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 #94

How Common Are Hyperactivity and Hyperkinesis in Dogs?

Whether hyperactivity and hyperkinesis are common or rare or something in between seems to depend on whom you ask. At a guess, I’d say most trainers believe they’re rare--we see a lot of underexercised, undertrained, bored adolescent dogs who have nothing wrong with them. At least some behaviorists agree. (3) The veterinary behaviorist Bonnie Beaver considers that many people mistake the symptoms of hyperactivity and hyperkinesis for normal dog behavior; they don’t like it, and they may send the dog out to live in the yard, but they don’t realize that something’s actually wrong. Dr. Beaver thinks hyperactivity and hyperkinesis are underdiagnosed. (4) Other vet behaviorists disagree. Who’s right? We don’t know. Nobody has data.

What If Your Dog Has Symptoms of Hyperactivity or Hyperkinesis?

Symptoms such as panting and a rapid heartbeat can have many medical and behavioral causes – anxiety, for one. Hyperthyroidism can make a dog act “hyper,” too. And a nonmedical possibility is that the guardians have accidentally trained their dog to behave excitably and restlessly, perhaps by paying attention to her only when she acts up.

If your dog’s main symptom is that she jumps around a lot, first ask yourself honestly whether she gets enough exercise and whether you have worked patiently and consistently to teach her good manners.  But if you nodded frantically while you read the symptom list a couple of paragraphs back, then whether she’s hyperactive or hyperkinetic or has something else entirely going on, it’s time for medical help. Ideally, consult a board-certified veterinary behaviorist, who will have extensive specialized training in the field. A dog who has medical problems will find it easier to learn once they’ve been treated. At that point, or if medical problems have been ruled out, a competent trainer can help you refine your skills so you can build an easy-to-live-with pet.

You and your well-mannered, relaxed dog, or for that matter your rude and bouncy dog, can visit me on Facebook, where I’m The Dog Trainer, follow me as Dogalini on Twitter, or write to me at dogtrainer@quickanddirtytips.com. I read all my questions and comments, and I may use them as the basis for future episodes. Thanks for reading, and if your dog is being quiet and mellow, go give her a treat!


1. Beaver, Bonnie B., DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVB. Canine Behavior: Insights and Answers (Saunders Elsevier, 2009), p. 81. I’ve drawn heavily on Dr. Beaver’s book in my discussion here.

2. For more information about methylphenidate and its use in people, see this page on the website of the National Institutes of Health.

3. See, e.g., Hetts, Suzanne, Ph.D. Pet Behavior Protocols: What to Say, What to Do, When to Refer (American Animal Hospital Association, 1999), p. 307, and Bowen, Jon, and Sarah Heath, Behaviour Problems in Small Animals: Practical Advice for the Veterinary Team (Saunders, 2005), p. 56.

4. Beaver, op. cit., pp. 79, 81.

Other Sources

Landsberg, G., W. Hunthausen, and L. Ackerman, Handbook of Behavior Problems of the Dog and Cat, 2nd ed.(Saunders, 2003), pp. 319-21.

Lindell, Ellen. “Control Problems in Dogs.” In Debra Horwitz, Daniel Mills, and Sarah Heath, eds. BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Behavioural Medicine (British Small Animal Veterinary Association, 2002), pp. 69-79, esp. p. 71.

Luescher, U. Andreas. 1993. Hyperkinesis in dogs: six case reports. Canadian Veterinary Journal 34 (June), 368-70. The full text is here.

Stiles, Enid K. 2010. Physiological and behavioural effects of dextroamphetamine on Beagle dogs: a placebo controlled study. Master’s thesis, University of Montreal Veterinary School.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock


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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