How Can I Teach My Hyper Dog to Calm Down?

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Q. My Golden Retriever is unbelievably hyper. She never settles down. What can I do to help her calm down?

A. Golden Retrievers are working retriever dogs, which means they have a high energy level that needs to be released through productive outlets, otherwise that energy will be expended in less desirable ways, such as jumping up, counter surfing and chewing on furniture. While there are some Goldens whose main purpose in life seems to be giving gentle kisses and snuggling on the couch, the vast majority of Golden Retrievers I’ve had in training class are furry bundles of energy that will only think about settling down after they’ve been given long daily walks, obedience training and games of fetch.

Golden Retrievers Need Exercise

I can relate to your dilemma; our family’s Golden Retriever, Shakira, has always been high-strung and energetic, and even with age, she has only shown small decreases in her activity level. She was from a hunting line of dogs, and even though she’s not a field trial canine, her desire to be one is so genetically ingrained that she will fetch for hours on end, and we like to joke that her brain consists of two neurons attached to a tennis ball. We’ve learned to appreciate Shakira’s personality as part of what she was originally bred to do. We’ve also found that keeping her involved in our daily routine of chores around the ranch, combined with twice-daily play sessions that leave her panting tired, helps her settle down. Even though she’s 12 and blind, Shakira still has energy to spare, but we’ve helped her to channel that energy into outlets that fit her desire as well as our lifestyle.

Five Ways to Calm Your Hyper Dog

Ignore the bad behavior. In many cases, dogs are hyper because they’ve been conditioned to be so by their owner. They’ve found that being excitable — jumping, pulling and acting out — is the best way to get their owner’s attention. It matters very little to your dog if the attention is positive or negative, as long as it’s attention. For this reason, it is essential to reward your dog only during the times when she is quiet and calm and ignore hyperactive behavior.

Get more exercise. Find ways for your dog to get an extra workout during the day. Consider increasing the number or length of walks she gets each day, but increase slowly. If your dog struggles to finish or seems sore afterward, back off and ask your veterinarian about ways to safely increase your dog's activity level. 

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