Is your dog in constant motion? Is it impossible to calm her down, no matter how many walks she gets? Your high energy dog needs to channel her drive into appropriate outlets and fortunately, it might be easier and less time consuming to do than you realize. It’s important to try to tire out your dog physically, but remember that dogs have creative, active minds that need stimulation as well.
The following are tips and tricks that address the body and brain, and will turn a can’t-stop canine into a chilled-out companion:
Invest in Tug Toys
Playing “tug of war” with your dog was once considered taboo because of concerns that it might lead to aggressive behavior. While the game can encourage a passionate response from canine players, instilling a few rules keeps it positive and engages your dog physically and mentally. Tug is appropriate for dogs of all ages, and can be played inside or out. To get started, find an appropriately-sized dog toy to use as your tug item (one that puts at least six inches between your hand and your dog’s mouth). You should always be the one to begin and end the game, and your dog should know how to drop the toy when you ask. Make time during the match for quick training breaks. Ask your dog to sit and stay, take a few moments to rest, then get back to the action.
Your everyday walk around the block is a fine way to get your dog’s business done, but if you’re looking to put a dent in her energy levels, you need to get her on the road less traveled. Taking your dog to a wooded path and letting her explore the unique environment will stimulate her senses in a way that your everyday walk can’t. The novel terrain and new sights, sounds and creatures you’ll encounter will tap into all of your dog’s senses and will drain much of her pent-up energy by the end. And if you keep up the pace, you’ll get a workout as well!
Utilize Her Natural Skills
“Find the toy” is a fantastic energy-burning game because it taps into one of your dog’s incredible but underutilized senses – her amazing nose. This game doesn’t require much space, can be played inside or out and is a great game for dogs of all ages because it’s low impact. Teach your dog to seek out her favorite toy first by hiding it in an obvious spot and encouraging her to “find it.” After a few repetitions your dog will understand what “find it” means, so take her out of the room and hide the toy so she can’t see where it is. She’ll have to use her sense of smell to locate the toy, which doesn’t seem like much work, but will tire out your dog more quickly than you might imagine.
Play Hide and Seek
This game is similar to “find it,” but instead of looking for a toy, your dog will sniff you out. Hide and seek is an easy teach-as-you-go game, so begin by hiding in an obvious place (for example, behind a door) and tell your dog “come find me!” Have a celebration when your dog locates you, either with praise or a quick game of tug. Then hide again in a more challenging location and repeat the process. This game is a scaled-down version of search and rescue work, and once again taps into your dog’s powerful sense of smell. It’s a fast-paced, low-impact game suitable or all ages that will put a dent in your dog’s energy levels, and will increase the bond between you at the same time.
Try Trick Training
Adding tricks to your dog’s repertoire will not only make her a cute show-off, it’ll totally tire her out as she goes through the learning process. Clicker training is a great way to teach your pooch new skills because it turns training into a game. The more complex the behavior, the more tiring it will be, so teaching a multi-step trick like “roll over” or “play dead” will do wonders to mentally exhaust your pooch.
Have Playtime with Other Dogs
Nothing quite compares to the full body exhaustion that results from an intense dog play session. Not only is the body very obviously engaged, the social nuances that happen during the play date require that your dog engage her brain as well. This type of interaction takes more effort on your part because you have to find appropriate play partners. Pairing up dogs that are a similar age, size and enjoy the same types of interactions (for example, both like to wrestle or both enjoy a game of “catch-me”) helps to ensure healthy and constructive play. By the end of the get together, you’ll have a tired and happy pooch.
There are so many different ways that you and your dog can team up and spread some positivity in the world while taking the edge off your dog’s energy levels. Is your dog a social butterfly? Try volunteering in hospitals or nursing homes, where your dog can interact with many different kinds of people. Is your dog happy to hang out with friends? Enroll her as a reading therapy dog, which helps children improve their reading and speaking skills while your dog acts as an impartial listener. Engaging with new people in a volunteer situation transforms dogs, because it’s almost as if they understand that they’re helping. Plus, these feel-good vibes apply to you as well – both you and your dog will be fulfilled through volunteering!
Participate in Dog Sports
If you and your high-energy dog are ready to level up, give organized dog sports a try. Most dog sports require a solid obedience training baseline, so polish your basic stays and recalls, then dive into some of the most energy-draining options available. Dog sports tap into dogs’ natural drives, so if you have a champion sniffer, check out earthdog trails. If your dog loves to retrieve, give flyball or dock diving a try. And if your dog wants to herd the world, look into a newer dog sport called treibball. A dog that’s driven to chase small creatures will enjoy having a turn on the lure coursing field. And if you want to get in on the high speed action alongside your dog, consider agility or canine freestyle, both of which require a healthy level of fitness on the human side of the equation.
Victoria Schade is a dog trainer, author & speaker who has contributed to The Washington Post, Martha Stewart, and other publications.