What Causes Hyperactivity in Dogs - Symptoms & Solutions

What’s one thing that dogs and young children have in common? They both have plenty of energy! While a playful puppy is certainly normal, sometimes it can seem like your dog never grows out of this phase. It may be that your dog has hyperkinesis. Hyperkinesis is essentially another word for hyperactivity. When your dog has too much energy, they can easily become distracted, ignore your commands and calls, be overly affectionate and become a concern when around small children.

The good news is, it can be treated. By understanding the symptoms and best ways to treat this issue, you can get your dog’s behaviour under control.


Symptoms of Hyperactivity 

Some of the most common symptoms of hyperkinesis are actually quite similar to people who have ADHD. These include:

  • Hyperactivity
  • High energy
  • Impulsiveness
  • Attention-seeking
  • Distractibility (making them harder to train)
  • Poor social skills
  • Aggressive when stressed


What Causes Hyperactivity

There are a number of factors that may cause your dog to develop hyperkinesis. This issue can be caused by a variety of environmental and biological factors and your dog’s diagnosis may be the result of several of these.


There are some breeds of dog where hyperkinesis seems more common. Most of these breeds were typically bred for hunting purposes and still have this heightened energy as a result. With most pets not out pulling sleds and hunting animals on a daily basis, all this energy has to go somewhere.

  • Golden Retriever - these dogs were originally bred in order to help hunters. This breed has a particularly heightened sense of smell and unique tracking abilities, which can make it more prone to distraction.
  • Jack Russell Terrier - though small, this breed can have seemingly endless energy. Originally bred to be fox hunters, it’s no surprise they can be a little more energetic than most.
  • Border Collie - this intelligent breed was originally bred in the mountains of England and Scotland to help herd sheep. While quite smart, this high energy background can still get the best of them.
  • Siberian Husky - these dogs were originally bred by the Chukchi people to help pull their sleds and to keep people company. With a background of running and pulling heavy objects on a daily basis, it’s no wonder they’ve got plenty of energy to spare.

Lack of Exercise and Training

While all breeds benefit from regular exercise and training, historical hunters, like the breeds above, have a higher need for ensuring they get enough exercise.

While you may take your dog out for a walk around the neighbourhood every day, when dealing with breeds like the Siberian Husky who once ran hundreds of kilometres a day, this short walk may not be enough. Providing adequate mental and physical stimulation for your pet is crucial to controlling their hyperactivity. 

Improper Early Development 

Just like with children, a dog’s puppy years are one of the most crucial times for their development. This is when they should be learning how to properly play, how to behave and have all their basic training commands nailed down. However, if you don’t give your dog enough attention while they’re a puppy, or properly socialise them, they can develop a boisterous and antisocial personality.


The irritation of your dog’s skin, caused by allergic reactions, can result in your dog acting erratically. When your dog has a reaction to something like fleas, flea bites, shampoos or even a plant in your backyard, their body can react by causing their skin to become unbearably itchy. Feeling annoyed and frustrated by the constant itch, this can have a flow on effect, causing them to start exhibiting abnormal behaviours, such as hyperactivity. 


How to Treat Hyperactivity in Dogs

Adequate Exercise

Keeping exercise consistent is one of the most important ways to control their hyperactivity. Giving your dog adequate physical activity allows them to have an outlet for all their stored energy and anxiety. With this energy released, they can become easier to train, will sleep better and it can even improve their digestive system. Just letting them run around in the background isn’t always enough. Go out in the yard with them and throw a ball or play some tug of war. This is also a great chance to improve their training by getting some rounds of fetch in.

If your dog is particularly energetic and you’ve gotten their basic training sorted, your pooch may benefit from something like agility training. This gives them another outlet for energy expenditure and also keeps their brain stimulated and occupied.

Proper Training

Coupled with adequate exercise is proper training. Dogs with lots of excess energy can be tricky to train, which is why adequate exercise is so important. In fact, having a training session right after giving them the chance to release all that distractive energy is the best idea. Not only have they depleted some of that energy, they will also be feeling a little snacky and happy to pay attention to you and your treats. Having the right combination of both exercise and training is also important to make sure your dog doesn’t get bored of just training all the time and stop paying attention.

Even with the right amount of exercise, high energy dogs can still be hard to train. If you find yourself struggling, reach out to a professional trainer who can either give you some pointers or come in and train your pooch with a specialised programme.

Improve Their Diet

Now that they’re getting the right amount of exercise every day, your dog needs to be eating correctly. Without the right diet, your dog might struggle to keep up with their exercise requirements. Without getting the right amount of exercise, their hyperactivity will increase. A good diet will give your furry friend all the vitamins and minerals they need to maintain a healthy gut, brain, muscles and joints. If you’re not sure if your dog is on the right diet, consult your local vet.

Increase Socialisation

If you haven’t already been doing so, it may be time for your pooch to start interacting with other four legged friends. While it can be nerve wracking for owners to introduce their dogs to others when they haven’t before, you can keep things safe and in control. Make sure the first few interactions are in a controlled environment that is a neutral ground for each pooch and keep your dog on their leash.

Give Them a Structured Environment

Getting your dog into a daily routine can be great for helping get your dog’s hyperactivity under control. This means keeping things like feeding, exercising and bedtime to similar times every day. This consistent structure can help to reduce your dog’s stress because they understand when to expect certain things to happen and don’t need to be concerned that they might go without a meal that day.

You can also create structures and routines within meal time and walks. Try teaching them that they need to sit before you’ll put food in their bowl, put their leash on or open the door to go outside. This provides not only a good sense of routine but also improves their basic training.

Resolve Their Allergy

If an allergic reaction is causing their erratic behaviour, treating the reaction can help calm your dog. If you’re unsure exactly why your pet is having this reaction, consult with your local vet who should be able to figure out the cause. Depending on the cause of their allergy, there are a few options for treatment including the use of different or specialised shampoos, lotions or even topical medications. Before administering any type of medicated treatment, be sure to consult your local vet first.


If all of the above treatment options don’t seem to be working for your pooch, medication may be an option. Always be sure to consult your local vet and never administer your dog any medicines without professional advice first.

One more natural option are pheromone sprays. These release synthetic forms of hormones that animals would normally secrete from their glands. When inhaled by your dog, they can reduce their stress and anxiety levels, helping to calm their hyperkinesis. 

Some other medication options include Methylphenidate (also known as Ritalin) and Dextroamphetamine. Ritalin, which is also commonly used to treat ADHD in humans, can help to de-stress your dog. This medication helps to correct a neuron imbalance in your dog’s brain that can cause them to be hyperactive. Dextroamphetamine is essentially a lower strength option to Ritalin. This medication helps to treat their hyperkinesis by stimulating parts of their central nervous system. As this is a lower strength option, this medication can take a little longer to work than Ritalin.

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