Dogs and young children have a lot in common. They’re excitable, exploratory, and can suffer from symptoms of ADHD—although hyperactivity in dogs is technically known as hyperkinesis. The research on dogs with hyperkinesis, though relatively new, has been profoundly similar to that of children, even to the extent of the same stimulant medications working.
Though, please please don’t go about administering this to your dog. Always visit your local veterinarian before offering your dog prescription drugs. That said, how do you know when it’s time to see the vet?
Well, let’s take a look at what is hyperactivity in dogs and its associated symptoms.
Hyperactivity in Dogs Symptoms
If you know someone with ADHD, you may find it interesting to read that hyperactivity in dogs symptoms include:
- High energy
- Hyperactive (lots of fidgeting and movement)
- Unable to pay attention
At it’s worse, these symptoms can aggravate serious implications. Dogs suffering from hyperkinesis may…
- Become aggressive or snappish when stressed out
- Be hard to train due to their distractibility and nervous energy
- Poorly socialize with other dogs leading to more anxiety
- Be overly attention-seeking
Thus, hyperactivity in dogs can quickly spiral downwards and cause increasingly negative effects. For your dog to live his or her fullest and happiest life, it’s important to catch these symptoms early and respond appropriately.
Responding to Hyperactivity in Dogs
Knowing what your dog is suffering from and knowing what to do about it are two different territories. And if there was one overall piece of advice to begin with, it’s this: Be patient. What may look like distracted, frenetic energy, can actually be hardwired acute alertness—which means they will be picking up on your mood changes, frustrations, and negative emotions.
Before you say, “no way! My dog isn’t alert to anything,” seriously consider what causes hyperactive behavior. That way, you’ll be slow to aggravate when it comes time to teach them to “sit” and “stay.”
Causes of Hyperactivity | Understanding the Underlying Factors
The list below shows the most common biological and environmental factors that may lead to hyperactivity. Although it’s important to note, your dog may be hyperactive from just one or all seven of these factors.
- Breed of the dog
- Early puppy years
- Exercise and training
- Diet regimen
- Structured environment
Let’s dive into each one individually.
Breed of the Dog
While genetics typically won’t be the only factor—as hyperkinesis is very rare—understanding your dog’s breed will help with many fringe cases. Dogs like Border Collies, Golden Retrievers, Siberian Husky, and Terriers all are more susceptible to owner’s complaints of hyperactivity.
What do these dogs have in common? Let’s take a look at why these dogs were bred:
- Border Collie – The Border Collie was bred as an intelligent and high energy dog that could herd flocks of sheep through the mountains of England and Scotland.
- Golden Retriever – Bred to accompany hunters, Golden Retrievers are what their name suggests. Retrievers have heightened senses of smell and tracking abilities to hunt down and retrieve wounded game.
- Siberian Husky – Originally bred by the Chukchi people in Northeast Asia, these dogs were used for sled-pulling as well as companionship.
- Jack Russel Terrier – This small dog has boundless energy. How much energy? Jack Russel Terriers were originally bred as fox-hunting dogs… So, that much energy.
Again, this begs the question. What do these dogs have in common that a Pug might be excluded from?These dogs are bred to be highly active both physically and mentally. When they’re forced to sit around the house while their owners are working or when they’re not properly trained, you can expect all that energy to go somewhere—but you won’t be happy with the results.
Early Puppy Years
During a young pup’s life, it learns how to play with the right amount of force, how to follow, how to love, and sometimes, how to lead. If not given the proper attention in its formative years, your dog could suffer by misunderstanding these. Because hyperactive behavior is common in large, active dogs, you can see how these misalignments of personality can suddenly come back with a bite.
A great tip for any growing pup is to get them around other dogs as much as possible. When they’re really little, be sure to keep the meetups small and intimate. As they age into their teens years (6 to 18 months), taking them to the dog park will give them plenty of time to socialize and learn the way of the pack.
Exercise and Training
You can imagine this scenario happens more frequently than you’d like to admit. An owner brings a Siberian Husky to the vet because they’re so high energy and hyperactive that they’re uncontrollable. The veterinarian may ask the owner how much physical activity the Husky receives a day.
“Plenty!” the dog owner might insist, “I walk him around the block every day!”
Again, knowing your dog’s breed—Siberian Huskies, when trained properly, can run up to 125 miles per day. You read that correctly. If you plan on owning a Husky, don’t be surprised if they have a bit more energy than you do.
Thus, the importance of physical and mental stimulation.
- Exercise – If you have a hyperactive dog, perhaps the number one important thing for you to do is to give them plenty of physical exercise. Wearing them out physically gives them a channel to focus all of their pent-up anxiety and energy. It also makes dog training sessions easier, sleeping more regular, and their digestive system healthier. Consistent, physical activity is an absolute must. And the lack thereof can be what’s causing the symptoms of hyperactivity.
- Training – After a rousing game of fetch, your dog would love to chow down. What a great time to keep them focused on the treat in your hand. Aha! Training sessions after exercise is a great way to keep your dog mentally stimulated. Despite the fact that “being untrainable” is one of the major symptoms of hyperactivity, your dog might just not have had the most suitable environment to learn.
Be sure to put into practice all that you see here, and don’t just focus solely on the training aspect. Doing so could lead to impatience, which can backfire on your dog training sessions.
Note: Training high energy dogs isn’t easy. Don’t hesitate to talk to a certified dog trainer to pick up some pointers!
Your dog’s diet should be aligned with their physical exercise if you want to see positive results in their behavior. If after reading this you start to throw the tennis ball a little farther, a little more often, be sure to compensate by adding an extra helping of food to their diet.
Additionally, it’s important to ensure they’re receiving key nutritional complexes and daily vitamins and minerals for proper brain, gut, muscle, and joint health. Be sure that the dog food you’re buying is targeting each of these areas. If you’re unsure, supplementing through Vetericyn’s ALL-IN is a great way to get everything your dog needs into their body.
Above all else (yes, even above exercise alone), a structured environment is critical. It’s all of these combined into one. It’s exercise at 5:45 PM every single day. It’s bedtime at 9:15 PM and breakfast at 6:00 AM.
What is this strict regimen doing for your dog? It’s removing all extraneous stress. Your dog doesn’t understand that you had a long night and that breakfast won’t be served until three hours later than usual. Your dog won’t know that they were “supposed to” hold in their bowel movement just five more minutes and then you would have let them out.
Offering your dog a structured environment allows them to know what, when, and where. It allows them to live a relatively stress-free life.
“My Dog is Still Uncontrollable!”
So, you’ve tried everything. Your dog now wears itself out on a daily basis, he or she receives training from a certified trainer, they’re on the best diet money can buy, and every minute of their day has been accounted for, but still “My dog is uncontrollable!”
While dog hyperactivity is overdiagnosed, according to Whole Dog Journal, hyperactivity does exist for certain dogs
After the proper amount of lifestyle changes, it’s perfectly reasonable to visit your veterinarian about stimulants to calm your dog.
Stimulants For The Over-Stimulated
It may seem backward, stimulating a dog that can’t seem to be anything but over-stimulated. But the effects work the same as they do for children of ADHD. The trick to understanding this is identifying that “over-stimulation” is from “self-stimulation.” The child who is always fidgeting and the dog who is unable to pay attention for long periods of time are both stimulating themselves.
Thus, when you administer stimulants to your dog’s body, the need for self-stimulation goes away. They’re able to act normal again.
This is the final and defining test for dogs with hyperkinesis: Do they become calmer on stimulants? A backward, yet eye-opening test.
Hyperactivity in Dogs
It can certainly be frustrating having a dog with far too much energy. They can be seemingly ineffectual or over-affectionate. They can ignore every command, and they can even be a liability near small children due to their frenetic energy.
To give them the best opportunity for a normal healthy life, it’s important to physically and mentally stimulate them as much as they need. This means taking into account their breed and having the patience needed to overcome any of their puppyhood adversity.
Hyperactivity is not an unresolvable issue. By knowing the symptoms, you can take the proper measures to regulate your dog’s behavior.
- Psychology Today. Can Dogs Suffer From ADHD? https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/canine-corner/201801/can-dogs-suffer-adhd
- Three Million Dogs. 7 Most Hyperactive Dog Breeds. https://3milliondogs.com/3-million-dogs/7-hyperactive-dog-breeds/
- Whole Dog Journal. Think Your Dog Has ADHD? https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/behavior/think-your-dog-has-adhd/
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.