Puppies and young dogs are usually more active than adult dogs. They belong to a delicate phase in which the animal has plenty of energy to play, explore and socialise. The discovery of something new is of primary importance and it is their first approach to the world around them during this period that will condition their future adulthood.
The owners’ role is crucial: they need to be cooperative, understanding and patient. Waiting for the dog’s energy levels to calm down with age is certainly something positive, but likewise, it is critically important is to positively reinforce certain behaviour and discourage over-exuberance towards objects and people when the dog is still young. Then time will take care of the rest as adulthood makes the dog calmer and more balanced in how it expresses affection and plays.
The cause of hyperactivity in dogs
Hyperactivity is closely linked to genetics, upbringing, and the attention received by the animal during its early stages of cognitive development.
However, there will always be breed-specific cases. A Belgian shepherd dog, for example, will always tend to be active and inquisitive, whereas an English bulldog may be calm and docile even as a puppy. Of course, it is also true that, like people, every dog is unique and so we must always be on the lookout for exceptions to the ‘rule’.
Another factor that can impact on the activity level of our dog is the ‘social’ context in which it lives. The opportunity to mingle, walk and play with other dogs, for example, can trigger instincts to hunt, play and run wild.
How to handle a lively puppy correctly
First of all, try to use a calm yet firm voice. Avoid shouting or punishing any displays of inappropriate behaviour and reward good behaviour.
Remember that if we, for example, shout or gesticulate, we convey worry and nervousness, and our dog senses and reacts to our lack of assertiveness.
Going for a walk has a crucial role: not only in terms of socialising, but also for releasing pent-up energy and tension. Even dogs living in large houses, or dogs with access to a garden, need walks to help them learn about the world around them and the other dogs in the neighbourhood. Bouts of long, incessant barking are often due precisely to a dog’s lack of knowledge of the territory and its neighbours.
There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met. (William Butler Yeats)