What to Do If Your Dog Is Hyperactive

Is your dog super energetic? Hyperactive? Hyperkinetic?

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
6-minute read
Episode #094

You there, with a puppy or an adolescent dog: if I ask you whether he or she is hyperactive, your answer might well be an exhausted, hair-tearing “OMG yes!” And I feel for you. Fortunately, the odds are that your dog is normal. This week, I’ll describe canine hyperactivity and hyperkinesis, explain how they differ from normal young-dog bounce, and talk about how to deal with whatever your Dogalini’s got going on.

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What to Do If Your Dog Is Hyperactive

Ah, the vocabulary of canine bounciness! I’ll use words like “energetic,” “active,” and “bouncy” for normal dogs who have a lot of steam to burn off. We often call those dogs “hyperactive,” but in veterinary behavioral medicine, hyperactivity is a specific diagnosis. And just to confuse us laypeople further, some veterinary behaviorists treat hyperkinesis as a different diagnosis, even though “kinesis” means movement--you know, activity. To top things off, hyperkinesis is the dog diagnosis that corresponds to the human disorder most of us call hyperactivity. Oy. I’ll keep these categories as straight as I can.

How Much Exercise Do Dogs Need?

The normal drive-you-crazy high-energy dog may have the zoomies all day long. But she gets easier to live with when you supply plenty of exercise to tire her body and reward-based training to tire her mind and improve her manners.

We humans in the industrialized world have gotten more sedentary in the past few decades, and maybe that’s why we tend to underestimate how much exercise is “plenty.” A mile-long leash walk won’t cut it except maybe for the smallest dogs. I’m talking serious romp-and-run. Play fetch for an hour every morning. Find a safe place for an off-leash ramble; if you walk two miles, your dog can rack up five or six as she runs and trots and pokes around. That’s more like it.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).

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