A hyperactive dog is usually not in the ‘mood’ for learning, so any training techniques we try on them could fail to modify their behavior. Young puppies are usually hyperactive but that reduces with age, proper training, regular exercise, a good diet, mental stimulation, adequate socialization, and neutering or spaying. However, many pet parents still end up with an energetic and hyper ‘teenager’ on their hands. This may be, in part, due to the dog’s genetics; certain hyperactive dog breeds may have been involved in the pet’s development. These breeds are genetically predisposed to be excited and are typically herding or hunting dogs. Most of these behaviors can be handled with proper training, good nutrition, and the right environment.
These days, there are dog calming treats available for hyper dogs as well as for dogs with separation anxiety. However, most of these contain CBD oil or hemp which are not always legal in many states. Training a dog to calm down and settle down is the best way to manage hyperactivity in puppies and adult dogs.
Hyperactive dog symptoms
How do you know your puppy is hyperactive? Is it a normal part of growing up? Can training help calm down the puppy? Will his hyperactivity reduce with age? All these questions can be answered by a canine behaviorist or your vet. As a pet parent, it helps to know what the common hyperactivity symptoms are. This way, you can discuss them with the experts and get the necessary inputs.
Canine hyperactivity disorder symptoms can be seen at an early age. It is not limited to the normal curiosity that a puppy shows of wanting to sniff everything. Canine hyperactivity disorder has the following symptoms:
- Excessive nervous energy
- Fast heartbeat
- Increased breathing rate
- Constant barking
- Constant movements
Helpful tips when teaching a puppy to calm down
Understand the breed and genetics of your pet
Some breeds are prone to excitability and hyperactivity. These dogs are best suited for hunting and herding and they need a job to do. When you understand this, you will be better able to understand your pet’s hyperactivity. Irish Setters, Boxers, Border Collies, and Dalmatians are high energy dogs that are prone to hyperactivity.
Treat at the right time
Treating and rewarding is one of the best ways to calm a puppy down. After all; dogs will do anything for attention. But, it is very important to reward or treat a hyperactive dog when he is calm. There can be a split second when your hyper dog calms down and that is when you treat them. But if you treat him thinking that treating will calm him down, it won’t work. That might even reinforce the hyper behavior and your dog will be dancing and jumping up and down at the sight of the treat. It is very important that you ignore this behavior.
Spay/neuter your pet
Spaying and neutering your dog can prevent sexual arousal-related hyperactivity. If your pet is in the hyper-arousal state, he is not open to learning new things. So calm him down first before attempting to train. Speak to your vet about the right time to spay or neuter a hyperactive puppy. And do check out our guide on caring for a pet after spaying/neutering. Most dogs calm down after this surgery.
Avoid environmental stimulants
Some dogs can get hyperactive if there are hyperactive children around. Also, if you are in the habit of greeting your pet excitably each time you come home, then your dog will learn to show hyperactive behavior.
Provide adequate exercise
A hyperactive dog needs plenty of mental and physical stimulation. Once you know which breeds have contributed to your dog’s genetic makeup, you will understand exactly how much exercise they need. As a general rule, most dogs need at least 30-60 minutes of active exercise every day. You can also check out my guide on ‘Breed-specific exercise needs of a pet’. Your dog will also show you if he is tired and will slow down and ask to go home.
Try to give your pet a combination of aerobic exercise and mental stimulation in the form of chasing a ball, playing fetch, exploring new trails with different scents, etc. Note that dogs with canine hyperactivity disorder may continue to display hyperactivity symptoms, despite being tired and well-exercised. And, in some cases, too much exercise can also stress a dog out to the point that he displays hyperactivity.
Be aware of food additives
Hyperactivity in dogs is also linked to certain food additives. Some evidence also shows that high protein diets can also cause these symptoms. Your vet can give you the right advice on what to feed a hyperactive dog.
Treat stress and anxiety in your dog
Dogs can also get anxious and stressed and that could cause hyperactivity symptoms. Separation anxiety is seen in many breeds and especially in younger pets and abused dogs. These dogs bark, cry, whimper, urinate, chew furniture, scratch themselves, etc. To treat anxiety, speak to a vet about dog anxiety medication or dog calming treats.
Do check out my article on how to calm an anxious dog. You can also try herbal or natural calming remedies. Scullcap, chamomile, passionflower, Siberian ginseng, and valerian root have been known to calm very frantic animals. Homeopathic remedies like Aconite, Gelsemium, Belladonna, and Coffea can sometimes be beneficial. Bach flower remedies like Vervain, Agrimony, and White Chestnut can also calm a hyper dog.
How to teach a dog to settle down
The biggest challenge of training a hyper dog to settle down when he is excited is to get the timing right. You might treat your pet when s/he is calm for a few seconds between that excitement, and the very next moment, your doggo may start doing the ‘Tasmanian Devil’s Act’ of jumping up the walls! After all, it is natural for your pet to perceive the treat as a reward for its jumping acts.
Clicker training also comes in handy to teach an over-excited dog to calm down. Timing and consistency are paramount here: you must click the moment your dog shows calm behavior. Clicker training is a magically effective and gentle way to convince a dog to calm down. No physical punishment, no yelling, just clicks and treats for any pause in hyperactivity.
Use words like ‘Sit’, ‘Down’ or ‘Zen down’ during these training sessions. You can keep some food lure in your hand at your pet’s eye level. The key here is to get to connect with your dog without getting him too hyper. No pawing or jumping should be allowed during the session. Try to finish each session with success. Just make sure you reward and praise for calm. Intermittent periods of play with a ball or toy are fine but finish each session with calm behavior.
Hyperactivity in dogs can impact their cognitive behaviors. They are unable to control themselves or stop their frantic digging, running from room to room, or other repetitive activities. This can be daunting to pet owners. But getting upset and yelling will not do anything; your dog senses your mood and it will only agitate him further. Instead, give your pet a job to do. Long walks, running, and cycling with hyperactive dogs are known to help. You can also train him to calm down using the tips discussed above. Build an obstacle course in the back yard as that can provide him with the physical and mental stimulation he needs.