Treating hyperactivity

General recommendations for training a hyperactive dog.

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May 25, 2021

Treating hyperactivity overview

In my next few posts I’ll address how to work through specific behaviour issues related to hyperactivity such as lead pulling and jumping up, but for this post I’ll just go through a few general recommendations for training when working with a hyperactive dog.

If you haven’t read it already, start by reading my blog on what hyperactivity really is, and what causes it, to give you a foundation of understanding for the issue. Read that blog here.

Training recommendations for hyperactive dogs

Exercise and stimulation

Make sure your dog is getting an appropriate level of exercise, play and mental stimulation. As a general rule, most dogs will need at least 30 - 60 minutes of exercise and play per day, while high energy dogs will need this twice a day. Your dog should have slowed down and be content to relax once you’ve returned home after some exercise. Try giving your dog a combo of aerobic exercise and exercise that is both mentally and physically stimulating: chasing a ball, exploring a walking trail with new scents, engaging in a game, agility work etc. Training sessions with a clicker are also good mental stimulation. I find swimming great for high energy dogs as it’s easy on joints but very tiring!

Play vs hyperactivity

There’s a fine line between excitable play and hyperactivity, watch that you don’t cross that line. You need to be in control of any play activity and be able to turn it off when you want to. If you can’t, you have crossed over to hyperactivity and will be rewarding the wrong behaviours. If you want to play with your hyperactive dog, make sure it is a clearly defined activity, so give the beginning and end a clear signal and have a dedicated toy that denotes that this is play. Also have a ready supply of toys to leave with your dog for entertainment when you’re not home (a Kong toy stuffed with food works well!).

Zen Down

The Zen Down position relaxes the dorsal muscles (the ones down the middle of your dog’s back) and activates the vagal nervous system, which enhances learning and induces a state of calm in your dog. So teach the Zen Down command and practise it as often as possible using a clicker and food rewards. Extend the amount of time you wait before clicking then giving a food reward when your dog is in the Zen Down, so that you gradually extend the amount of time he stays in this calming position.

Clip station

A clip station is a short lead clipped to the wall (or tied around a very heavy piece of furniture) with a mat or bed beside it. We use it to help re-create the concept of a den (like we do with a crate), it’s a safe, controlled, quiet space. I like to have a few clip stations set up around my house in the main social areas, then I can put a dog on the clip station to spend time with the family but in a calm, controlled way. Clip stations sound simple but they are an incredible tool and should be used often when training a hyperactive dog for some time out. But keep in mind that your dog will need to be trained onto the clip station in the right way so that they accept it, then come to love it as a safe space. Once well established, you'll likely find your dog goes and lies on the clip station mat even when not clipped up!

Learning state

This is the calm, focused state that your dog must be in to learn. Check out this blog (click here) to learn about what a learning state is, how to recognise it and how to put your dog in it. This will make a HUGE difference to the success of your training sessions.

In my next blog post, I teach you how to do one of my signature techniques - Joining Up - which is highly useful for hyperactive dogs (as well as all others!). Read that blog here.

Training a hyperactive dog  

If you are struggling with a hyperactive dog, check out our Virtual Training Schools. They cover everything you need to know to help get your dog in a calm Learning State, and to treat issues like jumping up, pulling on the lead, poor recall and over-excitability.

Find out more here.

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