Why are some dogs more hyper than others?

Active Dog

September 25, 2020

Why are some dogs more hyper than others?

Plus, tips to help calm a hyper dog

Just like people, not all dogs have the same energy level. Some dogs are much more hyper than others.

Some dogs are more hyper than others because we bred them for different purposes. Genetics can absolutely influence your dog’s baseline energy level. It makes sense that a border collie is more hyper than a pug, because a border collie’s job (or at least her great-grandparent’s job) is to spend all day watching and herding sheep. 

A border collie’s hypervigilance, speed, stamina, drive to control movement, and endless energy is all part of what makes her a border collie. A few walks around the block won’t even make a dent in her energy! Meanwhile, a pug was bred to sit on laps and keep people company. Of course the border collie will run circles around the pug.

large white dog and smaller black dog in dog pen outside

Of course, there are also differences within a given breed. Some border collies are a bit lazier than others and some pugs are more hyper than others. However, your average border collie will be MUCH more hyper than a pug.

If you’re struggling with a hyper dog, try to do some research on what the breed was originally designed for. This might give you a clue into better ways to let her express her energy. For example, a pit bull might really love playing with a springpole, a Newfoundland might like pulling a cart, a border collie might like herding balls in the sport Treibball, and a husky might love running with your bike. 

If your dog is a mutt or of unknown heritage, that’s ok. You can just figure out what she likes and work with that anyway.

While training and age might help you out with a hyper dog, there’s one thing hyper dogs need more than anything else: meaningful exercise.

2 large dogs entering room that has dog gate being opened by woman@sparklesandsunshineblog

Yes, it’s helpful to train your dog to relax indoors. I spent months working on this skill with my border collie. I combined SMART x 50 and Karen Overall’s Relaxation Protocol.

And yes, a 7-year-old dog will be calmer than a 2-year-old dog in most cases. But if you notice the ages of dogs winning international agility championships (often 6- or 7-year-old dogs), you might realize that simply waiting for your hyper dog to grow out of it isn’t a great strategy. 

Your hyper dog won’t be calm if you just take her for walks. In some cases, even running, hiking, and biking won’t cut it. Most hyper dogs do best with a combination of mental and physical exercise, such as agility, Treibball, herding, or scentwork. If you just take your hyper dog for a 5-mile run every day, that’s a great start! Well done. 

But, if you notice that your hyper dog is still a pain in the rear even after over an hour of hard exercise, you need to add in some mental exercise. That’s because your dog might still feel antsy (and not know how to relax), and you’ve still got a bit more work to do.

I recommend the following lifestyle changes to help calm a hyper dog:

  • Feed 1 meal per day out of a puzzle toy like a Kong Wobbler or Snuffle Mat
  • Feed 1 meal per day in training – teaching your dog tricks or rewarding your dog for nice, calm behavior
  • Run, hike, bike, or swim with your dog 1 hour per day 3-6 days per week
  • Train your dog in a mentally and physically tiring way (scentwork, agility, Treibball, herding, even competitive obedience). At least once per week is recommended.
2 small dogs behind gate @storm_theaussheperd

I can’t say this enough: putting your hyper dog in the backyard or taking her for a few on-leash walks per day won’t cut it. You’ll need to up your game to make sure she’s really getting her needs met!