It’s great to see your dog in a happy mood: running around, playing and jumping. Nobody wants their pup to be sad or miserable. After all, a dog’s energy is why we love them so much. Their great moods can often help lift our spirits, as well.
But, what about when this happiness turns into overexcitement? Hyperactivity in dogs can be quite challenging to deal with. When a dog is overexcited, they can create a lot of problems. Some hyperactive dogs bark or howl excessively. Some break, chew or otherwise destroy things in the home. They may also find it hard to listen and tend to ignore commands. Living with an energetic dog can be stressful.
Dogs can become excessively excited for many different reasons, some of them easier to deal with than others. Today, we’ll take you through the main reasons why your dog may be overexcited. We’ll also give you our top tips on how to calm down your hyperactive pooch.
Which Are the Most Excitable Dog Breeds?
All dog breeds are different. Not just in the way they look, but also their personalities. After all, humans carefully designed each breed of dog to fill a specific purpose. This purpose varied depending on what they intended the dog to do.
Different breeds of dog have different levels of energy. Typically, dogs with the most energy are descended from breeds that used to work.
- Terriers are bred to dig and hunt for prey, like foxes and badgers.
- Collies and Shepherds, whose job it was to herd sheep.
- Siberian Huskies are bred to run long distances while pulling a sled.
- Dalmatians, who were designed to pull carriages.
- Retrievers are adapted for retrieving game shot by hunters.
If your dog is one of the above, you can be sure they’re going to be excitable in nature. These dogs are inclined to have a lot of energy. Sometimes, this abundance in energy can come out as hyperactivity or overexcitability.
By contrast, some types of dog are much calmer. The lowest energy dogs tend to be the largest, including the St. Bernard and Bull Mastiff. Dogs bred purely for companionship also tend to be less energetic. These include the Shih Tzu, Pug, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
Why Is My Dog So Hyper All Of a Sudden?
Even the most energy-abundant breeds of dog should be calm some of the time. After all, even a bouncy Border Collie will settle down for a good portion of the day. If your dog is perpetually unsettled and tightly wound, there’s probably something wrong.
So, if your permanently overexcited pooch is making your life difficult, what’s causing it? It’s important to remember that it’s not your dog’s fault he’s so happy with life. His hyperactivity is probably due to one of the following problems.
Too Much Pent-Up Energy
The reason your dog is so hyperactive could be that he has too much pent-up energy. This is especially likely if your dog is a naturally-high energy working breed. That being said, all dogs have a certain level of energy that they need to burn off. If they aren’t able to exercise, it could result in excitability and acting out.
Different types of dog require different amounts of exercise every day. This has to do with their breed, age, size, and health. According to the PDSA, dogs need between 30 minutes to 2 hours of exercise per day. That being said, high-energy dogs may need even more than this.
So, how do you know if pent-up energy is the cause of your dog’s hyperactivity? Firstly, consider your living situation. Do you live in an apartment with no yard? Or perhaps your yard is small, without much space to run around? If so, this may be the problem. Many dogs will burn off some of their energy during the day by running around their home. If your dog can’t do that, the energy might be building up and coming out in other ways.
Secondly, how much time do you spend walking your dog? It can sometimes be hard to find the time for this. Especially if you have a full-time job, or you’re away from home a lot. However, walks are so crucial for releasing energy. If your dog can’t go on a walk very often, it could be causing their undesirable behavior on walks.
Lack of Stimulation
If you walk your dog every day, and they’re getting regular exercise, that’s great. An abundance of physical energy isn’t your dog’s problem. So, what else could be causing your dog’s buoyancy?
Well, it’s not only physical exercise that your dog needs. Dogs may not be as complex as us, but they are extremely intelligent animals. A dog’s mind needs to be stimulated and challenged every day. So, what do you do with your dog when you’re at home?
If you leave your dog to do his own thing at home, this might be the problem. Just like humans, dogs need things to keep them busy and entertained. A dog that hasn’t got anything keeping his mind active will be bored. And just like bored children, they can act out.
If your dog lacks mental stimulation, it will show in his behavior. He might chew on furniture or your belongings. You might notice excessive barking and howling. He may dig holes in the backyard, or attempt to dig at your carpet. Overall, your dog will appear restless and hyperactive. Sound familiar?
All of this poor behavior serves a purpose. It’s something for your dog to do, to ease his boredom. If his mind isn’t being challenged by you, he’ll find a way. And his idea of easing his boredom may be causing you stress or trouble.
A Specific Event is Causing Excitement
A lack of mental or physical activity may not be the only cause of your dog’s problems. Have you noticed that your dog is only hyperactive in certain situations? If so, he might be reacting to one particular stimulus.
Sometimes, dogs can become stressed and overexcited because of specific things. The particular stressors will depend on the dog. However, certain things tend to excite dogs more than others.
Firstly, visitors to the home. Does this sound familiar? You’ll have a calm and happy dog most of the time, but an overexcited dog with visitors. Dogs are incredibly social creatures and tend to love people. But, with some dogs, this extreme love of visitors goes beyond a bark and a happy tail wag. Some dogs jump up at visitors, bark incessantly and may run around in circles. This could be part of your dog’s personality. Alternatively, it could be because they don’t spend enough time with people.
Another common one is excitability when meeting other dogs. This could be on walks, at the dog park or anywhere else you might bump into another pooch. Some dogs lose control when they see another dog approaching. You’ll get the same excitable reaction – barking, spinning, and jumping.
Some dogs may also become overexcited on walks in general, or in the car. In some ways this is understandable. They’re in a different, constantly changing environment with lots of things happening around them. However, a dog should be able to stay calm and control himself.
There is also a chance that the reason your dog is so excited is due to conditioning. What is conditioning? The notion that if a dog’s behavior is rewarded, he’ll continue to display it. Dogs love attention and learn very quickly what to do to get it.
You probably haven’t been rewarding hyperactivity on purpose. It can easily be done without noticing that you’re doing it. It may not even be you doing it. The dog could be learning from other people that he lives with or sees regularly.
Let’s face it; some dogs look cute and funny when they’re excited. If you see a dog chasing its tail or spinning in circles, it’s pretty hard not to laugh. But, if you show your dog any attention when they’re excited, they’ll think it’s a good thing. A dog who realizes you pay them attention when they act crazy will continue to act crazy.
Have you ever produced the treat jar when your dog is hyperactive? A lot of dogs will stop what they’re doing when they’re offered a treat. It’s easy to take this approach to get your dog to stop barking, or running around. However, if you give your dog a treat when they’re overexcited, they’re likely to repeat the behavior.
Behavioral or Mental Disorders
Behavioral and mental disorders in dogs are not common. It’s much more likely that one of the above issues is the cause of your dog’s misbehavior. However, there is a chance that your dog is continuously excited because of an issue entirely out of your control.
Believe it or not, dogs can suffer from anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). If your dog is always chasing his tail, this may be why. Ruling out pent-up energy or lack of stimulation is vital. But what if you’ve worn your dog out and they’re still chasing their tail? Anxiety and OCD in dogs can show themselves in many strange ways. Hyperactivity and excitability are two classic signs.
According to Psychology Today, dogs can also suffer from ADHD. It is extremely rare, but it can happen. Dogs with ADHD are unruly and out of control, no matter what. You can attempt to train them and calm them as much as you want. It just doesn’t work. They’re difficult to train, extraordinarily excitable and reactive to everything. A gust of wind or the sound of footsteps can startle them.
Certain dogs are more predisposed to ADHD than others, such as German Shepherds. Only a vet can diagnose it for sure. If you’re worried your dog might have ADHD, try our calming techniques first.
How To Calm Down a Hyper Dog
Now you’re familiar with the main reasons that a dog might be hyperactive. No matter the cause, you still have an overexcited, hyper dog. However, as with every doggy problem, understanding why it’s there is the first step towards fixing it.
So, now you know why let’s focus on the how. We’ll take you through our top tips for calming an overexcited dog. If you follow these steps, you’re sure to see a change in your pup before long.
If your dog is hyperactive, he may not be getting enough exercise. Does your dog seem restless and always on the go? Does he tend to get overexcited on walks and lunge while on the leash? Is he still energetic and running around when he returns home? If you think this is your dog’s problem, it’s quite a simple one to fix.
- You should be providing your dog with 30 minutes to 2+ hours of exercise every day. Exactly how much depends on your dog’s individual needs. This exercise should be split up, rather than all at once.
- If you currently walk your dog once a day, try increasing this to twice. A good pattern to follow is one walk in the morning and one in the evening. You may have to get up a little earlier to walk your dog before work. If you can’t find the time, hire a dog walker to help you out.
- If you already walk your dog twice a day, increase the length of the walks. If each walk is only 30 minutes long, it may not be long enough. Try extending each walk to 45 minutes, and then to 1 hour. Find out what works best.
Remember also to give your dog some time and space to run, as well as walking on a leash. Take him to the dog park, the forest or a dog-friendly beach. If you have a large yard, use this to your advantage as well.
If you don’t keep your dog’s mind active and occupied, he can become bored. If your dog is bored, he’ll demonstrate behaviors such as chewing, whining, digging, and barking.
Dogs are very intelligent and need mental stimulation. One way you can achieve this is by spending time teaching your dog tricks. Dogs love learning tricks – after all, they live to please you. Plus, they get tasty treats as a reward, so it’s a win-win situation. Try to spend one-on-one training time with your dog every day. Introduce a new trick every time he masters one, and practice regularly.
Secondly, play thinking games with your dog. Dogs love playing hide-and-seek, and they have a wonderful sense of smell. If you hide some highly scented treats around the house, your dog will adore trying to sniff them out.
Invest in some stimulating toys and activities for your pooch. For example, puzzle toys and treat-release balls. These allow you to hide a treat in a compartment. The dog has to figure out how to release the treat. This can keep them mentally engaged for a long time.
Finally, don’t forget to provide things for your dog to chew on. Rawhide chews, but sticks and squeaky chew toys are all good examples. They can keep your dog occupied for hours.
Reward Calm Behavior
When your dog acts hyper and excited, don’t offer any attention. Attention is what your dog craves. Bestowing attention upon him when he’s hyperactive will teach him to continue to act that way. Remember, any attention is worth having – including negative attention.
If your dog is jumping up, barking, spinning or running around, don’t acknowledge him at all. Don’t talk or yell, touch him, pick him up or offer him a treat. Ignoring the behavior will get rid of it much faster. Turn around and face away from your dog. Only offer affection when the dog is calm again.
When your dog becomes calm and relaxed, this is when you offer attention. Give limitless cuddles and praise. Eventually, your dog will realize that being calm gets the reward.
You can also try teaching the ‘calm’ command. When your dog is excited and hyperactive, wait until they calm down. When they stay still and stop barking, say “calm” and offer a treat. Do this enough, and they’ll learn to calm down when you say so.
Impulse Control Training
To help him learn calmness and patience, try teaching your dog impulse control exercises. Dogs with poor willpower and impulse control can often come across as hyperactive. They see something they want and instantly go for it – pulling on their leash, jumping up at the table, or running after a squirrel.
- Start by making your dog “sit” before rewarding him (food, toys or affection). Also, make him sit before putting his leash on, or letting him go outside. If a dog is sat down, he’s naturally calmer; he can’t run around or jump up. Once he’s mastered this, gradually lengthen the time he has to sit before receiving his prize. This will teach your dog to learn patience.
- Next, teach your dog to wait. While he’s sitting, keep a treat in the palm of your hand. Say “wait.” Then, open your hand. He’ll immediately dive in. When he does, say “oops!” and close your hand. When he gives up and sits back, say “wait” again, and open your hand. If he immediately goes for the treat, say “oops” again and close your hand. Repeat this until your dog waits for a second or two when you open your hand. When he does this, say “good” and give him the treat. Continue this, making your dog wait for longer periods of time.
This technique can also be used to teach your dog to wait when a door is opened before going outside. You can also use it to teach him to wait before greeting a visitor.
Finally, pay close attention to your dog’s diet. Believe it or not, the food that your dog eats can have a significant effect on his behavior. A poor quality diet can result in hyperactivity in some dogs.
Not all dog foods are alike. Some are made with high-quality ingredients and provide optimal nutrition. Others, not so much. In particular, you should be wary of the very cheap dog foods available in supermarkets. It’s not always the case, but the cheaper foods tend to be the worst quality.
Always check the ingredients to see how much of the food is high-quality protein (meat). Meat meals, such as “chicken meal,” are normally high quality. Avoid “meat by-product” and “by-product meal.” Be wary of fillers, such as an empty carbohydrate (flour, corn, and wheat). These are often added to bulk the food out while keeping the cost down. Also, look out for food dyes, additives, and preservatives. As is the case with humans, these can cause health problems in high quantities.
What Should I Do Now?
By now, you know the leading causes of hyperactivity in dogs, and the best ways to help calm a hyper dog down. Start implementing our top tips straight away, and you’ll start noticing a difference.
Be aware that fixing a dog’s overexcitability is a somewhat long process. You can’t train a dog out of bad behavior overnight. Increasing exercise and mental stimulation will help straight away, but training takes time. The key is to spend time on calm training and impulse control training every day. Depending on your dog, it may take days or weeks before you notice a change.
If you’ve persisted for weeks and still haven’t seen a change, it’s time to get a veterinarian involved. There is a chance your dog is suffering from a behavioral disorder that contributes to his hyperactivity. Your vet will be able to examine your dog and, if necessary, prescribe high strung dog medication to help.