Calming a High Energy Dog: A Helpful Guide
Puppies are almost guaranteed to be high energy. But what if they don’t run out of steam as they age. What if they stay hyperactive? If so, you need to know how to calm them down; otherwise, you’ll have an uncontrollable and untrainable pet on your hands.
Read on for tricks and tips about how to calm a high energy dog.
Hyperkinesis is the clinical term for hyperactivity in dogs. It is characterized by the inability to pay attention or sit still, erratic behavior, and often a strong want for attention. If you’re reading this guide, chances are that you’re nodding your head along “yes” to each of these. However, don’t jump to any conclusions, because the next question has serious implications.
Does your dog need to be put on stimulants?
See, there are cases of hyperkinesis where stimulants are needed (think of how stimulants are used to combat ADHD in humans, i.e., Ritalin, Adderall, etc.). And then there are cases where simple life changes could dramatically calm a high energy dog.
Note: You know your dog best; consult a veterinarian if you believe your dog should be put on a stimulant regimen.
Lifestyle Changes To Help Calm Your Dog | 5 Tips and Tricks
The best practice, and how you should always begin, is to assume that your dog does not suffer from hyperactivity. Until you’re sure, here are the five tips and tricks and their corresponding stressors:
- Research your dog’s breed (genetic/biological factors)
- Take your dog to the dog park (socialization needs)
- Tucker out your furry friend (lack of exercise)
- Instill regular training habits after they’ve exercised thoroughly (lack of mental stimulation)
- Keep the routine to a T (extraneous anxiety)
Breeds and Biology | The Border Collie
Every dog is different, true. But dog breeds can point you toward your dog’s biology and genetics to give you an idea for why they might have so much energy. Let’s take the Border Collie as an example.
The Border Collie was originally bred to herd sheep in the hills of England and Scotland. They are known to be incredibly smart, probably the smartest dog in the world. But they’re not just racing in the mind, they’re also racing on the track. When you see a Border Collie, the first thought should be, “why aren’t they bouncing off the walls?” Instead of, “why are they?”
Knowing this, you can better prepare yourself for your hyperactive dog.
- Fun Fact About Border Collies: When Border Collies are herding sheep, they will glare at the sheep to instill fear, in order to better herd them. This is a trait passed along through their genes going back to the wolf.
Play Time Needs
One thing that high energy dogs certainly need is time to socialize. Dogs naturally begin to play almost immediately—whether it’s rough and tumble or showing each other the best smell spots. Taking your dog to a dog park offers what pure exercise (physical stimulation) or training time (mental stimulation) can’t: it allows the dog to pick up instinctual cues for how to act…
When to run around and be wild and when to be calm.
Even if you don’t live near a dog park, your hyperactive dog is going to need plenty of exercise if you expect them to calm down. All that energy is inside your dog; it has to go somewhere if you want to have a well-behaved dog. If you don’t run it out of them, you’ll watch it manifest in disobedience, anxiety, and frenetic behavior.
Thus, grab your tennis balls, frisbees, and throwing devices, because it’s time to do some sprints!
Training seems to be the biggest complaint from dog owners of high energy dogs. The dogs don’t listen when it’s time to sit, which means they definitely won’t listen when it’s time to be calm.
- If your pet seems untrainable, this means training is more important with your dog than any other.
The two ideas seem to clash, but take some tips from the pros, hire help if you need to, and lastly, don’t give up. There are three basics to grasp when first starting out:
- Always train after exercise. Your dog will have gotten their wild energy out of their system and can focus better.
- Don’t reward them until they’ve gotten the training right. (Of course, do break the training into bite-sized chunks… see what we did there?)
- Be patient. Dogs will sense frustration and changes in your mood. This will translate into anxiety and more frenetic energy. If you feel yourself becoming impatient, abort the dog training mission and try again later. Or, if you aren’t seeing positive effects on your dog’s behavior, try reaching out to a dog trainer.
Keep A Consistent Routine
For dogs that are high strung, removing any extraneous anxiety can help them be calm. You may wonder where the anxiety is coming from, but you have to remember that your dog is not a human and won’t catch on to your schedule of “I fall asleep when I fall asleep; I wake up when I wake up.”
It’s best when your dog knows when they’re going to eat, sleep, exercise, and train. Naturally, this will help their digestive system be regular, and it will help them sleep easier. This might mean changing up your routine to match theirs. If you want calm energy in the house, this slight change will be worth it to teach your dog consistency.
Checking In On Their Diet | Bonus Tip
As a final thought to close this out, be sure to keep track of your dog’s diet. Research the brand of dog food and make sure the company is using high-quality ingredients. Your dog’s diet informs the energy levels (exercise), brain activity (training), and provides the foundation for successful namaste with your dog.
If you think your pup is missing out on key nutrients or an imbalance of energy due to diet, consider a supplement to assist. Vetericyn Animal Wellness makes unique life-stage formulas that are based on your dog’s age to optimize and balance physical, cognitive, and bodily processes.
- PetMD. Simply Ingenious – 10 Smartest Dog Breeds. https://www.petmd.com/dog/pet_lover/evr-dg-smart-dogs?page=2
- Encyclopedia Britannica. Border Collie. https://www.britannica.com/animal/border-collie
- PetMD. How to Calm a High Energy Dog. https://www.petmd.com/dog/behavior/how-calm-high-energy-dog
Dr. Melinda J. Mayfield-Davis, DVM, WCHP-AH, brings over 20 years of experience in veterinary medicine. She is the Technical Services Veterinarian with Innovacyn, Inc., parent company of Vetericyn Animal Wellness. She received her DVM from Oklahoma State University and now resides in Southeast Kansas with her husband, two children, four dogs, and six horses. Prior to working with Innovacyn, Dr. Mayfield owned and operated the Animal Care Center in Columbus, KS.