My dog is very hyper and restless, what can I do?

In Backpacking & Traveling by CarolineLeave a Comment

If your dog is hyper and restless all the time and doesn’t seem to have any interest in relaxing at all, there is usually a good reason for it and in most cases it’s not clinical!

But if you’re a new dog parent confronted with a hyperactive dog, you’ve probably asked yourself if your dog suffers from ADHD, right? The awareness of the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder has increased in children. Looking at some dogs one might ask herself if dogs could suffer from the same condition.

As a puppy, Baloo could barely calm down. For the first 6 months that I had him, I was desperate. Yes, I wanted an active dog. But I wanted him to be active outside, not inside and especially not all the time!

If you have a hyper and restless dog, you’re not alone. Reasons for this behavior can be different but in the vast majority of cases your pup’s behavior is either caused by a lack of exercise and boredom. Or he basically mirrors your emotions and can’t handle it. Another reason can be that his hyperactivity was conditioned.

In this post I’ll show you the possible reasons why your dog is so very hyper and restless and what to do about it.

What causes hyperactivity?

Breed characteristics

Dogs have different personalities and different energy levels. This is mainly due to breed characteristics. Poodles and terriers are more active and bouncy by nature than other breeds. If active breeds don’t get enough mental or physical stimulation, this can very easily lead to hyperactivity and restlessness. The 7 best small breed active dogs are the ones that also tend to become hyper the easiest.

Your behavior

Sorry to tell you but most of dogs’ behaviors can immediately be linked to your behavior. Dogs in the wild live in packs and every dog has a different role. Per pack there can only be one pack leader. In our society, you as the owner have to be the pack leader. The pack leader tells the pack what to do and how to react in different situations. So dogs are intuitively used to looking at their pack leader and imitate his or her behavior.

To be honest, Baloo and I are a very good example for this. Being a poodle, he is very smart but also very sensitive. So he will always observe me closely. Whenever I am not really calm or relaxed, Baloo starts to become uneasy. As you can imagine, I happen to be stressed, angry, sad or excited every now and then. And that’s when Baloo gets really annoying. He gets overly excited, bouncy and starts whining…

Boredom

The other most common reason is a lack of mental or physical stimulation.

I have already written another post about dog boredom which you can find here. This is another important factor that can cause a dog to be hyperactive. A bored dog will find himself something to do. And this something could be running around your house endlessly or jumping up and down on you with no break.

Conditioning

Another reason for hyperactive behavior is that the dog hasn’t learned it any better. As a puppy, a dog naturally can’t control his energy and is always quite over the top when he’s awake. If your pup has always gotten attention (positive or negative) when he was being hyper, he learned that being jumpy and noisy means getting attention. So he basically got conditioned that he has to act a certain way in order to get attention. Hence, he keeps doing that. And since you’re probably annoyed by his hyperactivity, you correct him or even give him a toy or something to play with. This reassures the dog that he’s doing the right thing.

ADHD or hyperkinesis

It’s true that a dog’s hyper and restless behavior can also be a clinical condition. Be aware that this is very rare, though. In the vast majority of cases one of the things listed above is the reason. If you’re not sure about it, you can always consult your vet.

What is ADHD? 

According to psychologytoday “ADHD is a behavioral condition that has been extensively studied in humans, and in children, in particular. The symptoms in children typically involve hyperactivity, distractibility, an inability to pay attention for sustained periods, impulsiveness, poorly adjusted social behavior, and sometimes snappish or aggressive responses, although it is not necessary for any one individual to have all of these symptoms at the same time. ADHD greatly reduces the individual’s ability to learn, particularly in educational settings, and to live in harmony with others.”

As far as research is today, dogs show the same chemical markers as humans who suffer from ADHD. One example are low blood phospholipid (= fatty acids) levels. A study undertaken in 2016 in Finnland revealed that dogs who showed the symptoms of ADHD had lower blood lipid and fatty acid levels. But Professor Lohi also explains, “Behavior and behavioral disorders often develop as a combination of hereditary and environmental factors, which makes studying them challenging.” (This is the research paper, for a summary go to: http://www.k9magazine.com/could-your-dog-have-adhd/). The symptoms of canine ADHD include not only hyperactivity, but also fearfulness, noise sensitivity and impulsiveness.

A real test of canine ADHD is performed by a prescribed stimulant given under controlled clinical circumstances. Paradoxically, a stimulant will calm a dog with ADHD down. Then changes in behavior, respiratory rate and heart rate are observed. This is the only way to really find out if your dog suffers from ADHD or not.

What is Hyperkinesis?

This term is more often referred to as a clinical hyperactivity in dogs. It basically means that a dog can’t get used to known stimuli. They’ll keep reacting to the same things even though they’ve known them for years. Also, they’ll stay in an excited mode long after the stimuli has passed. This is clinically visible through increased heart and respiratory rates.

Just as ADHD this is also very rare. The behavioral issues usually stem from human behavior.

Solutions for hyperactive behavior

Baloo has shown all of the symptoms listed above. I haven’t tested it, so it’s possible that he actually suffers from ADHD or Hyperkinesis. But my general observation was that it’s mostly my behavior that makes him hyperactive and restless. Also, the more mental and physical stimulation he gets, the more relaxed he is. He now manages to sleep for several hours. All destructive behavior has completely stopped and he’s also much less jumpy.

So if you have a hyperactive dog, I suggest the following:

Observe yourself

First, you have to find out what causes your dog’s hyperactivity. Start with yourself and observe your feelings and your dog’s behavior. How does he react when you’re stressed, tense, sad, angry or excited? Does he get hyper whenever you experience a particular feeling? In this case you need to work on your mental balance. Personally, I neglected this thought for a long time. It’s much easier to tell yourself it’s the dog’s fault than to admit that it might be your own.

Your dog is like a mirror: he’ll react to your body language or the tone of your voice. So if you’ve found out that your dog is mostly hyperactive whenever you are stressed or angry, it’s also for your own benefit to stay calm. A dog can be like a therapist. I don’t want to tell you that you need one, I don’t even know you. But stress and anger are bad for our mental health. So having a sensitive dog is an opportunity to become more balanced yourself. Small personal recommendation on the side 😉

I can observe it over and over again. As soon as I get tense, Baloo starts to hyper. So I remind myself over and over again to stay calm. This way we have made tremendous improvement. Baloo is now a much more even-tempered pup.

Mental and physical stimulation

Dogs have different activity levels. But chances are that your hyper dog needs more action than other pups. Long walks where he can roam off-leash are a perfect way to tire out your pooch. But most hyper dogs also need some mental stimulation. This can either be obedience training or anything where he has to watch you (e.g. walking at heel). Or you can play games where you hide some treats somewhere and your pupper needs to think how he can get them. 2 other good options are scent games and dog sport such as agility. If you do all of these things on a regular basis you’ll have a happy and relaxed dog, for sure!

Separate activity hours and sleeping hours

This has also worked great for us. Dogs love routine and will happily adjust to yours if they know how it works. When Baloo was still a puppy, I stopped playing with him when we were inside. Playing games such as tug of war would just excite him even more so it was absolutely counterproductive. However, I still wanted to play with him sometimes. Playing is important to strengthen the bond between you and your pooch and Baloo loves it. So my solution was to only play active games when we were outside. We would still play scent games inside on rainy days because this is a calm activity.

This is a great way to teach your dog that outside is the “active zone”, while inside is the place to rest and relax.

Conclusion

Most dogs that are hyper and restless show this behavior because they think this is the right way to behave. The either mirror your emotions, are bored or have been conditioned this way. Only in very rare cases is it a clinical condition. But even if it is clinical, most hyperactive dogs can be calmed down with the right measures. The most important ones are for you to stay calm and for your dog to get enough mental and physical exercise. Also important is to show your dog that inside your house or flat is a “no-activity-zone”. If you observe all of these measures, I am sure your dog will manage to calm down.

 

How do you get your hyper or restless dog to calm down? Any other suggestions?

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