This may seem like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many over-exuberant dogs are simply not getting enough exercise. If you have a young athletic dog, a 30-minute walk around the block will not cut it. Most young dogs need at least a solid hour of good exercise daily, ideally off-leash. If your dog has good social skills and you feel confident navigating them, dog parks can be great places to exercise your dog off-leash. The dog isn’t so friendly with others or not a dog park fan? There are no shortages of parks, fields, and other green spaces in Toronto that are dog friendly. Use a long line where leash laws are in effect or if your dog needs work on their recall.

Don’t forget about exercising that brain as well. Mental stimulation is just as important as the physical kind for frantic fidos, if not more so. Lucky for us, it’s never been easier to work your dog’s brain. With a huge assortment of puzzle toys available, it can be as easy as filling up a toy with kibble or wet food and letting your dog figure it out. Make sure you rotate toys to keep up the challenge! Training is also an excellent way to get your dog’s brain going, and it has the added benefit of creating a well-mannered pup.


On the flip side, we also must ensure our dogs get the rest they need. Dogs need about 12 – 14 hours of sleep daily. That number increases for puppies and older dogs, who need more rest time to recuperate. The reason that dogs seem to need so much more sleep than we do is that the amount of sleep they spend in the REM stage (that is the deepest stage of sleep that is thought to play a vital role in rest and recovery) is only 10%, compared to our 25%. Humans also take longer to enter REM sleep, so we sleep for a long period. Dogs can enter REM much faster but are also much lighter sleepers, jolting awake at the sound of the mailbox or a dog down the street. This means to get proper rest, your dog should be napping for at least 3 – 5 hours every day, in addition to sleeping through the night. No one makes good decisions when they’re sleep-deprived, including our dogs.


Even the most energetic dogs have their moments of calm. It may be brief, but it’s there! Take the opportunity to reward those small moments, and slowly, you’ll see more of them. Capturing is an excellent way to let your dog know you like their behaviour. To capture a behaviour, say your dog’s marker word when they’re doing something you like (most people use the word ‘yes’) and reward with a treat. In this situation, a treat reward is better than a toy, as we don’t want to rile the dog up with a game. Deliver the treat on the ground in front of your dog to keep them calm. Your dog may get up and look expectant; ignore them until they settle again.


One of the best ways to help your dog chill out is to teach them to relax on cue. To help do this, most trainers recommend a comfy mat. This mat, over time, becomes a place of relaxation and eventually a cue to calm down. The most common way to do mat work is to shape relaxation behaviours. Shaping (marking and rewarding small steps towards an end goal) relaxation behaviours on the mat (such as laying down, laying down on their side, putting their head down, stretching out, or even closing their eyes) soon turns the mat into a relaxation station. A mat is used because it’s easy to transport, making it easy to bring the cue to relax along with you to different environments. The more your dog practices being calm, the easier it will come to them, whether or not the mat is available.


I can’t stress the importance of letting your dog sniff enough. Where we perceive the world primarily through sight, dogs perceive their world primarily through scent. As Alexandra Horowitz writes in ‘Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know’, “a dog’s universe is a stratum of complex odours. The world of scents is at least as rich as the world of sights.” “To pull a dog away from ardent sniffing is the same for him as being yanked away from a scene just as soon as you turn your eyes to it.” Allow natural behaviour is a key component in animal welfare. A recent study has shown that sniffing also lowers pulse rate; the more intense the sniffing, the lower the pulse rates. Realistically, we can’t trail behind our dogs while they follow a scent every which way all the time. What we can do is to do our best to allow time for at least one walk a day solely dedicated to allowing your dog to sniff. All dogs can benefit from this decompression time, especially dogs that tend to be over the top or anxious.

Finally, I’d like to end by saying that as long as you and your dog are happy and living well together, there is nothing wrong with having a high-energy, excitable dog. Often, these are just young (but not always) happy dogs excited about the world. The purpose of these tips isn’t to dampen their enthusiasm or spirit but to provide guidance on how you can succeed without driving each other crazy. Accept and enjoy your animated friend, and with luck, some of that curious, carefree attitude that embodies what it means to be a dog will rub off on you, too.


Everything You Need to Know About How Dogs Sleep, sleephelp.org