Calming the Over-Excitable Dog

By Gary Walker

Dogs are just naturally boisterous, excitable characters. However, if your dog is an out of control dynamo, it probably comes down to one of 3 things - not enough exercise, anxiety or leadership issues.

All of these have one common denominator. They are all within your control.

The Bored Dog

A common factor for many over-excitable dogs is that they are simply bored. The dog gets no regular physical or mental stimulation. He lays around all day waiting for your return, and when you arrive he explodes into action.

Tackling the problem is easy - exercise your dog. All dogs need it, and unfortunately too few get enough of it.

How much exercise do they need? That depends on breed, age and physical condition. If you have a Bulldog, you'll probably get away with a leisurely half-hour walk around the block daily, if you own a Husky, be prepared for 2-3 hours of high intensity work (at least!).

Dealing with Separation Anxiety

Many dogs that suffer from separation anxiety are prone to over-excitement. This is a condition that afflicts many "home-alone" dogs. It can be a difficult issue to overcome, but there are changes you can make right away to start addressing the problem.

  • Stop Rewarding Your Dog - By this I mean stop giving attention, whether positive or negative, while the dog is running around, jumping up and barking. Once the dog has calmed down, give attention and maybe a treat to re-enforce the desired behavior.
  • Vary Your Routine - Dogs are very tuned in to routines. Your dog will have noticed the ritual you go through every time you leave home. You probably don't even know you have a "departure routine", but your dog has noticed it, and it acts as a trigger for his anxiety. Deliberately varying your routine will break the trigger for his anxiety.
  • Restrict his access - Restrict your dog to a small area when you are not at home, maybe just one room. You may even want to buy a dog crate and train him to stay in the crate while you're away.
  • Provide a Distraction. Keeping your dog occupied while you're away will significantly reduce his anxiety. Something to chew on or a puzzle to solve, like a Kong toy, should work well.

Be the Leader

A dog that lacks leadership will always be on edge because he is uncertain of his role in the pack. Best way to address this? You could start by teaching him some basic obedience commands, like "sit" and "stay".

Training provides discipline and mental stimulation. It also establishes your leadership. Once your dog accepts this, he'll naturally calm down.

Applying these 3 principles will have a noticeable effect on your dog's hyper-active behavior. Keep in mind that not all dogs were created equal. Some dogs (and some breeds) are just by nature more boisterous than others.

Gary Walker
Article by Gary Walker
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