It’s one of the most commonly reported behavioral concerns of Canine Good Citizen (CGC) and AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy dog owners. The complaint is that the dog is “hyper” or “too active.”
In most cases, the problem is really that the dog owner needs some education, and the dog may need a more suitable daily schedule and exercise plan.
Here are some tips for the owner of an energetic dog that is hard to calm down.
1. Know your breed
“My dog is too active and won’t settle down at night when we watch television,” said one dog owner who called the CGC department. After asking some questions, we learned that the dog was a Border Collie whose owners worked all day. When they came home, the dog was taken for a walk on a leash. We explained that Border Collies can run all day herding sheep and we helped the owner develop a more appropriate exercise plan for this active herding breed. For active breeds, a walk on a leash may not do the trick. Consider fetching and running games in a fenced yard or a dog park where the dog can run. If you are away from home in the daytime for long periods of time, doggie daycare may be a suitable option for your dog.
2. Provide adequate daily exercise
In AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy, STAR is an acronym that stands for Socialization, Training, Activity, and a Responsible owner. Activity means exercise and in STAR classes, instructors talk to dog owners about their daily exercise plans for their puppies. CGC Evaluator Karen Vance described in the book, “AKC STAR Puppy: A Positive Behavioral Approach to Puppy Training”, how she had her students bring an exercise plan for their dogs to class. When Karen looked at the plan for a German Shepherd Dog who was jittery and could not focus, she said a light bulb went off. She worked with the dog owners to modify the exercise plan and within two weeks, the puppy was a different dog.
3. Teach practical skills
Once you’ve met the exercise needs of an active dog, functional Canine Good Citizen skills such as sit, down and stay can be used to manage your dog. When company comes and the dog can’t “settle,” a down-stay is often just what is needed to help the dog become calm.
4. Give the dog a job
In the case of the Border Collie above, increased exercise helped a lot. 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.
5. Don’t forget the veterinary check
If you’ve put an appropriate exercise plan in place for your dog’s age and breed, and the dog continues to appear overactive, a veterinary check-up is in order. While most of the time, exercise, training, and activities are the issue, there are medical conditions that can cause hyperactivity. Your dog’s veterinarian can do a comprehensive medical exam to rule out any problems.