My Yorkshire Terrier is almost 9 years old, and every day I think, “How is he still just as hyper as he was 9 years ago??” I am a dog lover to the core, but some days his hyperactivity drives me up the wall. In my efforts to reduce his craziness, I’ve found 5 ways to train a hyperactive dog to calm down.
I’m already seeing the effects. Hopefully these tips will help you too. There is nothing more embarrassing than a dog who can't control his excitement when company comes over or when he meets a new friend at the dog park.
No one wants to be the owner of “that dog.” You know, the one that friends and family cringe about when he shows up; the one who other pet parents dread see coming into the dog park. Using these ways to train a hyperactive dog to calm down will not only make your dog more popular, it will also make your life much easier.
5 Ways to Train a Hyperactive Dog to Calm Down
My dog is almost 9, so our routine is already fairly specific. If you’ve got a new dog or puppy, though, starting a routine is one of the best tools you can arm yourself with. A dog with a routine will learn to know what is expected of him, and his hyperactivity will wane a little because he knows what is coming. This could mean:
- Getting up at 6 a.m. to go for a walk
- Eating breakfast and dinner at the same time
- Specific play times during lunch or after work
- Treats and training sessions with specific cues
- Whatever routine works best for you
Your dog will still be a little hyper until the routine becomes settled, but soon enough he will know what’s going on and what time it is before you do. Just don’t plan on sleeping in past 6 a.m. ever again if you decide that’s part of your routine!
A hyper dog who is given a squeaker toy filled with stuffing is most likely going to destroy that toy in 10 minutes flat. Get toys that require your dog to think a little bit, work for the treat, or that require them to be physical.
Kong dog toys are great for this, and there are maze bowls that require your dog to push food through “tunnels” before he can eat. Take a stroll down the toy and food aisles at the pet store – you’ll find tons of cool stuff.
This is probably the most obvious of all the ways to train a hyperactive dog to calm down. But instead of just taking a dog for a hard and fast run to tire him out, try incorporating training in order to improve his behavior.
This could be heeling while you run or walk, sitting/staying at corners, attempting obstacle courses (like at a park, or creating one in your backyard), etc.
Many owners opt for training their dogs agility tricks. This is one of the more rigorous yet effective exercises or training routines that will put your dog's hyperactivity to good use. Here are some ideas for this type of exercise and the tools you'll need for your dog's agility training routines.
Whatever you do, try to make it an obedience task so that your dog associates exercise with listening, rather than just all out energy release.
This means that, after a few weeks, your dog will stop pulling you across the street and won’t yank your arm out of socket when he sees a bunny on your run. Dogs need mental stimulation to tire them out as well as physical activity. A simple run won't wear your Fido out nearly as much as a run paired with some behavioral training.
Give Him a Job
When I was at my wits end with my dog’s hyperactivity, I asked my vet how in the world an older dog could still be so hyper. He told me, “It’s because he doesn’t have a job; he’s bored.” After feeling like a terrible dog mom for all of five minutes, I decided to give my dog a job.
My dog is all of four pounds, so his job was to get his toys off the couch. This took an insane amount of training, but now he knows when I say, “Get your toys!” that it’s time to clean up. And yes, it’s adorable.
Assuming your dog is slightly larger, you can give him any number of jobs, whether it’s finding his blanket, playing hide and seek, fetching the Frisbee (wherever he left it), or pretty much anything.
A dog that knows what he needs to do tends to be singularly minded until the mission is completed. This is one of the best ways to train a hyperactive dog to calm down.
Animal trainers often recommend picking “jobs” (AKA tricks) based on your dog’s temperament and breed. As a Yorkie mom, I know my dog has a big dog complex and is incredibly stubborn. So I expect him to find things for me, and I know he wants to lead the way. That has helped a lot in my patience level with training.
Take some time to research your dog’s breed (or breeds, if he is a mix). Search for training tips for your dog breed(s), and read about other people’s experiences. There are plenty of resources out there, and they can help you weed out the wrong training methods as well.
Encourage Quiet Time
You don't normal think about quiet time when looking for ways to train a hyperactive dog to calm down, but it actually works. When your dog is lying down on the floor, being perfectly still and quiet, make sure you cherish the moment.
And make sure you recognize him for his calmness. Of course, this is risky because any form of praise is likely to get your dog up and running again.
This may take some getting used to for your dog, but make sure you keep providing praise when he is calm.
Simply pat his head or his back, don’t make eye contact, and say, “Good dog,” or whatever you want to say. Say it calmly and quietly, and don’t make any quick movements. This is a little like checking in on your baby and hoping the sound of the door doesn’t wake them; it’s very suspenseful, but you can do it!
It’s a Lifelong Process
When we think about ways to train a hyperactive dog to calm down, we often think we just have to get through the puppy phase: the potty training, the crate training, the basic commands, etc. Then we’re good as gold, right? Wrong.
Speaking from experience here, you can’t just teach your dog to pee outside and sit for his food and expect him to be well-behaved for the rest of forever.
I’ve learned that my dog needs daily interaction that makes him use his brain (more than his body – he’s not a very active dog), and he needs to be constantly reminded that he’s not in charge. His hyperactivity and “big dog syndrome” is 100% on me; if I had maintained his play and tricks routine from puppyhood on, he would be a much calmer, wiser dog.
Take it from me, and make sure that you stick to your routine and your efforts to create new “jobs” for your dog daily and train your dog effectively. Just like you need something new to mix up the monotony, so does your dog! Give him something to do and something to think about, and he’ll be a much happier, less hyper companion.