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Calming Your Hyperactive Dog

Calming a Hyperactive Dog
I don’t usually give prescriptions to “fix” a dog’s behavior because every dog is an individual and therefore should be treated as one. In addition, each and every moment is unique and may call for a different protocol. To this end, I ask that you ALWAYS use your gut feeling and intuition to do what is right for your dog in each present moment, no matter what I or anyone else has advised you.
With that being said, I’ve come up with some guidelines, or let’s call them suggestions, for calming a hyperactive or anxious dog.

1. Reduce the amount of stimulation indoors. For this you need: calm greetings in which you remain absolutely neutral. You may also consider practicing the Attention Diet (no touch, no talk, no eye contact). Absolutely no games or fetch indoors. No rough-housing. High pitched squeaky toys should be THROWN AWAY. The dog is crated in a safe space when children need time to express themselves. If children are calm and create a safe feeling for the dog, then he can hang out.

2. Give your dog a den. This could be a crate, a playpen, a laundry room, guest bathroom, the basement, or whatever space you decide. Call it the “canine cave.” Let people know that when your dog is in his “cave” he needs to be given space and quiet. Your dog should always have the option of retreating to his cave.

3. Take a break from training. Yes, it’s okay to take a training break. This is akin to a savasana period in yoga practice. Just let your dog be a dog, and embrace your dog’s dogginess. Let him hang in the yard with a bone. Let him dig a hole. Give him long, quiet walks in the woods on a long line/lead and back-clip harness. No need for obedience. You can detox from Pushing, Making Contact, Bark-on-Command, Tug-of-War, etc. Any of the core exercises that might cause your dog to go into a sympathetic state can be avoided. We will return to them once your dog’s nervous system has come back to neutral.

4. Touch Without Talk. I would advise everyone to practice getting calm, grounded, and centered. Get embodied with a Feldenkrais, yoga, or meditation practice. Get a massage or some other bodywork. Once you can feel your own body and a sense of peace, transfer those good vibes to your dog with a daily session of massage.

5. Consider a species-appropriate diet. Most of us are familiar with the fact that gut health has a huge impact on behavior. Did you know that every organ, even the blood, has its own microbiome? If you want to learn more about holistic feeding for your animal, consult a CSAN (Certified Small Animal Naturopath). I recommend talking with Joy Eriksen of Joyfully Healthy Pets.

6. Do your research on vaccines. When we consider gut-health and the health of your dog’s nervous system, we have to talk about vaccines and other chemicals (pesticides) that we place in, on, or around our dogs. I recommend doing your own research and making your own decisions, but in favor of health, I avoid these things myself.

7. Emphasis on collection, not correction. If you have taken a training break, come back fresh with an emphasis on collection. When you collect your dog physically, he learns to collect himself emotionally. Core work can be tricky, because there is no “one size fits all” prescription. I notice that most people--myself included--tend to practice the core exercises that match their own personal vibration. For me, I used to do too much of the “activating” exercises and not enough of the “calming” exercises. This is why I especially emphasize Touch Without Talk and Collection with my dogs today. If you are addicted to hyping your dog up, just take a break! Also, it’s important to understand that you can’t “correct” a dog for acting out when their nervous system is out of balance. The dog is never wrong, and so telling him he’s wrong for expressing certain emotions only inhibits his connection to you, and actually makes the problem worse.


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