Do you have a hyperactive dog that never seems to settle down? Try these calming activities to help mellow her out.
It’s not hard to spot a hyperactive dog. They are easily distracted, always wiggling around and have a hard time calming down, even in the quietest of environments. Some get so excited that they’ll pant, drool, bark and whine, especially when faced with new situations. Hyperactive dogs have seemingly unlimited energy.
Occasional excitement is, of course, totally normal, and most dogs display some level of exuberance from time to time. The problems arise when it becomes excessive and unjustified, and it becomes difficult to bring their excitement levels back down.
It’s important to understand what works for your particular pooch when it comes to their hyperactivity. Certainly 20-30 minutes of brisk daily walking is a great start, but it isn’t a cure on its own. If no other measures are taken, you’ll end up with a very fit dog who still can’t self-settle. The same thing applies to stimulating toys – unless the dog learns to settle on her own, she’ll simply fly through the puzzles and be overly excited to start the next.
So, while it’s important to incorporate sufficient mental stimulation and physical exercise into your dog’s daily life, it’s also vital to teach her how to settle herself down.
Before you try these calming activities for your hyperactive pup, make sure you have plenty of yummy, pea-sized treats on hand. Hyperactive dogs are typically pretty lean, but if your dog has any weight issues, be sure to choose low-fat treats. Fruits and veggies such as small chunks of carrot or apple work great.
Whenever you engage in these calming activities with your dog, try to avoid making any sudden or fast movements, or high pitched, rapid sounds – basically don’t do anything that could create an excitable response. Instead, speak softly, move slowly and take slow, deep breaths.
1. Reward the rest
Most caretakers of a hyperactive dog understandably breathe a sigh of relief when their dog finally settles down – and the last thing they want to do is engage with them for fear of triggering another hyper episode. However, once they are lying quietly, the best thing you can do is to reinforce this behavior by rewarding it. It’s much easier to do this than to convince an excitable dog to calm down.
So, while she’s lying quietly, lightly and slowly stroke your pup. Then, slowly reach for a treat and place it gently either in or close to your dog’s mouth. The goal is to reward her calm disposition without disturbing it.
As long as your dog remains calm and quiet, you can continue rewarding her. If she stands up and wags her tail, you’ve overdone it. If this happens, ignore her until she lies back down, then reward her again. Dogs soon learn that calmly lying down equals treats, and you should soon see more of this behavior if you’re consistent.
2. Leave it
Teaching a dog to ignore something she desperately wants is an extremely valuable method of training. With this calming game, you can teach your dog to control her own behavior in order to obtain a treat.
Hold a yummy treat in your closed hand, and then place it right next to your pup’s mouth. Initially, she will attempt to get to the treat by licking your hand. As soon as she stops licking and moves away from your hand, open it and allow her to take the treat.
After a few rounds, you should notice your dog sitting still and even refusing to touch the hand that bears the treat. She has learned that by ignoring the treat and your hand, she gets what she wants.
3. Read aloud
You may have heard of programs that are aimed at enhancing the reading abilities of children by having them read books to dogs from shelters. As well as improving the children’s reading skills, this also teaches dogs how to settle and calm themselves down.
Try reading to your own excitable pooch. Use a six-foot lead to leash her close, find a comfy spot and read aloud to her for 15 minutes.
At first, it is likely that your dog will whine, pace about, and have a hard time settling down, but simply ignore this behavior and keep reading, maintaining an even, soothing tone. After approximately 10 minutes, most dogs have begun to settle and control their restlessness. Ideally, read to her every day, but if that’s not feasible, a couple of times a week should still make a world of difference.
Hyperactive dogs are also often anxious dogs, and providing them with a calming place to snuggle up can help lower their anxiety. There are even calming beds specifically designed to help anxious dogs to feel safe, warm and secure, allowing them to settle more easily.
The above ideas are just a few ways you can use calming activities to shape your dog’s behavior. Our own stress levels pique when trying to calm a hyperactive dog, so by rewarding calm behavior and encouraging her to self-settle, both you and your dog win!