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How Do I Deal with my Hyperactive Dog?

Updated on May 1, 2013
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So, you recently brought home a brand new dog. Maybe it’s an adult dog you adopted from a shelter, or perhaps a puppy you got from a breeder who’s now approaching adulthood. You’ve bought him food, a bed, some toys, and you’ve taken him to obedience classes. He’s sweet, loyal, and you adore him. There’s just one problem: he can’t calm down.

An apparently hyperactive dog is not an uncommon challenge for pet owners. Many dogs—especially certain breeds designed to be high in energy—have trouble adjusting to the quiet, family lifestyle their owners prefer. They may bark constantly, chew up the furniture or other household items, jump up on family members and visitors, and haul away on the end of their leash, dragging you along behind them. It seems that no matter how much you try, you just can’t get your dog to calm down and sit still.

But don’t despair. Very few dogs are ever classified as hopeless cases, and there are a number of things you can try to remedy the situation. Here are a few tactics you may not have considered:

1. Get him moving. If your dog spends most of his time cooped up inside the house, it’s likely he just needs to burn some excess energy. Try taking him for long walks or even runs once or twice a day. If there’s a time of day he tends to me more active when he really needs to be quiet (like during dinner time, for instance) schedule a highly active playtime for him just beforehand. Take him out into the backyard and let him run around for a bit, then enjoy your quiet time while he’s lying down for a rest.

2. Let him out. Again, if your dog spends most of his day inside, try changing tactics and letting him out. Do you have a backyard? Leave him outside during the day so he can get some fresh air and move around a little. Make sure you leave him with plenty of water, and also consider leaving out a few interesting toys so that he’ll have something to do. Many pet stores sell challenging toys that require a dog to mess around with it and figure out how to gain access to a treat hidden inside. If you don’t have a fenced-in yard but do have a backyard, consider installing an “invisible fence” so your dog can still go out during the day.

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3. Find a babysitter. If you work long hours or are unable to take your dog out as often as you like, find someone who can baby sit. A friend or neighbor might be able to take him out for an afternoon walk every day while you’re not home. You can also search for a doggie day care program in your area. Like daycare for children, these programs allow owners to leave their dogs at their facility during the day so that they can have attention, training, and playtime while their owners are at work.

4. Find a new trainer. If you’ve been trying to train your dog but nothing seems to get through to him, consider getting a trainer. Many people assume they can train a dog easily on their own, but it’s often quite a challenge and it might be a good idea to get some professional assistance. If you already have a trainer, consider a different one. It’s possible that your current dog trainer just isn’t a good fit for your dog. Talk to fellow dogs owners and your vet about trainers they know and recommend. Do your research to see if any of the trainers in your area specialize in your dog’s breed or specific problems.

5. Give him something to do. Finally, it’s possible that your dog is just bored. Many breeds, like herding and hunting dogs, are designed to be high in energy and in intelligence in order to do their jobs well. If their main job right now is lying on the living room rug, they’re likely feeling bored and suffering from a case of cabin fever. Consider finding something more challenging for your dog to do that will occupy both their body and their mind. This could be agility training, a volunteer search and rescue program, fun tricks and tasks you can do at home, or anything else that requires more focus from your dog. More advanced training will also teach him to be better behaved, and it can be fun for you, too. Again, contact local trainers or your vet to ask about local resources and, if there are any events happening in your area, attend one to learn what it’s all about.

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If your dog is a little—or a lot—out of control, consider everything above before you start to get truly concerned. It may take some time before you find the right solution, but with patience and dedication you will get there.

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