Would you describe your furry friend as hyper? Inattentive? Untrainable? D – All of the above? If so, you may have a hyperactive dog on your hands. The clinical term—hyperkinesis—is described as attention deficit disorder for dogs. The signs and symptoms include inattentiveness, unable to be trained, erratic behavior, and wild energy.
To understand more about your dog’s behavior and why your pet is hyperactive, read ahead.
What Causes Hyperactivity in Dogs
Hyperactivity, as described above, is a catch-all for a dog’s inability to stay calm or pay attention. But the varying reasons for why this happens are numerous. Everything from the dog’s biological makeup to their diet and exercise routine can be a factor. So, let’s dive into the most common causes here:
- Breed characteristics
- Early puppy years
- Conditioned behavior
- Lack of stimulation
- Proper diet
Dog Breeds | Knowing Your Dog’s History
When you examine a pug’s adorably squished face and noisy breathing huffs, you can probably guess they weren’t bred to be aggressive dogs. And while the thought of being mauled by twenty lovable pugs sounds like a dream you don’t want to wake up from, this speaks to their demeanor.
German Shepherds, Border Collies, Golden Retrievers, Siberian Huskies, Terriers—what do these dog breeds all have in common? They were bred for a difficult job.
- German Shepherds were bred from Germany’s most intelligent and obedient dogs. They herded sheep and would protect them from oncoming predators.
- Golden Retrievers were bred with an impeccable sense of smell and tracking. They would (and often still do) accompany hunters and track down wounded game, retrieving it for their owners.
The same goes for many sport dogs.
If there’s one thing to say about breeders, they were more utilitarian than creative when coming up with names.
But more seriously, these dogs are meant to be active, attentive, and well-exercised (both physically and mentally). It begs the question: What happens when these breeds don’t get this kind of action?
The answer, unfortunately, may be something close to the human form of ADHD.
Early Puppy Years
When a dog is growing up, they typically need to be around other pups, older dogs, or animals of any kind. People offer love and support, but people can easily become distracted for long hours at a time—TV watching is something we excel at.
Dogs are less fallible when it comes to Netflix, which means they need the kind of attention and care that comes intuitively from other dogs.
During these formative years, socialization, proper training, and positive reinforcement are key to a high energy dog’s overall well-being in their later years. A well-trained dog receives more attention from other dogs, other people, and more love from owners. Thus, it’s absolutely essential to take extra care during the puppy years to prevent hyperactive behavior.
What many owners think is a lack of discipline in their dogs, is actually trained disobedience. How could someone ever train disobedience? Imagine a high energy dog who is hard to train to begin with:
- The owner starts to train them, but after many attempts gives up. The dog is then free to go about their business again.
Perhaps the dog is even “rewarded” with affection and/or the treat despite not learning the trick.
- When the owner tries once more to train the dog, the dog will take longer to learn the trick. Again, the owner doesn’t have the patience to outlast the dog’s hyperactivity.
Perhaps this time the dog will be met with impatience and anger, further adding to their anxiety.
- By this point, the dog will have little to no understanding of the training sessions. Additionally, the dog will know that the training session will end if it continues to do anything, and so, will disobey as long as it takes.
Trained disobedience has just been taught.
There are a hundred and one ways this can happen—however, the two most common issues with trained disobedience are rewarding after an unsuccessful session and the owner’s own emotions.
Lack of Stimulation
Hyperactivity in dogs causes them to have a lot of physical and mental energy. Thus, the stimulation they need is twofold. They need to get exercise, and a lot of it. But they also need to be taught new tricks (just be sure to avoid the trained disobedience detailed above).
Know how much exercise your particular breed and size of dog requires. A trip to the dog park will have them running around, socializing, and worn out in no time. As an added bonus, once your dog is tired, the training sessions will probably become smoother.
Eating healthy foods every day can help your dog’s digestion, sleep cycle, energy levels, and brain functionality. Which, you can probably tell, are all correlated with their hyperactive behavior.
Thus, it’s important that your pet absorbs all the necessary nutrients. Supplements, like the ones created by Vetericyn, ensure that your dog is happy and healthy dietary-wise. There is even a patented complex that specifically targets cognitive behavior and can help promote calmness.
Causes of Hyperactivity in Dogs
It’s a multifaceted issue—hyperkinesis. There can be many factors at play, and unbeknownst to most dog owners, everything from genetics to your dog’s diet can be primary considerations. If you believe you have taken care of each of the above categories, yet your dog is still inattentive and overstimulated, he or she may benefit from prescription medication administered from your veterinarian.
- Dog Breeds. Hyperkinesis in Dogs. http://pages.wustl.edu/dogbreeds/hyperkinesis-dogs
- AKC. What Was the German Shepherd Bred to Do? https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/what-was-the-gsd-bred-to-do/
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.