Simmer Down! Tips for Calming a Hyperactive Dog
Dr. Fiona, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, guest blogs for pet insurance provider Pets Best.
Puppy jumping, sloppy kisses and general ‘misbehaving’ is adorable when your puppy is less than 10 pounds, but this behavior can quickly become undesirable as your puppy becomes a full grown adult. Personalities are very individual in every dog, and some just seem to have more uncontainable energy! What should you do when simple uncontrollable joy becomes a little too much to handle? Dog training obedience classes are a great idea for all puppies, high energy or not, but there are some other things you can do to help a particularly overactive dog.
1. Exercise, exercise, exercise…then exercise some more!
A leash walk twice a week just is not enough activity for a high-strung dog. Spot might be better off going on runs with you. Not a runner? Teach your dog to fetch and use a “chuck-it” or other device that will maximize your throwing power and save time.
Your pup also might benefit from time off leash where he can run full speed! Of course this needs to be done safely in an area that is fenced, or meant for off-leash dogs and away from traffic and other people or distractions.
Consider purchasing a dog harness or vest that you can actually weight down, so she is packing around more than just her own weight when she goes on her walks.
Be consistent with her activity. A truly high-energy dog should be exercised every day.
2. Consider a diet switch.
Try to feed a good quality dog food without fillers or sugar in the list of ingredients. Some studies that suggest a lower protein diet can increase the amount of tryptophan (the chemical that makes us sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner) that can act on the brain.
Alternatively, it has been suggested a higher protein diet can actually be more calming by reducing the amount of complex carbohydrates causing energy spikes.
The bottom line: provide your dog with a high-quality diet, and then talk to your veterinarian about trying a diet with a different protein to carbohydrate ratio.
3. Consultation with a behaviorist.
Some annoying behaviors such as jumping up can be attention seeking behaviors. Working with a behaviorist can ensure that you are appropriately responding to the undesirable habits, and some pet insurance plans will even help cover the cost.
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Sometimes any human interaction, scolding or otherwise, can be perceived as positive in a dog’s eyes. For example, you come home from work and your dog immediately jumps up and plants his muddy paws on your work clothes. You respond by saying “no”, holding onto his collar and easing him to the ground and soothing him to help him calm down. This could easily be perceived as positive reinforcement to a hyperactive dog.
A better response would be a firm “no” and immediately ignoring him and walking away. He will quickly learn that if he jumps up, you leave him. Ignore him at first until he calms down, then only start paying him attention and praising him after he has settled.
It can be hard not to encourage excitement when you get home she’s been cooped up all day, but trying to downplay returning can help.
This is just one example of a scenario that a dog trainer might be able to coach you on in order to best transform those undesirable, out of control habits.
This is always a last resort, but some pets can benefit from medications to help them focus and control any underlying anxiety that might be contributing to their hyperactivity. This would always be used in conjunction with behavioral therapy and exercise and can only be prescribed by your veterinarian after an examination. True cases of hyperactivity disorder are rare in dogs, but not unheard of and can be treated similarly to hyperactivity disorder in people.
With time and maturity, some dogs will also become less hyperactive (not always though!), but in the meantime, ensuring you’re doing all you can to help manage their behaviors will undoubtedly make the whole family happier. Dog insurance may also help cover the cost of any prescribed medications.