How to handle a hyperactive dog is something I am frequently asked about; and having recently spent a few days dog sitting one, I was reminded of the answer. It’s quite simple. You don’t! Okay it’s not that simple, because obviously you do need to handle them at times. What do I mean by my original answer? We need to consider a few things:
What makes a dog hyperactive
Hyperactive behaviour is usually a combination of the dog’s personality, and it thinking that it is meant to be doing something at that moment in time. So a hyperactive dog typically wouldn’t sit still, would keep going up to person after person; bouncing around, picking things up they aren’t meant to have and so forth.
So the comparison I like to make is to a party host. If you hosted a party, you wouldn’t do much sitting still. You would be rushing around all of your guests, making sure everyone was okay. You’d be refilling glasses and snack bowls, checking the music, and making sure you hadn’t missed the doorbell…. When you go to someone else’s party, you sit back, relax. Drink the available drink, eat the available food, and don’t worry about anything else. And which do you prefer?
So if your dog thinks it has some responsibility it will be on the go much more often. This will also mean it finds it difficult to relax and enjoy itself.
What do you do while it is being hyperactive?
If you interact with your dog while it is in a hyperactive state, you are rewarding it’s behaviour. It will continue to act in a hyperactive way. Not only that, you are confirming to your dog that it should indeed be doing something, yet it won’t really know what, so will find this all a bit stressful. So your best bet is to ignore it. If he or she jumps up at you, gently push him/her away. If he or she nicks something that it’s a danger or a problem for them to have, then you can very calmly and slowly walk up to them and gently remove it (rushing and sudden movements will only make them run off!) If they have gone too far (nipping, barking at you, chewing on the furniture) then you calmly and gently remove them from the room and put them into an isolate to calm down.
How to handle a hyperactive dog
So you’re thinking “this is all very well and good, but what about when I need to walk them”, right? I bet that walk is fun! Trying to leave the house with a hyperactive dog, pulling on the lead, bouncing around, whining and so on? Thought not. You may think that you need to walk your dog in order to calm them down. The reality is that the walk adds adrenalin and makes them fitter. So you will end up with a dog with more stress and that can keep going for longer. That clearly isn’t any good for anyone. So give yourself and them a break. Wait for your dog to be calm before any interactions with them. If they get whipped up again straight away, wait for calm again before continuing.
We never said it was going to be easy to handle a hyperactive dog, but it is straightforward. You just have to get your mind around the idea of not doing that much with them initially. You have to allow them the time to calm themselves down. Then you can begin your handling. That may mean that you don’t get to handle them that much for a few days. That is okay. If you try to cut corners, it will take longer! Just buckle up and prepare for the long haul. A bit of moral support and some proper guidance wouldn’t go amiss, so I can strongly recommend having a read of Jan Fennell’s book “The Dog Listener” and/or calling in a local Dog Listener to help you. I am based in Essex and cover the county plus the surrounding area.