Dogs are bred to be productive and active especially when they are a working breed. Some of their ancestors were trained to hunt or help in farms, others hauled heavy items or guarded their humans. This explains why your pup is probably so energetic around the house!
Some dogs are more hyper than others. This could mean they ask for attention more frequently than other breeds by howling and barking. Hyperactive dogs, especially puppies, cannot stop their teeth from chewing on almost all the furniture. They also tend to sniff, run, and chase around more.
We will help you learn about hyperactivity in dogs and the symptoms to help you recognize it. We cover the difference between hyperactivity and ADHD, as well as the causes and effects of the condition.
What is Hyperactivity?
Hyperactivity or hyperkinesis in dogs is characterized by extremely short attention spans, high impulsiveness, and abnormal attention-seeking behavior. Although this is often used synonymously with ADHD, the two are far from the same.
Don’t immediately diagnose your hyperactive dog with ADHD if you notice some signs. It can be normal for pups to be disobedient and uncontrolled at first. They are normal dogs who cannot control themselves yet because they haven’t learned how to. In fact, puppies are generally so full of energy that they can barely focus on puppy training!
Overactive and highly reactive dogs also exist, and that doesn’t necessarily mean they have ADHD. Breeds such as Collies, Spaniels, and German Shepherd are always on the go because they were developed for fieldwork. This is why they require more exercise as an outlet for their high activity levels.
As for highly reactive dogs, they will respond to almost any small event or sound, like a knock on the door, with extreme energy. Some like to chase shadows, others enjoy jumping when they hear footsteps.
It’s about learning the difference between normal energy levels and excessive hyperactive behavior. If you suspect your dog is more hyperactive than normal, then you can take steps to help them.
Hyperactive Dog Symptoms
Let’s take a look at some of the more recognizable hyperactive dog symptoms. These are usually common in puppies, highly reactive dogs, and high-energy dogs bred for fieldwork.
Before we dive deep, it is again worth noting that hyperactivity is not always a sign of ADHD. The mental illness is possible in dogs but it is very uncommon.
The causes of hyperactivity, such as lack of exercise and an overactive thyroid, are usually easier to correct than that of ADHD. These fur babies often just haven’t really learned to control their behavior.
Here are some signs of normal hyperactivity in dogs.
Sensitive to Environmental Changes
Unfamiliar places and people can make your dog anxious. Watch out for these signs
- Hiding (if they are not the social type)
- Barking at people
- Elevated baseline heart and respiration rates
- Howling when alone
Hyperactive dogs can’t focus too long on repetitive training and that often results in disobedience. They get easily bored at being asked to “sit.” If your dog does these things, they might be forgetting to show you some respect.
- Loves to pull you while they’re on leash .
- Ignores you when you call their name.
- Doesn’t know how to wait for food.
Unlike canines with ADHD, they will still have the ability to find solutions to problems, like with the Border Collie breed that can herd sheep on their own.
Short Attention Span
Short attention span during training sessions can be a sign of hyperactivity. It is very much associated with signs of disobedience such as:
- Ignoring you when being called
- Inability to focus their eyes.
Boredom and Destructiveness
When your dog is bored, they tend to do the following:
- Bark at everyone and no one.
- Have frantic and abnormal behavior like chasing their tails.
- Chew on your clothes and furniture.
- Jumping up and down.
Hyperactive dogs feel all sorts of emotion and often at a more intense level. This instability, however, is still manageable and curable. As a matter of fact, hyperactive dogs can still focus on click-and-treat training!
Diagnosis of Hyperactivity in Dogs
Only a veterinarian can really determine whether your four-legged friend has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. If you notice a number of these symptoms in your dog you may need to schedule a visit.
If your dog is diagnosed with the disorder the vet will provide you with the best treatments that will cater to your pooch’s specific special needs.
Causes and Effects of Hyperactivity in Dogs
Hyperactivity is often a mix of genes and environment, that is nature and nurture. It is affected by genetic traits, socialization, training, and your dog’s unique personality.
A naturally hyperactive dog will be energetic in their puppy-hood. These are the puppies who love to bite hands, disobey their guardians, and chew on the carpet. It is in some breeds’ nature to be energetic and active because of their genetic heritage.
Some physiological disorders can also cause hyperactivity in dogs. Thyroid dysfunction is related to behavior problems both in animals and humans. Dr. Jean Dodds and Linda Aronsan state in their study that dogs who underwent thyroid therapy showed 25% improvement in their behavior.
One reason as to why dogs are hyperactive is because they are exposed to overly-active children. Excitable children are huge influences for our puppies. When they hit back, restrain, or scream, puppies get excited and tend to imitate the behavior.
This is why you should always supervise your dog and children’s interaction, especially in the beginning.
Social isolation is also a factor in inducing hyperactivity in dogs. Too much time in the crate, leashed outside, or left alone because of work deprives them of a healthy social life.
Studies by Waller and Fuller show that dogs possess a biological need for social stimulation, otherwise, they will release the excessive energy improperly.
Another physiological disorder that causes hyperactivity is lead poisoning due to destructive chewing on old linoleum or in surfaces painted with lead-based paints.
Inadequate nutrition can also permanently affect your dog’s hyperactivity. This is why proper nutrition is very critical in your dog’s early days. A diet high in protein, or foods that your dog is allergic to, can contribute to hyperkinesis.
How to Deal with a Hyperactive Dog
Working with hyperactive dogs takes an upgrade in their environment. Teach them to sit and stay before eating dinner. Train them to behave when going for walks as well.
For better training, enroll them in a tricks class or agility class. Basically, anything that will keep your pet active and learning are great!
Watch as Larry Krohn talks about the most important obedience training commands for your doggo.
Here are the most basic tips you can do at home.
Ignore Bad Behavior
Scolding your dog or trying to comfort them also means paying attention to their outbursts. Your dog will see this as an act of tolerance, so you’re only enabling them to go on with their hyper behavior. Instead, try not to touch, talk, or even make eye contact with them when they are being hyperactive.
Give Your Dog a Job
Keep your dog busy by enrolling them in conditioning classes or even tiring them out with daily exercises. Have them wear a backpack during hikes and this will surely tone down their hyperkinesis.
Make Changes in Their Routine
Make sure that your dog gets regular daily exercises. If you don’t have enough time for this, hire a sitter for them.
You also need to be more meticulous with their diet. Avoid sugar and other unhealthy and processed food.
You can also try aromatherapy during nap times to keep them relaxed and calm.
Be a Role Model
The energy you project will reflect back on your dog. Remember that you can’t teach a dog to calm down if you yourself are in an aggressive or agitated state of mind. Don’t stress out too much, be nervous, or be overly excited since you are the leader and you need to stay in tune with your energy.
Hyperactivity is normal for dogs who can’t behave themselves because they haven’t yet learned how. This type of behavior is very common in puppies who want to enjoy their youth, yet it can be problematic when they grow up with the same attitude and bad behavior.
Look out for these signs of hyperactivity and make sure you do something about it by talking to your vet, training your dog, and giving them a proper routine that will help them balance their energy levels.