What to do with a dog that has too much energy

The holidays are right around the corner, and along with food, family and friends comes the job of hosting gatherings. Many dogs seem to relish the job of hosting company, calmly interacting with each of the guests. Other dogs are…shall we say…more exuberant: jumping up on guests, barking excessively, maybe doing a little counter surfing in the hopes of nabbing some turkey. If your dog falls into the second category, remember that both physical and mental exercise can help burn off excess energy, and help your pup be calmer during gatherings.

What to do with a dog that has too much energy? Here are some ways to help take the edge off:

Go for a walk

OK, this one is pretty obvious, but going for a nice, long walk will make your dog a bit tired, and less inclined to “act up” in the house. Better yet, here are some ways to engage your dog’s mind during a walk too, by adding some mental exercise to the mix.

  • Don’t just walk a predictable route, right along the sidewalk like you usually do. Instead, sometimes turn around and walk backwards, do a loop around a tree, walk in whatever crazy direction you decide. Sure, your neighbors will wonder what you’re doing, but your dog will have to pay attention to you, rather than being on autopilot, and that will engage his mind, too. (It’s also a great training exercise. More on that here.)
  • Sprinkle in some commands as you go along. Periodically have your dog sit, down, stay, or whatever else he knows how to do, along the course of your walk.

Sometimes going for a walk just isn’t possible. You’re cleaning, cooking, getting ready, and just don’t have time for a walk. Or maybe the weather is bad. Then what can you do to reduce that extra dog energy? Here are some things you can do at home, in just a short time, that will engage your dog’s mind, and make him just as tired as if he’d been on a walk.

Play some indoor brain games

  • Try some training games. Have your dog sit, stay, down, whatever he knows how to do. Stay is a great one to practice, and you can increase the difficulty by first having your dog sit and stay, then you walk across the room, but stay within his sight. Then call him to you. Once he masters that, try going around a corner or to a different room out of sight, and see if he can still stay until you call him to you. If he leaves too soon, have him go back to where he started, and try again.
  • A fun variation of that last one is hide and seek. If your dog can sit and stay while you go somewhere out of sight, have him sit and stay, then go hide in a closet, behind a door, etc, and call him to come find you.
  • Try a puzzle feeder, like this one. There are a variety of different kinds, and they all make your dog work for his food, whether a full meal, or an occasional treat.

So, try one or more of these ideas when your dog has too much energy. While these tips won’t completely solve behavioral problems, they will take the edge off of your dog’s energy, and help you, and your pup, enjoy the holidays.