Trying to calm a hyperactive or over- exited dog can be very difficult! I have recently had builders on my property and have been really struggling with one of my dogs. She is a Griffon Bruxellois (or Brussels Griffon), not a breed that generally suffers from this problem. They are lively and alert but not usually hyper. I guess she’s the exception that proves the rule!
The solution to the problem will usually depend on what is causing the anxiety or hyperactivity. Some breeds are also just more prone to this type of behaviour than others. These would include the hunting and herding breeds.
There is also a difference between high-energy dogs and truly hyperactive dogs. A hyperactive dog can be defined as a dog who displays frenetic activity, abnormally short attention spans, and high impulsiveness, intense restlessness and a lot of panting. They can also display overbearing attention seeking behaviour. They also tend be very sensitive to changes in their environment and may overreact to unknown people or animals. On the other hand you may just have a high-energy dog that enjoys being active and on the go. Unfortunately this can sometimes progress to becoming hyperactivity if not managed.
Suggestions for calming a dog include:
Again the amount of exercise that could be helpful will depend to some extent on the breed. Try something like a nice long walk around the neighbourhood, or a good game of “fetch” in the yard. Larger breeds might enjoy going for a jog with you. And don’t forget swimming is also an excellent form of doggie exercise.
A mental challenge
Giving a dog a mental challenge may also help calm him down. Teach him “hide and seek” by hiding a couple of his favourite treats around the house and let him “hunt” them down! Or get him a treat dispensing toy that only dispenses the food after a certain function is performed. I have found that these type of activities and toys work best when you actually participate with your dog. Many of them are designed to keep the dog busy but with a hyperactive dog they tend to have short attention spans and a little direction from you will help keep them focused. Spending a little extra time each day training a new behaviour or “trick” can also help clam a dog down on a more on-going basis.
Your own stress levels may also be impacting on your dog’s hyperactivity. The type of energy or emotion you are putting out will be picked up and reflected by your dog. To calm a dog down you need to be projecting a calm, confident attitude.
Calming supplements and herbs
The well known human calming herb Lavender works well on many dogs too. This can be used in the form of an organic scented room spray, a couple of drops on his bedding or perhaps a drop on his collar. Scent is a major part of a dog’s world so use it to your (and his) benefit. Other supplements you could consider are Valerian or chamomile. There are many other types of products available to calm a dog such as canine pheromone containing sprays, calming chews, homoeopathic tablets, diffusers etc.
If it is a severe problem and a genuine canine hyperactivity issue you need to speak to your vet who will be able to prescribe tranquillizers or anti-anxiety meds depending on the exact problem. While in some cases medication is necessary remember that all medications can have side effects and you need to keep a close eye on your dog and contact your vet if you are at all concerned.