How to Control and Calm Down a Hyperactive Dog

by K Marie Alto January 05, 2022 8 min read

How to Control and Calm Down a Hyperactive Dog

Some dogs are calm and casual, preferring to enjoy their time cuddling and wandering to and fro. Others are hyperactive, high-energy bundles of excitement. Anyone who has spent time with such a high-energy canine knows just how much of a handful they can be. And any pet parent who has such a hyperactive fur baby understands the challenges posed just getting them to calm down.

Luckily, there are some ways to wear them out, calm them down, and give yourself a moment of peace. The trick is finding a method that works for your furry friend. Here are some of the best options you can try out.

Understand the Breed Baseline of your Dog

The first thing you need to do is understand your fur baby's breed baseline. The breed baseline is the amount of activity your furry friend needs on a daily basis, based on breed characteristics.

Understand Breed Baseline

For example, Greyhounds, despite being known for their bursts of speed, tend to spend much of their day lounging around.

"They are also known as “40-mph couch potatoes” because while they are fast, they also enjoy resting at home. At home, the Greyhound is a gentle and laid-back dog that appreciates a comfortable place to sleep. Greyhounds are good with calm children and most family dogs." - Village Veterinary Clinic.

Hounds like Basset Hounds, Bulldogs, Pugs, Whippets, and Mastiffs are all generally low-energy breeds. They will have their high-energy moments and may get the zoomies when you take them out for a walk or to the park, but once you bring them home, they'll be more than happy to snuggle up and doze the day away.

On the other hand, some breeds are exceptionally high-energy. Breeds like Border Collies and Huskies are used to spending all day out running around, whether herding, pulling a sled, or performing other tasks as working dogs. Australian Shepherds, Jack Russells, and Dalmatians are also high-energy breeds. They'll need a lot more daily activity to keep them settled and happy.

Further, age is also another important factor in the baseline. Younger dogs, and especially puppies, have a lot more energy, while senior dogs don't have as much energy to spare. Really, they're just like people in that respect.

In some cases, a "hyperactive" dog might just be a dog with a natural energy level that needs more enrichment and activity to burn through that energy every day.  

Ensure your Dog has Plenty of Play Throughout the Day

An unfortunate fact of life is that a lot of us are required to spend hours every day working, and those are hours our furry friends have to spend cooped up at home, finding their own way to pass the time. Many of them get their rest during these times and want to play, walk, run, and have fun with their pet parents when you finally get home from work.

Of course, by then, you're already worn out, not to mention all the home tasks and chores that you still need to do, so you might not be giving them the attention and activity they need.

Plenty of Play

Try to find ways to take breaks and bring your fur baby on walks, play fetch, play tug of war with a rope toy, or otherwise burn some of that energy in bits throughout the day. If you aren't able to come home throughout the day to care for your fur baby, you might benefit from hiring a mid-day pet sitter or dog walker.

Play Fun Brain Games with your Dog

One of the best things you can do to calm down an energetic dog is give their minds something to do, not just their bodies. Many energetic canines have enough pent-up energy to spend 12+ hours straight doing nothing but playing fetch until their bodies can't handle it anymore. Even then, their minds might still be active, leading to restlessness, barking, and other behavioral issues.

The trick is to do more than just play fetch. Give them exercises or tasks – or even jobs – that work their minds. The brain consumes a lot more energy than the body, especially in a dog.

Work Their Minds

So, what kinds of activities can you use to work their noggins?

  • Hide and Seek. You've all seen the viral YouTube videos of people hiding from their dogs, but you may not know this is more than just a light-hearted prank; it's a valuable game to play. Tell your fur baby to sit and stay, then go hide. Once you're hidden, give them a call, and encourage them to find you.

  • Treasure Hunt. Set up a treat, like a toy full of peanut butter, and show it to your furry friend. Once again, tell them to stay, and go hide it. Then, tell them to find it. Their powerful sense of smell will help guide them to the treasure and looking for it gives their mind something to do.
  • Shell Games. Get three opaque cups and a few bits of kibble or treats. Show a treat, then put it under a cup. Move the cups around (as fast or slow as necessary to challenge your fur baby) and see if they can find it. Repeat a few times.
  • Stop and Go. Ever played red-light green-light? Well, do the same thing with your canine companion. Alternate between "stay" and "come" commands, guiding your fur baby across the room or the yard. As an added bonus, this can also help with impulse control.
  • Named Fetch. Instead of just tossing an item and waiting for your furry friend to retrieve it, place a few items strategically around the house. Then, tell your good boy or girl to go get it for you. You have to train them to know what the item is by name, of course, but once you do, the toys and other items can be a great way to challenge the mind.
  • Dog Puzzles. There are dozens of products on the market such as gadgets full of hidden alcoves and small puzzles. Hide treats and let your fur baby wrap their brain around it, trying to find them all. Just make sure to try out a few different puzzles until you find one that's not too easy or frustratingly hard.

Finally, you can try a simple restraint and patience game. The easiest one is to take a treat and balance it on your fur baby's nose. Don't let them have it! At least, not right away. Spend some amount of time – a minute or two, usually – making them wait for it. The patience and restraint they show is great training for behavior as well as mental exercise resisting the impulse. You can also do the same thing with fetch by making them wait to go after the ball.

"...But active, smart breeds can also benefit from something to do on a regular basis that involves both physical and mental activity. Performance events such as fieldwork, herding, lure coursing, and dock diving are perfect for canine athletes. AKC activities such as obedience, agility, and rally also provide the perfect combo of the physical and mental stimulation needed for the active dog." – American Kennel Club

There are a lot of different things you can do to get your fur baby to burn off that excess energy, and many of them are much more effective than physical exertion alone. Plus, remember; even if you tire out their bodies, if their minds are still active, they can still get into trouble.

Instill the Right Habits in Your Dog by Encouraging the Desired Behaviors

One of the hardest parts of training an overactive dog is behavioral reinforcement.

When your fur baby comes to you full of energy, what do you do? Do you pet them, play with them, praise them? Many of us do, but that might send the wrong message.

In this situation, what you're doing is reinforcing that specific behavior. If your fur baby displays energetic activity and gets praised for it, this tells your pup that the behavior they just displayed is good and that they should do it more often. This can even make more relaxed dogs act more hyperactive because they know it gets them attention and praise.

Dog Habit Forming

Now, you can't just across-the-board scold your fur baby for being active, either. That can lead to fidgety, nervous, scared, or otherwise frustrated dogs. Active punishment is generally bad, but you can try ignoring, gently pushing away, and avoiding engaging with a hyperactive dog when it's inappropriate to do so. Conversely, when they're being calm and patient, that's when you should give them praise.

"When your dog is in a calm, submissive state, then you can give affection and attention, which will reinforce that state. If your dog is treat-motivated, then reward his behavior when he is calm. Through a combination of ignoring excited behavior and rewarding calm behavior, you will help your dog to naturally and instinctively move into the calmer state." – Cesar's Way.

Again, this should tie back into your canine companion's breed baseline. At a certain point, you won't be able to make your dog any calmer. The goal isn't to train them out of having energy or being active; it's to train them to channel that energy when it's appropriate. Encourage high-energy play and activity when outside, at the dog park, on walks, or in other situations where they can expend all of that energy. Discourage it when you're resting on the couch, cooking dinner, or getting ready for bed.

Consider CBD: A Holisitc Approach to Calming your Dog

If your canine companion is legitimately hyperactive to the extent that it's causing behavioral problems and other health concerns, you might want to look into other ways to help soothe the behavior.

One such option that has been growing in popularity among pet parents seeking natural and holistic approaches to help their dogs with all sorts of ailments is CBD. CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive compound in hemp. The keyword here is “non-psychoactive” which means, it will not get your dog or cat high.  CBD oil is being used more and more to help with a variety of ailments in people as well as animals. As you may have heard before, one of the biggest benefits of CBD is actually the ability to calm you down. 

CBD may help cats and dogs relax as well; it's been known to calm nervousness, situational stress, situational anxiety (such as pet separation anxiety) and reduce energy levels.

Giving Dog CBD Oil

CBD works by helping dogs restore their natural balance. If you're concerned about CBD, don't be; it's known to be safe and many pet parents have found it effective, more so than other alternatives, in fact.

There are still a lot of ongoing studies, so there isn't much medical backing for CBD’s efficacy quite yet, but that is expected to change drastically in the coming years.

"Currently, there has been no formal study on how CBD affects dogs. What scientists do know is that cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid receptors located in the central and peripheral nervous systems, which help maintain balance in the body and keep it in a normal healthy state." - American Kennel Club.

You can learn more detail about using CBD in dogs in our prior blog post.  We discuss the ins and outs of how CBD works, what it does, and how long it lasts. You might find that it's a great option to help calm down your over-active pup.

Avoid Restrictions

One of the worst things you can do for an overactive dog is try to restrict them physically. We've all seen and been repulsed by the stories of people chaining their dog to a tree and ignoring them for hours or locking them in a crate and leaving them there all day. That's no way for a fur baby to live!

Physically Restricted Dog

These kinds of conditions are inhumane and as you might expect, ineffective. They do nothing to settle down a dog; instead, they just lead to more pent-up energy. This can end with a dog that hurts itself trying to chew on a crate, develops potty issues, gains nervous tics, and other problems.  

Your Stories

Your Dog Stories

Have you spent time with a high-energy dog breed or just a dog with a lot of excess energy and hyperactivity? If so, how have you dealt with it in the past? We're always happy to hear your stories. What fun and enriching tasks or puzzles have you had success in using before? Let us know in the comments below.

K Marie Alto
K Marie Alto

K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 19K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-).

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