Tails of a Dog Therapist Episode Thirty Five

When I talk to people about my canine therapy work and what I do, I find that I tend to focus on the negative emotions. Things like fear, grief, anger etc because these are the things that I deal with the most and the emotions that cause the most distressing behaviours. But what about our overly happy, over aroused, hyperactive dogs??

This is definitely a problem I’m seeing more of lately and what saddens me is that most people don’t feel like they have the right to ask for help with this until the dog suddenly acts out of character because the dogs just happy right?

WRONG ❌

We can’t just allow our dogs to stay in this constant over excited, over aroused state.

Firstly because it’s just as harmful to our dogs health as a constant state any of the negative emotions would be. Think about how tired you’re body feels when you’ve been on the go all day and how worn out you are when you can’t switch off and sleep. Now imagine that to be your constant state. How long would it take for you to burn out and have a breakdown?

Secondly because when our dogs are over excited and over aroused their bite threshold is considerably lower than it is when they are calm. This is why a normally friendly dog suddenly runs over and bites a child that has been running around playing and excitedly squealing.

It’s also the reason that your dog shakes the life out of their toy when you’ve been playing with them, or kills the cat that they’ve been chasing for 10 minutes. It’s what makes them great hunters and unfortunately the reason dog fighting exists 😭

My own dog Paddy is the perfect example of this. He came to live with us in January 2021 when he was 10 months old. He’s been a bit of a challenge since then and there have been days when even my patience has been tested.

He’s normally the friendliest, most loving dog we could ask for, but there are moments when his natural Jack Russell traits really shine through.

I’ve written a blog before about the things that Paddy has done (and continues to do if I lapse and don’t control his arousal levels).

One of the main incidents involved our sheep, he gets so excited when he sees them that he does that crazy high pitched yap that only a terrier can perfect and if he was to get off of his lead he would instantly be chasing them round the field biting at their legs.

He has also followed his natural instincts by chasing and killing rats around the farm. But the biggest challenge is when I need to let all of my dogs out into the garden. He gets so over excited about it that the Jack Russell yap starts as soon as I reach for the door handle and if I were to just open the door and let them all out he would attack one of the other dogs. He did this a couple of times when he first arrived, he’d charge out there, do a lap of the garden at full speed while yapping his head off and then fly at one of the other dogs, grab them by the neck and start shaking them.

It was so shocking to see because once he calmed down again he was back to being the loving, friendly dog he was before, he just couldn’t think straight when he was so over excited.

The only way to stop this was to hold him back when all of the others went out and to wait until he was calm and then allow him to join them.

You see society has taught us that in order to wear our dogs out we need to exercise them well and stimulate their brains with various games, but nobody warns you that these things can actually over stimulate your dog and stop them from being able to relax.

When I worked in the dog daycares they had plenty of playtime and strict enrichment routines to make sure that the dogs were suitably worn out from their day with us . However some of the parents used to report that their dog always seemed to be more hyped up when they got home from daycare than they did when they were at home with them all day. This is because from the moment they arrived they were on the go, playing with the other dogs, participating in set activities, then playing with the other dogs again. By the time they went home they were so over aroused that they just couldn’t switch off and settle.

Dogs need to be given the opportunity to relax. An adult dog should be getting 12-14 hours of sleep a day with puppies needing 18-20 hours, so it’s important to be incorporating this into their daily lives. Keeping them awake and making them do excitingly stimulating activities throughout the day will just have the opposite effect to the one you want or expect. The key to maintaining a happy dog and a harmonious home is actually teaching your dog to relax and have some quiet time. Believe me when I say I couldn’t live with 19 dogs without a lot of relaxation 😉