A guide to navigating the challenge and adventure of life with your dogs.

Video: Why is My Dog Hyper and Crazy and Out of Control?

Got one of these crazy hyper psycho dogs? They never calm down. They never listen. They pull on leash so hard that you fear for your life. They are obnoxious and frustrating and they are my very favorite dogs to work with.

Every dog trainer has a “niche” — a type of dog that they really like to work with and that they’re really good at working with. For some trainers it’s fearful dogs, for others it’s aggressive dogs. For me, it’s these crazy hyper psycho dogs (as I lovingly refer to them).

I like to go down to the county dog pound where I volunteer and pick out the most crazy, high-strung dogs there. These dogs start out SO ANXIOUS and EXCITED and just GOING AT A MILLION MILES AN HOUR! But as you work with them, you start to see them slow down and use their brains again. They take a breath and go, “oh. I don’t have to be like this.”

So that’s pretty awesome to see. But before you can do any of this work, you have to figure out why. Why is your dog like this? Here are some common reasons:


Adolescence
If your dog is between the ages of six months and two years, he is a teenager. Even though he may look like a grownup at this age, he’s still a puppy. And he’s at that age where puppies realize that there is a big exciting world out there… and maybe he doesn’t have to listen to his owner anymore. The good news is that this stage doesn’t have to last. Depending on your dog’s size (small dogs mature faster than big dogs) he’ll start to calm down around age 2-3. The bad news is that any bad habits Fido picks up as a teen will stick around into adulthood. So training these teenage puppies is just as important as training baby puppies.


Fido has been rewarded for his obnoxious behavior
I don’t mean rewarded like, “Oh, what a good boy Fido! You jumped on my guests and knocked them over! Want a cookie?” I mean that he has gotten what he wanted by using this behavior in the past. He figures that if he just sits still minding his own business, you pretty much ignore him. But if he gets up and jumps on your guests, then suddenly he’s the center of attention! Everyone is yelling and freaking out and it’s awesome! Maybe he should try this again next time.

Or to use another example: pulling on leash. A lot of people have this weird thing about dogs who pull on leash. It’s always personal. Either they think their dog is stubborn, or they think their dog is trying to dominate them.

Nope.

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. Ready for this?

The reason your dog pulls on leash is because pulling on leash gets him where he wants to go FASTER. That’s it. End of story.

So, look at all your dog’s bad habits and ask yourself: Is Fido being rewarded for this? And how do I stop rewarding him for it?


Diet
Believe it or not, the ingredients in your dog’s kibble may be at least partially responsible for his hyper behavior. We know that certain foods and food additives can have a negative affect on our behavior, and we’re seeing the same thing with dogs. A lot of dogs have a problem with cheap grains. Guess what? Most dog foods use cheap grains as filler. Hyperactivity, lack of focus and and anxiety can also be caused by:

-A B-vitamin deficiency
-Food dyes
-A low protein diet

I encourage you to do your own research on this subject. The world of pet food is an interesting and sometimes frightening subject.


Exercise – not enough
If you want a well behaved dog, you’re gonna have to exercise him. Dogs were not meant to sit around on the couch all day. A long walk in the morning, 30-60 minutes, and then a shorter walk in the evening is ideal. I know that walking the dog is not always possible, especially if Fido pulls on leash so hard that it’s dangerous to walk him. So you can also try tug of war, playing fetch or frisbee, or setting up a homemade agility course in your backyard. It doesn’t have to be major deal.


Exercise – too much
I know the big thing right now is that if your dog is misbehaving, it means you are not exercising him enough – you must run him until his feet fall off. But seriously, dogs don’t need that much exercise. I know people who have taken their dogs for three mile jogs in the morning, but when they get home, the dog’s behavior is either no better, or even worse than when they started. That’s because the dog is now full of adrenaline and endorphins and all that good stuff, and the only way to release that adrenaline is to tear up the sofa cushions.

If you exercise your dog only to find that his hyperactivity has gotten worse, it probably means there is an imbalance between mindless exercise and mental stimulation. Which brings us to…


Boredom
Your dog can go for a two hour run every day but still be bouncing off the walls at home because he is bored out of his mind. Mental stimulation is just as important as exercise. So put your dog’s brain power to good use and give him a job. A job can be as complex as getting into agility classes or as simple as having him work for his food.

Your assignment, if you choose to accept it:
Take a good look at all these factors and consider whether or not they apply to your situation. If they do, how can you improve on them?

Check out part two of this mini-series, where I show you 3 Tips for Training Hyper Out-of-Control Dogs