Hey! This is an old article. There’s a much better version available now. Check it out: How to Live With a High-Energy Dog Without Losing Your Mind
Many dogs are turned in to animal shelters because of behavior problems caused by hyperactivity. Shelters are full of dogs that barked, dug up the garden, chewed everything in sight and generally made a nuisance of themselves, all because they were too full of energy without a proper way to release it.
Here are five ways to calm your crazy mutt:
If you want a well-behaved dog, you need to exercise him. A long walk in the morning, 30-60 minutes, and then a shorter walk in the evening after work is ideal. You don’t need to make it too fast-paced; you can let Fido stop and smell the roses. In addition to stretching his legs, all the fascinating smells will stretch his brain, too. Helps keep him from going stir crazy at home.
During the day, play a vigorous game of fetch or frisbee to really wear Fido out. If no one is home during the day to play with him, consider hiring a dog walker or even a doggy daycare so that Fido doesn’t lose his marbles while you’re gone.
2. Build a routine
Hyperactivity is often a result of insecurity on the dog’s part. This is especially true of adopted dogs who may have moved around a lot in their past and have had little if any structure in their lives. Dogs thrive on routine. Developing a daily routine gives your dog an idea of what to expect life to be like and can calm his nerves. A routine might go something like this:
Early morning: walk, breakfast, a game of fetch, then inside for a few hours while everyone is at work or school.
Afternoon: Someone, either owner or dog walker, comes to let Fido out and play a quick game with him.
Evening: Family eats dinner, dog eats dinner, then a walk.
You don’t need to write a detailed schedule for how every day will go, but having some consistency in your daily life can have a powerful positive effect for your dog.
See: A Simple Daily Routine to Help Calm Hyper Dogs and Solve Behavior Problems
3. Puzzle toys
Put your dog’s brain power to good use. Get a few toys that require your dog to think. Toys like Kongs and Buster Cubes allow you to load them up with your dog’s kibble or favorite treats, keeping him occupied for a while while he manipulates the toy to make it dispense his food. You can feed your dog his entire meal this way.
See: Puzzle Toys: A Beginner’s Guide to the Most Useful Dog Toys Ever
4. Obedience or trick training
Obedience training builds a common language between you and your dog. It’s another way to calm his nerves, as it teaches him how the world expects him to behave. Learning new skills is also a great way to exercise Fido’s brain.
See: Dog Training 101: How to Teach Your Dog to do Practically Anything
5. Learn a new sport or game
Getting involved in a dog sport like agility, flyball, freestyle or disc dog is a great way to build the bond between you and Fido. It provides physical and mental exercise all at once. However, formal training for some sports can be expensive and time-consuming.
If you want the benefits without getting seriously involved in a sport, you can set up home built agility obstacle courses in the backyard, play Frisbee just for fun, or teach your dog to play games like hide and go seek (especially fun to play with kids).
The trick is in the balancing act
It’s possible to have a dog who knows all kinds of tricks and obedience commands but is still bouncing off the walls because he never goes for a walk or gets any real exercise. On the flipside, your dog can go for an hour-long run every morning but still be bored because he never gets any other mental stimulation.
To achieve the best results, the above five factors should be put together in a combination that works best for you and your dog. Some dogs need less walk-time but could spend all day learning new tricks. Others would prefer to play with smart toys for hours. You know your dog best: work out a balance that you and Fido are comfortable with.