We all want our dogs to be well behaved, as then they are a joy to be around, and make having a pet easier. But that isn’t always the case. Sometimes, our dogs are ill-mannered, which can cause stress for all parties involved, and even be downright dangerous.
While misbehaving can be the result of various issues, one of the most common reasons is hyperactivity, according to professional dog trainer and handler Joe McCarter.
From this problem often stems a host of other issues — aggression, barking, jumping, chewing, you name it.
McCarter says hyperactivity most often stems from boredom.
The reason being is that most dogs need a job. This job can be herding sheep, but it can also be playing ball or taking a walk. What your dog does doesn’t matter—what matters is that he does it in a way that that stimulates him both mentally and physically.
If your dog is exhibiting hyperactivity and you are looking for a solution, here are tips to help you solve the issue.
1. Figure out the ‘why.’
Understanding the reasons behind your dog’s behaviors can also go a long way. For example, if your dog barks to let you know someone is at the door, keep in mind that he is not trying to misbehave, says McCarter. Many dog breeds, in fact, were developed for this specific task. Ask him to relax, and praise him for doing his job. Then send him to sit and wait in a predetermined place until you release him, McCarter recommends.
2. Be intentional.
Try focusing on a goal, rather than engaging in aimless play. For example, when you play fetch, ask your dog to bring the ball back and sit, then wait to be released before charging off after the ball, says McCarter.
You can also mix things up by asking your dog to go over a jump, or something similar. Use your imagination, and above all, keep it fun. According to McCarter, your dog will be more likely to listen to you if he enjoys the lessons and knows that he will get your love and attention in return for his obedience.
3. Get your dog to calm down.
There are simple training techniques that can help you settle your dog. “Start with the basics,” said McCarter. “Sit, stay, lie down, and a recall are the most important.”
Teaching your dog these simple commands will do two things: It will give your dog the mental stimulation he so desperately needs, and give you more control.
“’Relax’ [as a command] is also great,” said McCarter. “Once the dog learns to lie down and stay, lie him in a dog bed or someplace comfy and have him stay using ‘relax’ as the word cue.”
The goal of this exercise is to teach your dog that it is okay to lay down and just rest. Once your dog learns to associate the cue with the feeling of lying down in a comfortable place, you will be able to use the command to calm him when he is being difficult.
4. Help your dog focus when you are gone.
Often, the destructive behaviors happen when you are gone. While every situation is unique, a good starting point is to leave your dog for short periods of time and gradually work up to longer periods.
Depending on your dog, you may also have to leave her in a crate, versus letting her have free roam of your home. Also, consider giving her Kongs or other interactive toys or puzzles to keep her distracted.
“Kong toys, filled with a favorite treat, are great,” says McCarter. “Just make sure not to leave anything that can be chewed into pieces because it can be a choking hazard.”
In some cases, your dog’s hyperactivity could need a medical solution. If training doesn’t work, you should see your vet to make sure there isn’t an underlying problem. He or she may be able to recommend a treatment.
With patience and a bit of creativity, it is possible to solve the problem of a hyperactive dog. Dogs who are hyperactive are, in their own way, telling us that they need something, be it more attention or an outlet for pent-up energy. The most important thing, as their leaders and protectors, is to listen.