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Let’s face it, dogs can be a real handful at times. As much as we love them and their boundless energy, it can be tough to rein them in. More likely than not, we’ve all seen a hyper pooch wreck furniture, tear up the garden, and jump all over everyone. There are many ways to calm an energetic dog and some are more natural than others. So, how can you naturally calm a hyper dog? Many owners find success by creating structure and stimulating their dog’s mind, along with plenty of exercise and natural supplements.
How Can You Tell If Your Dog Is Hyper?
First thing’s first, it’s important that we take a moment to define some terms. Hyper is shorthand for hyperactivity. Excess energy may be normal for the age and breed of a dog, but some dogs overactivity can be due to abnormal conditions such as anxiety or hyperkinesis.
Famed animal behaviorist Karen Overall writes in her book Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals that actual clinical hyperactivity, sometimes referred to as hyperkinesis, is fairly rare. Your dog may be suffering from hyperkinesis if you and see all of the following symptoms:
- Frenetic activity
- Impulsive behavior, such as the inability to turn off play when the ball goes away
- Inability to relax completely, even when the environment is quiet and familiar
- Being overly reactive to regular stimuli, such as food, noises, or people
- An inability to focus on any task and an especially short attention span
- Physiological symptoms like elevated heart rate and heavy breathing, even when not active
Hyperkinesis is basically the canine form of human ADHD!
However, it’s more likely that your dog is hyperactive due to an energetic personality or possibly anxiety. Regardless of the root cause, hyperactivity can be frustrating to deal with, so let’s examine some things that you can do to counter this exhausting behavior and calm your hyper dog.
Why Are Some Dogs So Hyper?
It’s important to understand genetics and environment play a role in all types of behavior, including hyperactivity. However, hyperkinesis is a congenital condition that must be diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian. In other words, hyperkinetic dogs seem to be born with this abnormality and it requires fairly intensive treatment with amphetamine-type drugs along with behavior modification. Interesting, these are precisely the same medications used in humans.
However, the other reasons for a hyper dog are more varied, including:
The Dog’s Individual Personality
There are just some dogs that are bursting with energy while other ones are lazy all day, every day. Ultimately, most dogs will mellow with age, but their current surplus of energy may be proving very difficult for you as a pet owner.
Anxiety or Stress
Anxiety can be defined as negative anticipation or worrying about an event. Many dogs behave with hesitation when anxious, but it is important to recognize that other dogs may react with increased fidgeting such as pacing, scratching, sniffing, panting, jumping, or acting “stubborn” which is really an inability to focus on their owners or task. It can be difficult to distinguish anxious energy from the other types because the source of the anxiety is not always present or easy for the owners to identify.
If a dog has too little or too much stimulation, they can end up going a little stir-crazy. Ultimately, you want to provide your dog with enough activity to keep them occupied but not so much that they become frustrated or overly tired. Like human toddlers, overtired dogs can paradoxically show hyperactive behavior.
Not Enough Physical Activity
This is enormously important; remember, while dogs are great additions to our families, they are still animals with the instinct to search and hunt. Genetically speaking, they’re not very far from wolves and therefore have the urge to spend much of their day seeking out their meals. By confining dogs to houses, even with yards, and placing all their food in bowls, we limit the exercise of their body and minds.
Type of Breed
Additionally, the type of breed is also crucial. Let’s take a moment to list the 15 most hyper breeds according to AKC.org, in alphabetical order:
- Australian shepherd
- Border Collie
- English Springer Spaniel
- German Shepherd
- Golden Retriever
- Irish Setter
- Labrador Retriever
- Miniature Pinscher
- Pembroke Welsh Corgi
- Russel Terrier
- Shetland Sheepdog
- Siberian Husky
Notice any similarities? Well, they’re all working dogs! That means that their original purpose was to perform a very active job, often for long periods of time. Most of those jobs were related to highly physical tasks, such as herding, hunting, retrieving, sled-pulling, and so on. Although statistically very few individual dogs perform these activities in modern western culture, genetics has not caught up, and the dogs still have tons of energy that used to be devoted to these jobs.
5 Ways How to Calm a Hyper Dog
So now that we’ve established the different causes of hyperactivity, how do you calm a hyper dog down? This question is important, because ultimately most dogs have normal or mildly stressed hyper behavior. Remember, clinical hyperactivity, or hyperkinesis, in dogs is exceedingly rare – much rarer than, say, ADHD in humans.
So let’s go over 5 different ways you can calm a hyper dog down:
#1 Exercise Releases Energy
This is a big one; exercise will go a long way in calming your hyper dog down. A long walk in the morning, anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, and then a shorter one in the evening, 15 to 30 minutes, is honestly the minimum amount of time for most healthy dogs regardless of breed. In a pinch, breaking aerobic activity into multiple short bursts throughout the day will work as well.
#2 Create Structure and Predictability
A source of stress can be not knowing what to expect. Create routine and predictability by building some basic structure in your dog’s daily activities, and, even more importantly, in the way you interact with your dog. A commonly used technique to help you with this is asking your dog to perform a simple task prior to being given any resource. For example, ask a simple “sit” prior to affection from you, access to furniture, toys or food. No need to be a stern drill sergeant. The dog doesn’t sit, the resource isn’t granted. Set your rules about this and stick to them in a calm manner. Getting angry often backfires and escalates tensions.
#3 Use Obedience/Training to Calm a Hyper Dog
Think about what you would like the dog to do when it is annoying you or acting out of control. Go to her crate? Sit on a dog bed across the room? Make sure this is a very reliable cue when the dog is calm. A good dog trainer, such as a member of the Certified Pet Dog Trainers association (CPDT-KA) can help with this. Any training using reward-based methods improves your bond with your dog and increases the chances she will listen to you in stressful or hyper moods.
#4 Toys/Puzzles Stimulate the Mind
Food puzzles provide outlets for chewing and mental stimulation. Get puzzle toys like Kongs, Bob-a-lots or Buster Cubes, fill them with your dog’s food, and then have them manipulate the toy to get a little piece of food. These will keep your dog occupied much longer than bowl feeding, and work out some of that excess energy!
#5 Supplements Can Calm a Hyper Dog
There are a number of calming supplements/treats on the market, but the most promising are those that have cannabidiol (CBD). This is an extract of the cannabis plant with a variety of beneficial elements but it does not cause intoxication like marijuana does. This is good because dogs don’t usually respond well to intoxication; they may become aggravated due to the confusion. Many of these supplements will contain other active ingredients, including l-theanine, chamomile, flaxseed, and hemp seed powder.
Applying Multiple Strategies
Implementing these 5 strategies is an excellent way to calm your dog down. Furthermore, you can also adhere to the American Kennel Club’s concept of STAR that they use to educate dog owners on how to best raise dogs. STAR is an acronym that stands for:
- Responsible owner
This entire STAR philosophy can be helpful when dealing with a hyper dog. Granted, it won’t singlehandedly solve the problem, but if properly integrated with the 5 tips above, you just may end up with a calm, collected, and cool dog. Don’t give up hope; there is help for almost any hyperactive dog. Read more here.