What to Do with Dogs with Excess Energy

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While you may think you’re on top of that over-the-top, super active type of behavior because you were careful to not adopt a pooch that was known to be high-energy (think Jack Russell terrier, Border Collie, Dalmatian, or Husky to name a few), you’ll soon discover that regardless of their lineage, all dogs have not infrequent episodes of the “crazies”.

Its an inherent need to expend some of their pent-up energy and it can result in them racing around your home at breakneck speed or repeatedly jumping up on you and any furniture that’s handy. That’s if you’re lucky enough to be home. If you’re not home, it can turn into incessant barking, chewing of shoes or furnishings and even urinating and pooping throughout the house. You see, your dog is bored, he has a need to release this energy, and he’s come up with his own solutions – getting your attention or destroying your living quarters.

So, what’s the solution? The quickest fix for this type of behavior is to put a sustainable plan of action into place – one that will allow you to tackle his excess energy in a controlled manner that works for you both. Now, because dogs are pack animals with a strong sense of hierarchy, they look to you as their alpha, for direction and structure in their lives. That’s why developing a regimen that lets him burn off energy while establishing behavioral expectations, is the solution.

And you can start by not reacting to his outbursts. Even scolding your dog can make him feel that he has learned which buttons to push in order to get your attention – even if it’s negative.

The first thing to do is to ignore him when he starts jumping, barking, and acting up. No words, no hand gestures, no eye contact. Totally blank him. And now that he knows his manic behavior isn’t getting a reaction, plan to use a combination of these tips to help work through his never-ending need for speed:

The most obvious solution is to tire him out. Plan to take him for a nice long walk in the morning to help him relax and wind down for the next several hours, then one again at night. Evening walks can be short and more utilitarian (potty breaks) but they give him something to look forward to (remember, we talked about setting expectations) and they provide mental stimulation for dogs that have spent the bulk of the day alone in the house. And change up your route to keep it interesting for him in terms of new sights, sounds, and smells.

Did you know that 31 breeds of dog are considered to be working breeds by the American Kennel Club? These breeds are mentally and physically fulfilled when they have a job to do. And whether your pup is a pure-bred or crossed with a Retriever, Mastiff, Rottweiler, Husky, or Newfoundland (to name a few), he has an inherent need to have something to do. While you may not have sheep to herd, a sled to pull, or downed fowl to retrieve, you can come up with some fun tasks to satisfy this need. With sense of smell being such a powerful tool for all dogs, get him to do some nose-work by hiding treats throughout the house or yard and cheering him on as he finds them. Or have him “hunt” for his snacks using any number of puzzle toys or a Kong that redirects his focus and lets him expend some of his mental energy.

For a quick workout that provides you and your dog with a little one-on-one bonding time, try tossing a ball or frisbee in the yard. For breeds that are high-energy and can’t seem to exhaust their need for activity through a regular walk, just 10-15 minutes of having him chase and retrieve anything, should be sufficient to calm him down for the next few hours. For dogs that need more than just a regular play-date, consider enrolling them in agility sports that will tax their energy and stimulate their minds.

In addition to offering him puzzle toys and nose-games, consider introducing training sessions that cause him to think and reason in order to receive a reward. It can be a combination of obedience training (remember, you’re the alpha dog and your pooch needs direction) as well as something more fun, like learning new tricks that are more complex than “give a paw”. Maybe it’s a mini agility course throughout your yard, or a series of tasks broken into small increments that allow him to earn as he progresses. The desire for verbal praise and a tasty reward will keep him motivated and moving.

While all breeds will have manic moments of energy, they can be managed by having a plan that doesn’t just react to these behaviors, but anticipates them.


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