When your four-legged companion starts bouncing off the walls, you may wonder if boredom, anxiety or a lack of exercise and mental stimulation are to blame. At times, though, the main culprit for Rover's hyper behavior may be right under his nose. Feeding him too much food, or food of the wrong type, may lead to a buildup of excess energy that will need to be somehow siphoned off.
As you watch Rover acting nuts, you may feel compelled to label him as having the the canine version of ADHD. It's easy to label any high-energy dog as hyperactive, but in reality, true clinical hyperactivity -- in the real sense of the word -- is rare and involves the display of highly impulsive behavior, attention deficits and overactivity. It turns out that, more likely than not, "hyper" dogs are just normal, high-energy dogs who may benefit from more structure, exercise and training.
While taking a hyper dog to obedience classes may seem like a good solution, consider that just as in people, dogs are what they eat. If you saw a recent spike in Rover's activity levels right after increasing his food allowance, chances are those extra calories need to be burnt in some way. Consult with a pet nutrition expert if you are not sure how much to feed your dog. The amount of food to give your dog varies depending on life stages and activity levels.
If Rover acts as if he has a sugar high, consider that those extra carbohydrates in his diet may be part of the problem. You can't blame him, though; in fact, when many processed carbs are ingested, they're transformed into simple sugars that may spike your dog’s energy levels. This may not only lead to behavioral changes such as hyperactivity, loss of self control and irritability, but also serious medical problems such as diabetes. Check your dogs' food label; nowadays, many commercial dog foods contain great amounts of carbs.
Excessive carbohydrates though aren't the only problematic ingredients. Many dog foods contain more food additives than imagined. An increase in feeding dosages may therefore translate in an increased absorption of harmful products. Chemicals linked to causing easily distracting behavior, difficulty settling down and irritability in dogs include artificial food colorings, artificial preservatives such as BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin, and traces of toxins such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Many of these toxins are also cancer-causing agents.
If your dog's behavior has changed after a recent diet change, it's not a bad idea to consult with your veterinarian. He may suggest a more appropriate diet. Many dog owners have noticed dramatic changes in behavior after switching to a high-protein, low-carbohydrate menu. A good diet can really help promote good behavior. This is also a good time to discuss if there are chances your dog's "hyper" behaviors may be caused by food allergies or other underlying medical conditions.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.