room when you are on vacation, or a park when you are picnicking.

Use Food as a Tool

Turn feeding into physical and mental activity. Your dog has to eat. Use his feeding as a chance to provide mental and physical stimulation. Feed your dog using stuffable chew toys like the kong or kong wobbler Your dog works to get his food out of them. Remember, you have to teach your dog how to use these stuffed chews! They don’t work on their own without a good introduction, but once your dog learns what they are about he will love them, and you will too.

Ask a professional

If your dog’s energy seems to be a problem you can’t get under control, consult your veterinarian, A dog, like a human, may have a biological issue or a nutrition problem. Most of the time, however, exercise and training will be your best bet.

Additional Resources:

How to Teach a Hyper Puppy to Settle on A Mat by Sarah Owings Merill.

The Do Nothing Drill 

How to Stuff a Kong by ASPCA 

Kongs for Beginners

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