The expected energy level of a dog breed is a very important consideration in deciding whether to live with that breed. Unfortunately, what you expect may not always be what you get. The St. Bernard that you expect to spend most of his life on the couch may have other ideas, and the exuberant Springer Spaniel that you think will bounce off the walls may find watching the paint peel off them the best way to pass time. Most of the time, however, dogs bred for activity, such as the Irish Setter or Boxer, will fulfill the owner’s expectation. Although high activity or even reactivity may be a desired trait in some breeds, that activity level must be manageable for the family living with the dog.
Activity in the field may be very appropriate, whereas pacing or charging through the house at all hours of the day and night is very annoying to most owners. Your emotional state easily transfers to the dog. The excitable dog will become more reactive if you use a high-pitched, fast, excited voice and are also reactive, nervous, and excitable. You must handle the energetic or reactive dog with calm, firm, purposeful movements and speak to him in a normal, firm-toned voice.
The deliberate, calm handling will help the dog stay calm. If you battle him to attach a lead to his collar, he will fidget and jump around even more fiercely. If the dog is hyperactive, take a firm grip on his handle and command him to sit in a slow, firm voice. If he doesn’t sit, firmly and slowly grip the handle and place him into a sit. Hold him in place quietly, without anger or any unnecessary hand movements, until he ceases the battle and remains in position. When he settles down, quietly, calmly, verbally praise him. Praise an excited dog only verbally, because physical contact will tend to excite him even more. Try again to attach the lead. If he goes out of control again, repeat the forced sit, and when he relaxes, praise him. Repeat the process until the dog sits quietly. Do not attempt to put a lead on an excited dog.
Obedience training, with its one-on-one interaction between you and your dog, is an effective outlet for the energetic dog. Obedience not only teaches the dog to sit quietly but also requires him to concentrate, and thus, uses up brain power and energy. Obedience training will also permit you to control his activity in the house. The “settle” command is very effective and important for controlling excitement in the house. When the dog becomes overly excited or active i the house, place him in a settle. The settle should be at least ten minutes long, and he will usually fall asleep or at least relax by that time.
When he gets up, he is usually calmer. If every time the dog gets overly excited you demand a settle of him, he will soon learn that the house is not the play yard. Unfortunately, you can’t place the energetic or nervous dog in a settle for the rest of his life; therefore, he should have appropriate outlets to release energy. Be conscientious in evaluating your own dog’s energy level and adjust his lifestyle and routine exercise accordingly. If he is overly energetic the first recommendation a pet owner receives is to fence in a large backyard for the dog to use in running off energy. The pet owner, who may have had other ideas for the yard than making it a huge exercise run for the dog, creates a yard for the dog, only to realize he still exhibits an annoying overabundance of energy in the house. A large yard is useless if the dog does not use the area to run around.