The dog is bouncing off the walls. How do I help my dog be calm?!? They sound frazzled and done dealing with their dog, and have no more time in the day to give when it comes to exercise.
Treat toys, puzzle games, chews, bones, the dog is spoiled for choice, yet there is no calm in the home. He continues to make trouble, knocking into things, nipping, barking, and generally being hyperactive.
Owners have been prescribed more exercise for these types of dogs, even when they are already exercising the dog enough, even if the dog is getting hours a day of running, biking, ball throwing, etc.
It is frustrating for me to know that there are owners like this who are doing their best but it won’t help their dog be calm! Throwing more intense activities, more exercise, more high energy expenditure, more dog park trips, none of it will help a dog be calm.
It will do the opposite.
Stress and the Body
For all its complexity the body is pretty simple sometimes. For example, the same hormones that are released when a dog is hunting and chasing prey (adrenaline and cortisol) are also released when the dog is in a life and death situation. They are also released when the dog is in a highly excited state, and when a dog practicing high energy activities like a round of fetch, at doggy daycare or dog park activities.
These chemicals will affect the body whether it’s “safe” stress or the dog is actually in some form of danger. While I won’t list the systems and get really into the heavy details of what is happening physically and how even the brain is being affected, it’s enough to say that these patterns of high stress are not healthy.
These patterns repeated daily are not natural, and are not going to help your dog be calm. I regularly see dogs like this struggle with being calm around their triggers, whether this is the ball, other dogs, or other activities that are high stimulating to that particular dog. When we look at village or street dogs we don’t see them practicing behaviors like this in their own communities and as a whole those dogs tend to be much more behaviorally stable compared to our pampered pets.
The dogs who actively and regularly are practicing high energy activities are simply making those patterns stronger in brain and body. It is very much counter productive to be practicing something that is high excitement day in and day out and expect that it will help a dog be calm! The most you’d get out of this is an excited dog that is exhausted enough to sleep.
What Will Help Dogs be Calm?
The short answer is calming activities and training.
Things that are highly exciting are still ok to do with your dog, but should be done in moderation. For every high energy activity that a dog regularly practices, there should be a corresponding calming activity, and ideally there should be more time spent practicing these calming activities than the high energy one.
This helps a dog be calm because they practice switching from a high excitement state into a calm mindset. So instead of being stuck in a high excitement state and waiting for the next exciting pattern to begin, the dog is being actively taught how to self regulate. Which means you will get more calm behavior from them as well and no longer have to have a dog going completely bonkers all the time.
Sniffy walks are also a great way to exercise the mind and the body, sniffing takes a lot out of a dog, and it’s a simple activity to help dogs be calm that is very often overlooked.
And last but not least, there are many training strategies that will help a dog be calm and focus on strengthening their skills in that area. Get in touch if you’d like to get real help with your pup!