Destroying the myth: hyperactive dogs and exercise

I’d say at least 70% of dog owners I go and help are of the mistaken belief (when they get in touch) that exercise is an important tool for making sure that dogs aren’t hyperactive around the home.

Many owners, when describing their dog’s hyperactive behaviour to me will go on to tell me either:

  1. How much walking they do every day already – because they believe that will be my first bit of advice.
  2. How difficult walking their dog actually is, so it’s not an option for helping to calm the dog down.

The truth is that if you need to tire your dog out in order for it to relax, it’s not really relaxed.  Exhausted and relaxed are two very different things…

Think about it, if you are too exhausted to do tasks that you really think that you need to do – do you feel relaxed? Of course not.  You know you need to rest, but it’s not peaceful sleep, and as soon as you’ve had the bare minimum, you’ll be up – doing whatever it is you think you need to do again.  I think new parents can relate to this analogy very well.  It’s only when there is nothing that needs doing that you can allow yourself to relax – until it all starts again that is.

What does my dog think it needs to be doing?

Ultimately your dog will feel responsible for the survival and wellbeing of your pack. Here’s a link to an article which explains this in more details.  He or she doesn’t necessarily know what they should be doing, but they just have a belief that they are needed for something. I call it “party host syndrome” – if you hold a party at your home, you do not relax until everyone has gone home.  This is because your thinking tells you that it’s your responsibility to make sure that your guest are fed, watered and having a good time. So you stay on the go, seeing to everyone’s needs for the duration of the party, with only little bits of rest here and there. However when you go to someone else’s party – it’s not your problem.  So you just relax and enjoy yourself.

Your behaviour in either of these situations has nothing to do with how much exercise you’ve had that day, does it!?

So what does exercising a dog actually do?

I joke that exercising your dog as a means to better behaviour is cheating.  But that’s a joke because, actually, exercising your dog doesn’t make it behave better.  I’ll tell you what it does do:

It makes your dog fitter!!!

If the particular type of exercise you are picking is the walk, I have some news for you. Sadly, in many cases, the walk is actually a source of stress.  I have a few blog articles on this, one of which I have linked to here.  Many owners, when given a chance to think about it, will report that there dog is often more wound up when they get home from a walk than they were before they left…

How do I stop my dog being hyperactive then?

Simple. Take the leadership role yourself. Take their feeling of responsibility away, and they will relax.

I say ‘simple’ – how you do this is not something that us humans just know how to do. Fortunately us Dog Listeners do know and are ready and waiting to impart this knowledge to you. You can get in touch to find out more (personally I am focused in Essex and the South East). Or try reading “The Dog Listener” by Jan Fennell as a starting point.


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