Does your dog bark at the window at every passerby and neighbor? How about obsessively chasing squirrels or running in circles during his time outside in the yard? Hyperactive and obsessive behavior in your dog can be a lot to handle, but it doesn't have to be. Exercise, positive stimulation and training will go a long way to helping your dog become the well-adjusted pup you know he can be.
Take your dog to the veterinarian to make sure his obsessive behavior isn't caused by some underlying health issue. Your vet will probably perform a physical examination and might ask you about any recent changes in your dog's lifestyle, diet or exercise routine so she can determine the best kind of treatment. Any recent changes in the dog's life, such as a new pet or family member in the home or a change in schedule, can cause additional stress. Once your vet rules out any underlying health issues, there are some things you can try to ease your pup's overall anxiety.
Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
When a dog is not getting enough exercise, he is more likely to have issues with anxiety, which is one of the biggest causes of hyperactivity and obsessive behavior in dogs. You and your dog can go for a walk or jog, take a swim, play a game of fetch, or try a competitive sport like weight pulling or agility. The most important thing is to get your pup moving and active to help him burn off excess energy and stress. On average, most dogs need at least an hour of exercise a day. Every dog is different, so double check with your vet before jumping into any new exercise routine with your pup.
Redirecting Obsessive Behavior
Once your pup is getting enough exercise, providing him with positive stimulation to replace the object of his obsession is necessary if you don't want him to continue making himself crazy. Let's say your dog is obsessed with any sounds he hears outside. Every time there is a car driving by or a child playing in a neighbor's yard, your dog barks and whines at the doors and windows, maybe even running from room to room trying to get the best view. A common reaction is to scold your dog, but without another positive behavior to put in this behavior's place, your dog will never learn to stop their obsessive behavior.
Instead of only correcting or scolding your dog for reacting to the noises outside, when your dog starts barking loudly at a passerby, get his attention by saying his name or showing him the distraction. The distraction can be a ball, chew toy or even just love and affection. Say his name once, and wave your distraction of choice around so he sees it. If he shows interest in the item, give it to him and praise him very excitedly with a happy, cheerful voice.
Some dogs simply will not be distracted from their obsessions -- if that is the case, then it might be best to remove your dog from the situation entirely. A crate or other enclosed space where you can limit the dog's interactions with objects of his obsession is ideal. Simply send your dog to his crate if he is trained to do so, or gently lead him on the leash to his crate where he can take time to calm down.
If you have consistently provided your dog with exercise, nutrition and positive mental stimulation and he is still struggling with hyperactive obsessive behavior, it might be time to go see a behavioral specialist who can give you advice specific to your situation and dog.
Before you run to get your keys, you can also try some of the over-the-counter products found in pet stores, such as calming collars that release soothing pheromones. Call your vet to get her recommendations.
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