Some pooches are content to laze the day away on the front porch (or your bed), but many seem to possess an almost otherworldly level of energy. Tearing in wild figure-eights through the house, leaping and barking incessantly at people, tearing apart the couch or the rug when left alone: Such dogs can wreak havoc on your domicile and utterly wear you out, and they may even become dangerously uncontrollable. We’ve all seen the unfortunate owner who seems utterly incapable of harnessing his dog’s wild exuberance.
There are many reasons why a dog might behave in a hyperactive manner. In some cases, it’s merely a matter of youth. Many puppies appear to be tirelessly rambunctious and over-active–those traits help define puppyhood, really. Young mammals of most species–humans included–combine a playful spirit with insatiable curiosity, channeling their restless energy toward exploring their world and the limits of their bodies.
Beyond the inherent boisterousness of puppies, some breeds are known to be more hyperactive than others. Selective breeding has created great behavioral diversity among different varieties of dogs, after all. Some of the relentless zest a particular dog displays could reflect a bit of a disconnect between its breed’s legacy of regular, vigorous activity–hunting, for example–and a more sedentary modern-day lifestyle in an urban home.
Related to the last point, some hyperactive dogs may simply be bored and failing to get the stimulation they need.
The following professional tips can help you deal with your hyperactive dog, trying to find a positive and healthy outlet for its energy while ideally toning down the energy to better match your own desired rhythm. Keep in mind that successfully addressing a behavioral issue like hyperactivity takes trial-and-error–what works for one dog doesn’t necessarily for another–and potentially consultation with an expert such as an animal behaviorist, dog trainer, or veterinarian.
1. Create an Atmosphere of Calm
Before reflecting on your pet’s hyperactivity, take a moment to consider yourself and the atmosphere of your home. Would you describe yourself as loud and boisterous or calm and quiet? Is your home more like a Zen garden or a carnival?
Dogs, after all, will often readily pick up behavioral cues from their owners and can also be influenced by the general tone and ambience of the household. If kids run about and jump all over the furniture, there’s a distinct possibility that the dog will, too. Its rowdiness or neuroticisms may simply be a reflection of a certain level of chaos, tension, or unpredictability in the household, so it’s worthwhile taking stock of your domestic environment when trying to tackle the root causes.
How about your actual responses to your pooch’s hyperactive nature? Do you get animated or do you speak soothingly? When your dog is behaving in a manner you would deem as hyperactive, do you yell or do you speak calmly to your pet? Many experts advise that it’s helpful to create an atmosphere of calm for your hyperactive animal, as reacting in a stressed-out or angry manner is liable to either reinforce the behavior or indoctrinate an equally undesirable fearfulness and anxiety.
If it’s hard for you to assess the potential impacts of your behavior and the state of your household on your dog, be a little experimental about it: Closely track a week’s worth of your pet’s behavior, and make note of what’s going on–or was recently going on–when he’s exhibiting hyperactivity. If you’re starting to observe trends, try adjusting aspects such as your tone of voice or the timing and location of your children’s unstructured-play time. If nothing else, you’ll gather more detailed information on the intricacies of your dog’s routine, which can only help you explore other potential solutions.