A puppy jumps

How to train a hyper dog

By BBC Maestro

Most dogs get excited sometimes – pretty often, in fact. However, sometimes excitement can be a sign of high arousal rather than simple happiness, with your dog’s excess energy manifesting as hyperactive behaviour. 

There are plenty of effective ways to calm down a boisterous dog, from aromatherapy to special vests; however, a longer-term approach through calm and consistent training will help your dog feel happier and more settled. In this article, we’ll take a look at how to train a hyper dog, with some expert advice from trainer Steve Mann.

Signs that your dog is hyper

First things first: a hyper dog is not a bad dog. They’re simply overloaded with energy that they don’t know what to do with. Here are some of the signs that your dog is hyper:

  • Increased activity 
  • Seeking attention
  • Not responding to cues
  • Hiding
  • Bolting
  • Drooling
  • Vocalising, such as barking or whining
  • Posture changes (such as a stressed-looking lowered body and tail) 

An excited dog and a hyper dog may look pretty similar at first glance – both running around or spinning. However, on the inside, it’s a different story.

The excited dog’s mind is calm and balanced, and they’ll stop spinning when you ask them too. Their hyper friend, on the other hand, is a confused blur on the inside, too. To calm the outward behaviours, we need to first calm the dog’s overheated brain.

Why is the second dog hyper all the time? It could be that they need more exercise or conversely, have had too much frenetic play. Maybe they haven’t had enough mental stimulation and are bored or frustrated. Don’t feel bad about this: it can be tricky to gauge exactly how much physical and mental activity your dog needs. Now you’ve identified their hyper-aroused state, you’re able to help them.

What makes dogs hyper?

Some breeds are more prone to hyper behaviours than others, and it tends to be the super-intelligent working breeds like huskies and collies that struggle the most. This highlights how important it is to understand your pet’s breed, and Steve Mann takes us through this clearly in one of his BBC Maestro dog training lessons.

Steve says, “If I had one wish, it would be that potential new owners research their breed of choice before they actually get their dog.” If you know you’re doing to be out all day, don’t get a busy terrier or an energetic German shepherd.

Hyperactivity in dogs can also be due to their early years. If you have a rescue dog, they may not have had the enrichment or training they needed as a pup. It’s now your privilege to work with their innate traits to make them feel more relaxed and content.

How to train a high energy dog

Like any other dog, a high-energy breed or personality will benefit hugely from thoughtful training. The aim here is to help your dog control their energy and be able to calm themselves, resulting in a dog feels settled and safe within their human pack.

It’s especially important to prepare before embarking on hyperactive dog training. Choose a time when you’re both feeling alert, but preferably after exercise so your dog doesn’t have that nervous energy. Make sure your home is free from noise and other distractions and start the sessions indoors.

Keep your training sessions short and be prepared that it might take a fair few lessons before your hyper dog learns how to be calm.

Training your dog to settle in place

If your dog gets over-excited when the doorbell goes or when people enter the room, you can train them to settle in a special place. They can’t jump up when they’re settled elsewhere! Choose the spot and add a nice-smelling mat or blanket that you know your dog will like.

  1. Encourage your dog to step onto the mat. When they do, give praise and a reward.
  2. Repeat this over a few sessions, rewarding only when all four paws are firmly on the mat.
  3. Start using the cue word “Place”.
  4. When they’re used to this, you can start using the ‘Sit’ or ‘Down’ cue when they’re on the mat.
  5. Change how you reward your dog: reward when they’re sitting or lying down.
  6. Think they’ve grasped this? Great. Gradually introduce and then increase a delay between sitting or lying in their Place and receiving the treat.
  7. When you’re both feeling pretty good about this, you can start introducing distractions, working up to the dreaded doorbell (or whatever your pet’s biggest triggers are).
  8. When the doorbell rings in the future, give your dog the Place cue.
A person holds a dog by its collar

Training a hyper dog to settle in any situation

The “place” method is great when you’re at home; however, if your dog becomes discombobulated when you’re out and about, you’ll need a more flexible strategy. Here’s how you train a hyper dog to settle.

  1. You’ll need to get your Am Dram head on for this one, and act excited. Not too excited, just a moderate level. The idea is to get your dog a bit excited too, so you can train them to calm. So, dance around the room (like only your dog is watching) and generally be a bit silly.
  2. Once your dog starts to join in, stop moving yourself, keep your arms still and say “Settle”.
  3. When your dog settles (stops jumping and stands still on all four paws), use your usual marker word like “Good”, and reward them with a treat. This might take a few attempts at first. Just be patient.
  4. After a few successful sessions, make it a bit trickier by rewarding only if they don’t jump up at you. This can become a consistent rule across other games and playtime, too.
  5. When this is going well, introduce distractions (such as visitors) and try using “Settle” in other locations.
     

It’s also a good idea to make sure your dog knows the sit cue, which you can use to calm them in all sorts of situations. Keep rewarding relaxed behaviours, which will help to train the dog’s impulse control.

Alongside the training, it’s our role as caring pet parents to make sure our dogs’ lives are enriched, with the right amount of physical and mental exercise for their breed and age. This will help prevent the hyper behaviours that stem from their innate needs not being met. A blend of training, reinforcement and enrichment is just what your dog needs to find their mental balance. Teaching an intelligent dogs a few tricks or even increasing their human vocabulary will help to meet their needs for mental stimulation.

How do I calm down a hyper dog?

Training is the long-term strategy; however, it’s also handy to have a few immediate calming techniques up your sleeve.

  • A cuddle and plenty of reassurance from you. Never underestimate how important you are to your dog, and your presence and attention can make the world of difference.
  • Try playing relaxing classical music: many dogs respond well to music therapy.
  • Like humans, dogs find scents like lavender and chamomile relaxing, so try some pet-friendly aromatherapy. You’ll feel calmer, too. 
  • Ask your vet for a synthetic calming spray or drops.
  • Dress your stressed pup in their calming vest, which applies reassuring pressure to your dog’s torso. If they haven’t used one before, you’ll need to introduce it carefully.
  • If you think they’re anxious from lack of exercise, take them for a walk or run in a favourite spot (if they’re not too anxious and you feel confident that they’re responsive to recall).
  • Take them to one of their safe spaces, either a favourite spot in the house, or if you’re out, the car.

How to train a hyper puppy

Before we go (with our calm hound at our heels), we need to mention puppies. Young dogs really are nature’s little dynamos and telling the difference between a hyper puppy and well, any puppy, is not an easy task.

If you think your puppy has crossed the line from exuberance into high-arousal territory, your best tactic is to distract. Puppies love learning and engagement, so channel their energy into a game of fetch or tug-of-war. Actively working together on a productive game turns those ‘zoomies’ into something more structured that your pup will learn from.

It’s also never too early to reward calm behaviours. When they’re settled, reward them with your attention (strokes, chats, songs) so they develop positive associations with being calm and relaxed. And try to stay chilled-out yourself. Puppies are like furry barometers, and will pick up on an excited or stressed human.

Learn how to work with your dog’s innate behaviours in dog trainer Steve Mann’s BBC Maestro course. Steve covers everything from how to work with your dog’s breed to puppy’s first training session. He’ll help you develop a greater understanding of your four-footed friend, leading to a deeper bond and an easier life for all.

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