A hyperactive dog is full of bounce and bluster. Jumping, licking, barking with excitement – these are all normal in moderation, but what if your dog is just a bit too energetic? In this article we’ll look at the causes of hyperactivity in dogs, and list a few ways that you can calm them and help them.
Why Do Dogs Become Hyperactive?
Hyperactivity in dogs does not have one simple explanation. There are several things which can cause your dog to become hyperactive.
- They’re getting bored. If you leave your dog alone, they have no stimulation – especially if they’re shut in the same room every day.
- They might be anxious. Some dogs reflect their owner’s state of mind, so if you’re stressed or snappy, they might become nervous and hyper. Dogs become stressed for many other reasons, too – and stress can manifest in hyperactivity.
- They might be seeking your attention and this could be because they have been alone or because they are one of several dogs and are competing to engage your attention.
- They’re not getting enough exercise. Dogs who are cooped up are buzzing with energy!
- They might have a medical condition. Pacing and restlessness can be associated with health problems like dementia or food poisoning. If your dog has developed hyperactivity, take them to the vet for a health-check.
What Can I Do To Help My Hyperactive Dog?
When your dog is hyper, you might think it’s best to stay calm – to keep them quiet and try to relax them. But many hyper dogs desperately need to burn energy – and will calm down when they’re satisfied. So... get busy! Here are five ways to increase your dog’s activity.
- Increase their exercise... Your dog may be one of those who need two daily walks, or one longer walk. Energetic breeds like spaniels and Border Collies need more exercise than other dogs (around 2 hours). Instead of walking around the block, take your dog to an open space where they can really run free. If they love swimming, take your dog to a lake or sea where they can use their muscles – it’s a tiring activity. Or take a ball to initiate a game of fetch.
- Don’t leave them alone. Dogs were not bred to stay in a room all day. If your dog is left alone every day, book them into doggy day-care – or arrange for a dog-walker to collect them at lunchtime. Your dog will enjoy playing and walking with companions, and will return home exhausted – ready to relax with you.
- Give them a job... Many dogs were bred to serve a purpose. So if they’re hunting rats in the yard, they’re simply fulfilling their biological urges. You can redirect this energy by training them. Some people train their dogs to help in the home – bringing their own leash, or even pulling laundry out of the machine!
- Try mental stimulation in the home... Canine brains need stimulation. If you have to leave the house for errands (and don’t worry, we all do), you can leave your dog a “treasure trail” of treats or a food puzzle like Kong to keep them entertained. Obedience training is a good way to offer stimulation to a smart dog.
- Try dog agility or other sports... Canine sports are organized all over the country. Agility is accessible, since you can set up your own course in the yard (you just need basic equipment like posts and a plank to walk). But there are also sessions like Scent Work, Herding, Coursing, and Rallies. Find your nearest by searching the AKC database here.
How To Calm A Hyper Or High-Strung Dog
Calming a hyperactive dog is not simple. First, you’ll need to try to identify the cause of their hyperactivity.
It is highly likely to be boredom and lack of stimulation. So you can begin by increasing their daily stimulation – both mental and physical – using the suggestions above. A daily routine can be helpful: your dog will learn to expect activity at certain times of day, and likewise will anticipate the times when it’s quiet at home.
If this doesn’t prove effective, or you suspect that the hyperactivity is due to anxiety, stress, or jealousy, then try some natural therapies to help calm your dog.
- Aromatherapy. Lavender is a proven relaxant, for humans and dogs! Others such as Frankincense and Violet Leaf offer calming benefits. It’s important to keep essential oils out of reach of your dog (especially if they’re prone to chewing), but you can add drops to the drapes – or use a plug-in diffuser with a small dosage.
- A canine supplement. Our “Harmony” supplement can soothe anxiety and reduce stress levels. It contains L-theanine to balance hormone levels, and Ashwagandha to regulate cortisol.
- Herbal remedies. Many herbs recommended for people will also help dogs. So you could try Bach’s Rescue Remedy, St John’s Wort tincture, or even a pot of your favorite chamomile tea – which is thought to be soothing for the mind as well as the stomach. Add them to your dog’s food to see if they help.
- Valerian. This is said to be a powerful remedy for stressed-out dogs. It’s widely available in tablets or tincture which can be dropped directly onto your dog’s tongue. Always follow the directions on the package when giving herbal remedies.
- Homeopathy. You could try a homeopathy remedy for calming a high-strung dog. Aconite, Gelsemium and Arsenicum Album are believed to aid animals with nervous stress. There are also some specially-blended combinations available from pet stores.
How To Calm A Hyper Puppy
We hate to break it to you, but puppies can be hyper!
They’re burning energy, and they’re learning about the world. They’re keen to see, smell, and lick everything that’s within reach. Puppies will have intense bursts of activity, followed by deep sleep.
But sometimes puppies take a while to learn about the boundaries between bouncy and hyperactive. You can teach your pup how to behave by trying these suggestions:
- Play with your puppy. If they seem hyperactive, they might simply need more stimulation. Playing with your puppy helps them to develop bite inhibition and it also helps to increase the bond between you!
- Exclaim if they hurt you. And ask everyone else in your house to do the same thing. If your puppy bites too hard, exclaim and stop playing. They’ll learn what’s okay.
- Restrain your puppy when new people visit. An overexcited puppy can cause fear or even injuries to new people. Restrain your puppy, and reward calm behavior around visitors.
- Give your puppy mental stimulation. Offer your puppy a food puzzle, or scatter their food on a mat at supper-time. You can even play hide-and-go-seek with your puppy. Mental stimulation will tire them out.
- Be cool. Try to keep to your own daily routine – your puppy must learn about the habits inside your home. Staying calm and doing the things that YOU want to do is important.
- Reward them when they’re calm. Positive training techniques involve recognizing good behavior. So when your puppy settles down nicely after a play, give them affection or even a treat. Start some basic training, such as recall. Call your puppy and when they come straight to you, give them a treat. Training demands mental effort, and will also help to tire out your puppy!
- Create a night-time routine. Night-time is not for playing. Set up a predictable routine: pup goes out for a wee, pup comes back in and goes to bed, lights go out, and you say “goodnight” before closing the door. If you have to go back in (perhaps if they whine to go back outside), go in without turning on the lights, and use a quiet voice.
How To Calm A Scared Or Fearful Dog
When your dog is afraid, it’s probably not a good idea to over-pamper them. While your instinct may be to cuddle and fuss the dog, they might learn to associate positive rewards with fearful behavior.
If your dog is worried by fireworks or thunder, we recommend the following:
- Create a secure place for your dog, establishing a comfortable bed (or crate).
- If they are afraid of loud noises, play music – classical or reggae are said to be good choices!
- Close drapes or use blackout blinds to make the room safe and dim.
- Stay calm. Running back in the room to check on your dog will disturb them, and they might reflect your anxiety back at you.
- Give your dog a herbal or homeopathic remedy – you can get recommendations from your vet or in the pet store.