Every dog has their own personality and a lot of that personality comes from the breed of dog you’ve chosen to raise. However, you can never tell quite what you’re going to get and while much of the fun comes from discovering the dog’s personality as they grow, so does a lot of the difficulty dog owners face.
No struggle more keenly defines that than an owner discovering they’ve got a truly energetic dog on their hands where they didn’t expect one. If your dog is bouncing from couch to couch and constantly running from room to room, it can make it feel like you’re living in a madhouse. But there’s a lot you can do to learn to cope and live with a high-energy dog. We’re going to look at a few of your options now.
Embracing their nature
The relationship between a human and their dog is often going to be defined by how much of a personality match there is (or isn’t, in some cases). While most dogs find it easy to love and accept their owner, unconditionally, the same cannot be said for the inverse. It can be tough to accept your dog’s nature, especially if aspects of that nature cause you stress or give you more tidying up or work to do. But some breeds are simply more energetic than others and will always require more work. It’s up to you, as the rational, thinking partner in the relationship, to accept that it’s simply how some dogs are.
Why you should care
However, accepting that you have a high-energy dog does not mean letting that energy get out of control and excusing poor behavior. Indeed, too much pent-up energy in a dog can cause a lot of poor, and even dangerous, behavior. When they have too much energy to spare, dogs are a lot more likely to be rough in play and to find stimulation by working that energy off often in your furniture and in the home. They might tear up your cushions, your tables, any toys you give them. Kong makes a great line of dog products to help keep your dog busy and stimulated. Dogs that are seriously under stimulated can even show much more aggressive behavior to other dogs and humans. The more energy they have pent up, the harder they can be to control when they have an opportunity to release it.
Make sure you walk them enough
A huge part of keeping their energy levels in check is making sure that they’re getting enough exercise to work it off. The physical exercise aspect of the walk is one of the most important reasons to make sure that you do it every day without fail. Sites like Dog Time can help you figure out the specifics of how much exercise your dog needs. Depending on breed and weight it can differ hugely. Walks offer more than physical exercise, too, they offer all the unique sensory stimulation a dog could hope for. When they lack that stimulation, they get plagued by distraction instead, which can have them overreacting to every little thing in their home environment.
Take an exercise break
For a lot of dogs, the walk alone isn’t enough physical exercise, either. It’s as important, but they might need a few bouts of more high-intensity activity to make sure that they’re burning off enough energy. There are a lot of ways to exercise your dog, and finding a park or a big open field while walking can give you all the space and freedom you need to find the exercises that work for you and your pooch. You can run with them, you can set up an agility course or attend a class with them, you can play fetch. Finding a good place on your walking route to stop and take an exercise break can give your dog all the opportunity they need to work out plenty of that energy.
The importance of play
Playing with your dog is about more than having fun together. It provides more physical exercise, yes, and it can be used as a great substitute for other exercises. But often it gives the dog something to do. We know that after a walk you might not have the energy, yourself, to keep playing with your dog as much as you would like, at home. But there are automatic toys like the ball-throwers shown at Fast Dogs that can take a lot of the strain off the owner. It’s not too difficult to train the vast majority of dogs how to reload the ball themselves, either. Once they do, you can be relatively assured they’ll be able to continuously entertain themselves as long as they need.
Turn treats into a distraction
Toys don’t just require physical exercise, a lot of them provide mental exercise, as well. Dogs may not be as intelligent as humans, but they still have their own puzzle-solving and problem-solving abilities, even urges to solve puzzles, and without enough mental stimulation that distraction can set in again. Some of the best toys for inciting and rewarding the need for mental stimulation is the puzzle toys containing food as shown at Rover. Your dog can be distracted for a long time with a puzzle toy (and don’t worry if they’re slow to figure it out, it’s supposed to be a challenge). The treat they earn at the end gives them a more thorough sense of satisfaction for completing a puzzle, too, so they’re not left feeling like their instincts are going unrewarded.
Dealing with separation anxiety
Some dogs will experience incredibly high-energy moments only in specific situations. Many breeds are more prone to separation anxiety than others. This causes dogs to experience mental stress when their own is not with them, and when the owner returns, all that pent-up stress releases, often in the form of a lot of attention seeking, a lot of barking, and a lot of jumping up and down. There are ways to help your dog cope with separation anxiety, such as ensuring you keep greetings and farewells as low energy as possible, reward training them for not barking or howling when you’re away, or leaving distractions like a puzzle toy or even having the TV or radio on for them.
Teach them obedience
Discipline is just as important as giving them the right stimulation. Physical and mental exercises can manage their energy levels, but high-energy dogs may still be more prone to overreaction. The onus is on the owner to encourage a more measured and disciplined response. Training them on command, to heel, to sit, to stop barking, is most easily done with clicker training. Using an audio signal and a small, low-calorie treat for following your commands is one of the most effective training methods ever devised and the sooner you learn it, the sooner you can teach your dog all kinds of things.
Keep them occupied
Most dogs we know today weren’t just bred and selected to be pets and nothing else. Many of them have a hereditary role performing one job or another. Some are suited to tracking, others to hunting and catching small objects, others to stand guard. Those tasks are still in their genetic memory, buried deep inside them. Often, finding a way to help give them that job or to simulate it can give them a far more rewarding way to work off their energy. It keeps them focused, keeps them disciplined, and it simply feels good for the dog. Something Wagging gives some great examples of jobs you can give your dog, often depending on which breed they are and what jobs their ancestors might have once had, too.
Dress them for the job they want
How effective this tip is, exactly, is up for debate. But there are many who will argue that equipping your dog with a backpack, as shown Ruff Wear, makes them feel like they have a job to do and that they should focus on doing it. Regardless of how true it is, a dog backpack has plenty of uses, from helping them carry their own gear, including poop bags and toys on a walk, and even a bottle of water for the both of you.
Look at your own energy
When talking about separation anxiety, how you react to greeting or leaving your dog influences their behavior. The same goes in a much more general sense. If you spend time being high-energy with your dog, playing with them, making a fuss, and making noise, don’t be surprised if they don’t “turn it off” like you do. Dogs are very emotionally intelligent and responsive creatures. They will respond to their owner’s mood. While they will always have a certain need for exercise and play, if they’re still bursting with energy after, it might be because you’re giving off that same energy. If you want them to have good manners, tone it down a little.
High-energy dogs need two things about all else. They need enough stimulation, mentally and physically, and they need the firm, loving discipline of a committed owner. If you can’t provide those, you may never help them get control over that seemingly boundless energy they possess.