Crazy. Hyper. Out of control. Spaz. Stubborn little #*@!.
All terms we like to use when referring to dogs who bounce off the walls, tear up the furniture, blow us off because they’re too full of energy, or just never seem to chill out.
Whatever we call it, what do we do about it? The usual advice from well meaning friends, strangers and TV shows is exercise. Exercise, exercise, exercise. And they’re sort of right – to a point. Exercise is only one piece of the puzzle. The solution requires more than that, including these two “tricks” that don’t get talked about as much but that are just as important.
Reward your dog for doing nothing
What do you most want from your hyper dog? You want him to be calm and stay out of trouble, right? But when your dog does this, you ignore him. He gets all the attention when he misbehaves.
Think about it.
You’re going about your day. Fido is lying on the floor, maybe chewing a dog toy or just watching the world go by. Good dog! This is EXACTLY what you want him to be doing! But you are busy doing other things, so you don’t really notice him.
An hour later, Fido gets bored. He goes and looks for something to do. Maybe he tries stealing food off the counter, or barking at the neighbors, or jumping on the kids. Now he suddenly has your full and complete attention!
Any behavior that gets ewarded is likely to be repeated. Don’t wait until Fido is misbehaving to give him attention. Instead, make an effort to notice those times when he is “doing nothing:” sitting quietly, chilling out on the floor. Reward him with a treat, petting, or a toy.
Ditch the food bowl
A lot of hyperactivity is caused by the dog being bored out of her mind. Equally important as exercise, dogs need lots of mental stimulation to be happy. “Mental stimulation” simply means something to do that requires brain power.
Dogs love to work, and if you don’t give them a job, they’ll find their own. They’ll choose unpleasant things like barking at visitors or rearranging your flower bed. The best way to employ your dog is to have her work for her food. This is a natural task, after all. There are no bowls full of kibble in the wild.
In the morning, ration out a day’s worth of dog food. Instead of dumping it in a bowl at mealtimes, use it for short training sessions throughout the day. Also use it to reward your dog for doing nothing, as talked about above. Whatever you don’t use for training should be put into food-dispensing toys, like Kongs or Buster Cubes. These toys are great because they force Sparky to use her brain, something that, unfortunately, most pet dogs don’t get to do very often.