Calming Your High Energy Canine
A hyperactive dog is not a happy dog, even if you find their behaviour is cute or funny. If your dog seemingly never calms down then you are not meeting their instinctual needs. I'm not talking about zoomies and I'm not saying your dog should be napping all day long. Rather, if you struggle getting your dog to listen or if he's knocking you over with his inability to move slowly, then they are lacking exercise and/or discipline.
Don't misunderstand my use of the word discipline, I simply mean training and making sure your dog knows that you are in control (Alpha) and not the other way around.
Be the Alpha
No matter the breed, dogs crave structure. They want to know what their boundaries are and they need to be instructed. As pack animals they will also search for an alpha, and if you're not doing the job up to their standards, they will take on the role themselves - this leads to a lot of behavioural problems.
A lot of people hear the words 'discipline' and 'alpha' and they don't want anything to do with it because their first thoughts are that they have to be cruel or unjust to their beloved pet, and this simply is not the case! A proper alpha is calm and leads with respect.
Depending on the breed of your dog, it requires more or less exercise than others. Breeds also have instinctive 'roles' such as guarding, retrieving, hunting, and herding, and they need to be exercised properly in order to satisfy these needs!
Below are a few non-breed specific ways to drain energy and meet your dogs needs.
Playing with your dog is a great way to drain energy, train, and create a bond. Fetch incorporates the activity to burn energy and training when it is required that they drop the ball and allow you to pick it up, as well as impulse control as they wait calmly and quietly for you to throw. Make sure that you are the one in charge of the game, not them!
Socialize your dog! Dog parks, pack walks, and doggy day care are a wonderful way to both drain energy in your dog and have the benefit of learning social skills from an early age. I advise caution when going to dog parks if you don't know all of the dogs there as a bad experience as a puppy can shape how they behave around other dogs.
Training is a great way to drain energy as well as teach them good behaviour and tricks to
wow your friends. Having your dog give you their full attention and to be submissive to your commands is work and will tire them out just the same as a walk. It is important to be mindful that if you're training a puppy to keep the sessions short as their attention span doesn't last quite as long and you both can become frustrated.
It is super important to teach your dog from the beginning how you expect them to act on a daily basis. If you adore them as a puppy jumping up with excitement when you come home from work, showering you with kisses, then they will continue this behaviour into adulthood. This behaviour needs to be corrected consistently; dogs don't understand why sometimes its allowed and sometimes its not.
This is so important for dogs in so many different circumstances, such as feeding time. Having your pet sit calmly at your feet (or across the room), giving eye contact, and quietly waiting for you to give the 'okay' is so rewarding as this little act shows them how to behave every time they want something.
Use this when preparing for your daily walks as well. Though it's sometimes cute and funny to say "walk?" and have them run in circles and jump with excitement, if it's not always funny, then you shouldn't let it happen. Teach them to allow you to calmly attach their leash and/or harness and walk slowly out the door behind you.
Exercising their mind is just as draining as physical exercise. If you have a 45 minute walk planned, but it takes 15 minutes for your dog to fully calm down, that is still exercise. Don't give in! It's so easy to get frustrated, strangle your dog to just get the dang harness on and then have him or her pull you out the door. Be patient and wait for your dog to calm down; that is mentally a lot of work for them.
Visitors are the biggest challenge in my life, but I've gotten comfortable with telling people the rules in my home and if they can't respect it then they're not welcome. (This has never happened - my friends are great!)
How many people have said to their pets "Down!" as they jump on guests who say "No, I don't mind" and continue to give affection to a dog who is disobeying your
command that you are working so hard at training (People are honestly so much harder to train than dogs). I tell anyone who comes into my house to completely ignore the dog until he is settled. My dogs are adorable, so this is very hard for my friends ;)
Whenever I come home, if my dog is free at the door he is expected to sit in his 'place' and wait for me to put my things away and then I approach him for affection. This needs to be a consistent behaviour for all members of the household. You don't speak to your dog or show affection until you are ready. If your dog approaches you or jumps, just redirect him or her to where they should be. My dogs understand 'go' means to turn around and give me space.
Teaching your dog to behave politely at the door takes time and patience as it's not learned quickly Tell your guests they can get all the puppy snuggles they desire as long as they first follow your guidelines!
A quick note (because this deserves its own post) about draining energy in reactive dogs. Here's the trouble, you can't walk your dog because he reacts on leash, however, your dogs reacting is made worse by pent up energy. I have a reactive dog, so I get this. He was not socialized at his previous home and he is dog aggressive, this will not just go away if I tire him out (so much additional training required). Though, pent up energy will make this worse; he has energy to burn and when he sees a dog, whether its out of excitement or fear, reacting will be an outlet for this energy.
Try games or treadmill at home first before your walk, you just may notice a difference in their ability to remain calm and focus on you, making training their reactive behaviour that much easier.
Dogs are fun and make us laugh. It's unreasonable to think that every perfect and happy dog is one who lays around all day (though this is a few perfect and happy dogs lol). The key is if your dog is able to listen to your commands and can come out of a hyper state. If not, they likely need more training and exercise.
These are my thoughts as an owner of three high energy dogs that have come a long way with their door greetings and energy inside the house and on walks. Often times we recognize that they simply have too much pent up energy and a walk is in order. We also utilize a treadmill to incorporate more walks into our day, especially if it's raining or far too cold. Look out for a post on this soon!