Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Training Rant - The Hyper Dog

Ok, so I've been all "idealistic" for a few days. Blech. Sorry for those of you who aren't interested. I sometimes get rolling on an idea and it's hard to stop. Hold the horses! Change of pace!
The Hyper Dog.

I hear all the time that some people's dogs are so hyper they can't possibly train it! It can't walk on leash without pulling because it is just too hyper. It goes crazy when something in the environment changes like someone new walks in the door because it's hyper. Here's the thing. The "Hyper Dog" only exists in your mind.

Why are people always amazed at this behaviour? Furthermore, why do they always believe that their dog is the most active dog in existence?

When people tell me that they can't teach their dog a thing because he or she is too hyper and can't concentrate, I always ask them three questions. One, "when is the last time you took your dog out for a nice, 4 hour hike through the hills offleash outside of town?" Two, "What sort of training games have you done with your dog to teach patience?" The second question is always followed with a third "Why don't you get off your duff and bother to teach your dog patience?"

Most people I have met who has a dog that is more active than they can deal with don't look at themselves as the problem. They don't want to consider that they may have caused the problems and it is their fault. Why? Why are we, as a society, so afraid to admit our mistakes and correct them? By doing this, we condemn our dogs to boredom, failure, destruction, and a lack of sufficient exercise. Sure, you may walk your dogs twice a day, but for most dogs, that is not enough!

I wonder sometimes why is it that after a few weeks living with me, most proclaimed "hyper" dogs just calm right down? In my experience, there are a few different reasons why dogs become hyper. (If I miss any, feel free to add them!)

1. Boredom
2. Need more exercise
3. Under-stimulation
4. Over-stimulation
5. Anxiety
6. Lack of direction during exciting situations (obedience training)

There are so many different things you can do to fix this.

First, sit down and figure out how much you are actually working with your dog. Is it a walk twice a day (so that's, what ... 1 hour)? This will help you to understand where your dog is coming from. Think about it - could you live the life your dog lives? Break it down - don't think about you not working or being fed ... think about the real truth - what does your dog do all day while you're at work or school? Don't just think about how neat it would be to not have to go to work or school ... think about being locked in a house/crate day after day wondering if your owners will come home on time or late?
Second, see if you can find some time through the week to work with your dog - you could be training while you are cooking dinner or during commercial breaks when you're watching tv! You could teach your dog to stay while watching tv ... put into a sit/stand/down + stay and hold for a few minutes into the TV show ... then release after the first scene change! Maybe there is 30 minutes in the evening that you could work on a new skill ... I have found that some dogs will pick up a new skill in as little as two 30 minute sessions! There are many different games you can play with your dog throughout the evening to enrich their lives.

Third, think about your time over the weekends and consider spending some time with your dog. Why not take your dog(s) out for a 4 hour hike, bring your friends, their doggie friends, spouse or special someone and take along a nice picnic lunch. Walking your dog doesn't have to be a chore! It shouldn't be a chore - it should be a pleasurable experience.

Fourth, take responsibility for the actions of your dog. If you don't like the actions, teach them alternatives! I hate to say it, but people now-a-days are l-a-z-y. That's right - lazy.

We tried for months to re-home our retriever mix. No-one wanted him. I couldn't pay people to take him off our hands! (Believe me, I tried to rehome him) He was Trouble with a capital T and came with more problems than I could possibly list. But now that we've put 3 years worth of training into him ... well, we lock our doors when not at home for fear that people who have tried to take him will make good on their offers!

Know what? Everyone's dog can be a good, well behaved and well trained dog. But it takes work!

The Hyper Dog is simply another one of those convenient excuses people use so they don't have to train their dogs.


Sully said...

I find a nice game of fetch in the yard a good way to chill out an active dog so they are calm enough to learn something new.

DogsDeserveFreedom said...

Yes, fetch works well too. I find with most of the foster dogs I have go through, they don't know how to play.

For those dogs, they don't understand how to play fetch and it is actually another trick that they need to be taught.

LuLu and LoLLy! said...

Thanks for reminding people to get into their doggies' heads! At our website we write things from our (dogs) perspektiv in order to try to make humans think a little more. Two Paws Up! for this post, Love, your PaLs, LuLu and LoLLy.

Eurodog said...

Very good post.
I use Cesar Milan's rule of:
1. exercice
2. discipline
3. affection
and in that order.

OldMorgans said...

Watching Victoria Stilwell and Cesar Milan, it is interesting to see the large number of "hyper" dogs; and then see how well they can learn and settle down with proper training and handling.
Yes, folks, dogs are work. They require attention, training, walks, exercise, training, and more attention (and did I mention training?). Which is why I don't have dogs now. I frankly don't want to put the time into a dog that a dog deserves. I put my time into my horses and then go inside and enjoy my cats. I do miss having dogs, but that is my decision.
I agree that labeling a dog "hyper" is a human cop-out.

meemsnyc said...

We added your link to our blog.

GoLightly said...

Agreed, oh MY, so agreed.

People are tooo busy, answering their darned cells, and texting, and ..

WALK your dog. Play with your dog. Train your dog.

Rebecca said...

It doesn't even take long to wear out most dogs. Even my BC doesn't take hours upon hours or exercise every day to wear out. We do a lot of mental exercise (which can be as simple as tossing a handful of treats out in the yard for him to "go find") on top of regular physical exercise.

I met the saddest dog once, a Border Collie whose owner was a marathon runner. He got a wonderful amount of physical exercise. He was an athlete, but an incredibly bored and destructive athlete. Running was all he and his owner ever really did together. All it would have taken to have a wonderful pet was a few minutes a day of training and mental exercise. 'Course, most dogs suffer from lack of both. :(

"I find with most of the foster dogs I have go through, they don't know how to play."

Isn't that sad? Our last two fosters had no idea how to properly play, even with other dogs. Our permanent dog taught them, thankfully he is very good at interacting with dogs who have forgotten how to interact with other dogs.

TheModernPetBlog said...

We just officially adopted our foster dog and have been taking him to Sirius dog training. We have all learned so much! He is only a year old but was considered unadoptable by the shelter because he would not stop whining in his cage and was hyper when released. After a month of being with us he has become very proficient at fetch, loves chew toys, and his recalls are now strong enough that we can let him off lead to play at dog parks. He also loves going to work with his dad (a Veterinarian) and playing with the other dogs at the clinic for hours. Anyway, I don't mean to ramble, I just wanted to thank you for getting the word out about dog training. Also, we just started a blog, so if you have any vet questions feel free to ask us and please enter our giveaway ;)

Calsidyrose said...

I agree with OldMorgans--Dogs require work. I volunteer with my local shelter. One of the biggest challenges I face when talking with potential adopters is that people don't think about the changes that come with having a dog. Even taking a foster dog into your home (and my house is dog-friendly because I have two rescue dogs of my own)requires more time. My current foster is a min-pin girl who is delightful but very skittish. Providing her with a routine--attention, exercise, and some basic training--means I have to be willing to add more to my schedule. Thanks for a great blog.

Natalie Keller Reinert said...

I used to live in Manhattan and chose my apartment specifically on its proximity to Central Park. I took my beagle there, who had lived with me on my farm in Ocala and was used to going everywhere with me, work, feed store, etc.

I prioritized her long walks and off-leash time over anything else and met a great group of people who did the same thing, together we had a great time trying to outwit the park police who hated the way we would break into closed greens to let our dogs run without any risk of being hit by cars in the park roads.

One morning at about 7 AM I met a man in the street who was walking a fractious looking shepherd type dog. He asked me how often I walked my dog. I said two to three hours per day. (At this time I was probably 8 months pregnant, and dressed professionally to go to work).

"My god!" he said. "Dogs are hard work. I've had this one a week and I'm not sure I can do it. That's a lot of time."

I explained that I had met all my close friends in the city through my "dog group" and that it was worth it to have a sidekick in this town. It was a pleasure, besides, to make my dog happy.

He said that he had been walking the dog a half hour in the morning and a half hour at night. The dog spent the rest of its day in the apartment and was gnawing its way through all of his possessions.

I gave him my cell number and said I'd take the dog with mine if he liked, but the dog had to have more outside social time. He never got in touch with me and I never saw him again. But there are a lot of dogwalkers on the Upper West Side so hopefully he got in touch with one of them.

A year later we moved back to Florida and the beagle is roaming acreage again. But now I spend less quality time with her than I did, because she is amusing herself, instead of me amusing her. I miss those walks!

DogsDeserveFreedom said...

Thanks for your comments everyone! Dogs are work, yes, but that "work" should be enjoyable. They require both mental and physical stimulation (only one leaves an incomplete dog - as mentioned by Rebecca) as well as sufficient training.

Eurodog - I do agree that this theory is a good place to start, but I don't think it addresses the need for mental stimulation as is required by most dogs to be fully fulfilled. Most dog owners should begin by looking at this model, but each one will have to adapt it and shape it to their individual dog's needs.

Sometimes we don't realize that the simplest activity requires training (such as playing fetch or working a cookie ball). I forget sometimes too - but am reminded every time we get dogs come in that have NO idea of even the basics.

mytwh said...

This is one of my biggest "peeves". We just moved into a new house in the country on a secluded road. Our neighbors across the street have a 2 year old German Shepard. He is tied outside all day and then they let him loose when they get home to roam around. I've never seen them walk him and I doubt he even knows how to walk on a leash. He's rambunctious, rude and annoying...but it's all because of his owners! His "mom" told me that they bought him because they wanted a dog that "looked scary". He's the biggest goofball lovebug and a nice dog, but has no manners and no concept of how to interact with other dogs. I have a 25 pound beagle/boston terrier and the GS tries to play with him but ends up squishing him and jumping on him, which Ziggy doesn't like.

When I try to walk Ziggy, the GS follows us, so ever night I have to go over and ask them to hold him while we get a head start. I've taken him on a walk off leash and he was relatively good, but he's too strong for me and I'm afraid he'd hurt me if I took him for a leahed walk on the more busy roads (I have a bad back and dogs that pull put me in agony). I feel so bad for him. I want to tell them to walk the poor thing. Do things with him! He's so bored he acts nuts and the owners say he's stupid. He's far from stupid, he just needs to excercise his body and mind. I wish I could print this off for them!

Any ideas on educating them? I was thinking of asking the woman if she'd like to walk with me...

Ziggy and I walk every day, days we don't walk due to weather, we play and play and play. In the warmer months when we're trail riding more often, he comes with us and runs along with the horses, which he loves! I enjoy being able to give him off-leash time and he's so well trained that he can be trusted. He also enjoys going to daycare (which is the best way to tire any dog out!).

Thanks for this post, I wish all pet owners had this common sense-and that's what it is-common sense!!! You need to exercise anything that has too much energy!!!

DogsDeserveFreedom said...

mytwh - personally, I'd approach the owners and explain these concerns you have to them. Tell that the dog follows you when you walk yours and that you're worried about him being hit by a car and becoming another statistic. See if the woman will walk with you - sounds like a good way to get her and her dog some exercise (though that may not be the best way to present it to her!). Having her keep the dog restrained while you are walking will not help the dog any.

If she refuses to work with you in any way, than the next step I would do (were I you) would be to work with him and teach him how to properly walk on a leash. I know you can't have him pull because of your back, but it may not take long to teach him (provided you haven't let him get away with pulling and therefore have not allowed bad habits to form). If you teach him that the only way you will walk forward with him is if he walks the way you want, he may learn quickly since he wants to be with you. The desire is there, you just have to harness it. Hey - it may be good practice for your own dog. Believe it or not, walking with more than one dog is another learning step for yours.