Hyper dogs can be a real challenge for any dog owner, experienced or not. Some breeds are more prone to hyperactivity than others, so you may already have been aware of what you were in for when first adopting your dog. However, there are always exceptions to the rule with any dog breed, and even the most mellow breeds can become hyperactive.
A hyper dog is characterized by a constant level of high energy and excitement provoked by even the smallest of events — a crunching leaf underfoot can set them off, for example. Not only is it painful to watch your beloved pooch in this state of constant hyperactivity, but it can make training far more difficult and walks and outings almost impossible.
Luckily, there are effective ways to solve this issue, some as simple as regular exercise and others that may take a large investment of time and patience. In this article, we take a look at eight proven ways to calm a hyper dog.
An often overlooked but crucial method of not only calming a hyper dog but giving your dog a happy and healthy life is regular exercise. There is a popular meme among dog trainers that states, “a tired dog is a well-behaved dog,” and in this case, a tired dog is a calm dog. A dog that is sufficiently exercised from a long session of activity, be it a walk, run, or intensive play session, simply does not have the energy to be hyper. Exercise will help rid your dog of any pent-up energy and prevent any boredom from occurring, both of which could be the cause of hyperactivity.
There is as yet no scientific evidence that exercise will stop hyperactivity, but there has been a study that shows that as little as 25 minutes of exercise can reduce levels of cortisol in your dog, a hormone often associated with stress. It will also at least subdue your dog enough to begin some training and obedience exercises while they are slightly calmer.
Exercise is an essential activity for all dogs, hyper or not, and if your dog is not getting enough, this may be the simple answer to their hyperactivity. It is free and easy to introduce, and as little as 25 minutes may be sufficient.
Diet may seem like an unlikely cause for a hyper dog, but good nutrition is the basis of good behavior too. Dogs need protein both to build and maintain muscle mass, and it is their primary source of energy. Feeding your dog too much protein could cause them to have an overabundance of energy, especially if they are eating more than they are expending. A study from the American Veterinary Medical Association found a correlation between high-protein diets and aggression and hyperactivity in dogs and that lowering the dog’s protein intake may lower levels of hyperactivity.
Excess carbohydrates may also play a role in hyper dogs, and too many carbs like wheat, soy, corn, potatoes, and lentils may be causing your dog to have excess energy. This is, of course, further exacerbated by a sedentary lifestyle, but it may occur in some dogs even if they are getting sufficient exercise. Lastly, refined sugar should be strictly avoided, and you’d be surprised by how many dog treats and even common food sources contain some source of refined sugar.
3. Physical contact
Like humans, dogs crave and enjoy physical touch, like stroking, scratching, and of course, cuddling. Dogs are social animals and left to their own devices, will quickly amass into packs, similar to wolves. They play together, hunt together, eat together, and sleep together, and even though dogs have changed much in their evolution from wolves, the fact remains that they love to be close to their families. This close living provides them with comfort and security, and feral dogs will often clean and de-tick each other too.
When you bring a dog home, you are their new pack leader and your family is their new pack. As well as exercise and good nutrition, your dog also needs your physical and emotional attention. It has been shown that domestic dogs prefer touch to vocal praise, and a small amount of gentle petting can decrease their heart rate and may help in calming a hyperactive dog. This is especially true if you are away from home for extended periods.
However, excessive hugging can cause dogs stress and anxiety, as some breeds will feel trapped by the lack of movement. You know your dog better than anyone and are the most qualified to know how much is too much. That being said, gentle stroking and petting is a great way to calm a hyper dog.
Good training is the essential foundation for a well-behaved dog, and it should begin as early as possible, even the day you bring your dog home. Dogs love routine, and most high-energy breeds will benefit greatly from the discipline and mutual understanding that comes with good training. Of course, it can be difficult to train an already hyper pooch, and we recommend training after a long walk or play, when they have burned off excess energy.
Most dogs are eager to please their owners and will quickly take to command training facilitated by reward-based methods. This is especially important during developmental stages, as their desire to obey you may override their hyperactivity later on. Good training takes time, dedication, and a ton of patience but is vastly worth it in the end.
Your dog’s hyperactive energy may just need a distinct goal to be directed toward, and with the addition of regular exercise training, this may just be the perfect outlet.
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5. Classical music
It may seem unbelievable, but Mozart and Beethoven could potentially have the solution to your dog’s hyperactivity. Playing different kinds of music has different effects on your dog’s mental and emotional state, but classical music in particular seems to have a calming effect on dogs. Dogs in an experiment spent more time resting and less time standing when exposed to classical music, and similar research has shown a startlingly similar effect.
Scientists are not quite sure exactly what causes the calming effect, but it has shown promising results. When dogs were played heavy metal music, they would bark and pace in their enclosures, indicating that there is something in the classical music that lessens stress. Next time you leave your dog at home or even before a training session, try playing your dog classical music as a calming technique.
Most of us are aware of how calming some scents can be, especially when combined with heat. The calming scent enters our noses, which are primitive when compared to a dog’s powerful sense of smell. An interesting study has shown that when dogs were exposed to ambient lavender odors, they spent less time pacing and vocalizing and more time resting and sitting during car trips.
Lavender essential oils exposed to your hyper dog may help calm them down significantly. Combining this with classical music may just do the trick to ease your dog’s hyperactivity!
While calming medication can help, we should say that this should be used only as a last resort. Medication may help a stressed and hyper dog during traveling or moving to a new house, but it is by no means a solution. Pharmaceutical drugs can often have a host of side effects and should only be used after a vet consultation. That being said, oral amphetamines can be a great help to hyper pooches and can slow your dog’s heart rate by up to 15%.
If you’d rather opt for a more natural solution, cannabidiol (CBD), found in cannabis and hemp, has a safe and effective natural calming effect. While CBD has been federally legal since 2018, it is unfortunately still illegal in a few states in the U.S., but hemp powder-based treats can also have calming effects, and hemp is perfectly legal.
Some male dog’s hyperactivity is caused by hormones, and in this case, neutering may help calm them down. Neutering involves the removal of both your dog’s testicles and stops them from producing testosterone. The physical effects that testosterone has on a male dog’s body are fairly obvious, but the behavioral effects are slightly more subtle. They will usually stop roaming to look for females and stop marking their territory, and you may see a reduction in aggressive behavior. Of course, this is no magic pill, and while it will help with certain behavioral issues, it may not always calm a hyper dog.
A hyper dog can be a real challenge for their owner, but the issue is usually easily fixed by one or more of the methods above. Often, a change of diet and regular exercise are all that’s required to calm their hyperactivity. More unorthodox methods, like classical music and aromatherapy, are also great options to try out, as they’ve had some proven success in the past. As always, it is best to consult a vet if the behavior is not stopping after trying any of these techniques.
It is also vital to remember that some breeds are more prone to hyperactivity than others and that all dogs are individuals with their own unique needs. You, their owner, know them better than anyone, and hopefully, with time and patience, you should be able to resolve the problem relatively simply.
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