Overactive Dogs

Download this handout as a PDF at the bottom of this page.

Provide adequate amount of physical exercise:

  • Daily, brisk walks; play fetch; tug of war; play dates with other dogs
  • Be aware that dogs overheat quickly and limit activity during the heat of the day.
  • If your dog is not physically fit, slowly condition your dog to increased physical activity by taking more frequent short walks. Increase distance gradually.

Provide mental stimulation:

  • Feed from interactive toys instead of a bowl.
  • Use positive reinforcement training methods. Punishment-based training produces more stress for your dog and is likely to make him/her even more nervous
  • Hold multiple short training sessions during the day.
  • Play scent games. Dogs rely on their sense of smell a lot, so it takes a lot of energy to use their noses!

Provide enough resting time:

  • Dogs do best when activity is alternated with undisturbed down time.
  • Respect their space. Sometimes your dog may not want to be petted. Pet your dog briefly and observe his/her reaction: If he/she moves away, stop petting and give your dog some space.

Be aware of your actions:

  • Dogs prefer long, firm strokes down the back from neck to tail.
  • Gentle touching and massage will make your dog calmer than fast patting or pounding on the side.
  • Adjust your expectations. Each dog is different – the dog you have now probably has a different personality from your childhood canine friend.
  • Don’t lose your composure when your dog misbehaves in public. He/she will pick up on your stress levels!

Provide a good diet:

  • Be aware that your dog’s diet may affect his or her behavior.
  • Discuss any diet change with your veterinarian to make sure it is safe and meets the individual nutritional needs of your dog.

Many of these tips are discussed in depth in the book “Chill Out Fido! How to Calm Your Dog” by Nan Kené Arthur. The book also provides descriptions of exercises that will help you provide an outlet for your dog’s extra energy.

If you are new to dog training or prefer to get one-on-one help, don’t hesitate to contact a certified professional dog trainer (they will have the letters CPDT-KA behind their names), such as the trainers of the Dog Door, Dog-Ed, or Pet Behavior Aid.

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