A Curse of the “Crazies”: The Challenge of the Hyper Dog

Have you ever met one those dogs whose water bowl you’d swear is full of espresso?  From the minute they wake up in the morning their pupils are like giant saucers and they literally never stop moving.  Not only can they not sit still, but they pant incessantly and chew every piece of furniture that gets in their way.  The people that are brave enough to come over (because by now their owners have no friends left), are met with a nipping, spinning, whining ball of fury at the front door.  The people that are unfortunate enough to pass them on the street end up with paw prints on their work suit and a giant hole ripped in one of their sleeves.  Their poor owners are exhausted and are constantly embarrassed by their dog’s behaviour.  They don’t like to leave the dog alone because of the chaos they’ll find when they get home and they sure as hell can’t bring the dog with them.  It seems like a lose-lose situation for everyone involved.

I’m meeting more and more of these types of dogs.  The constant attention and stimulation we pay our dogs seems to be backfiring on us in a major way.  It seems that the majority of dogs I meet recently are completely unable to relax.

Given that every commercial is touting ways to “save time” and “eat on the go”, or selling the latest energy drink designed to keep us up longer hours so that we can “get more done”.  It’s no wonder that our dogs seem to be suffering the same exhausted, over-worked fate that their owners are.  Recently I was at a seminar hosted by my colleague Caryn Liles of Whattapup where a veterinary behaviourist name Dr. Sagi Denenberg was discussing the effect that arousal has on the brain.  It was no surprise to me to hear that learning stops happening when a dog is too aroused.  All of our frantic efforts to get our dogs to “SIT, STAY” and focus are wasted on dogs that are too flooded with stress hormones such as cortisol to even absorb the lessons we so desperately wish they would learn.

We need to get back to basics.  Before we can even work on obedience with our dogs we need to help them to relax.  Think of it as a daily meditation.  When I spend just ten minutes sitting calmly and paying attention to the sensations and smells around me it can put me in a better frame of mind for the whole day.  Our dogs need that too.  Talk to your trainer about practical ways to keep your dog in a “Zen” state of mind as he goes about his day. I’d like to go into more depth about some of these techniques in later blogs, but for now I’d like to recommend a book I’ve been reading.  It’s called “Fired Up, Frantic and Freaked Out: Training Crazy Dogs from Over-the-Top to Under Control”, by Laura VanArendonk Baugh, CPDT-KA, KPACTP.  It’s full of practical ways to help your dog learn to calm himself down so that you’ll finally be able to bring your dog along to the family barbecue this summer:)