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RESCUE ME: Adopting a High-Energy Dog

“Rescue Me” is a recurring column by Samantha Randall, editor-in-chief at Top Dog Tips. She’ll provide personal anecdotes and perspective about her life as a pet lover with a passion for cat and dog rescue. Today, she talks about how to handle a hyper hound.

People surrender their dogs for many reasons. Often, those reasons are not related to the dog’s behavior but rather to the owner’s financial or living situation. However, for the times when owners cannot handle the animal, it’s usually due to the pet being a very high-energy dog.

If you are thinking about adopting a hyper or high-energy rescue pooch, you must be prepared for the challenge. Here’s what you should know before you make your decision.

What Are High-Energy Dogs?

While every dog is unique and has an individual personality, dogs of the same breed tend to share some common traits. Dog breeds that usually have high levels of energy include terriers, retrievers, huskies, shepherds and border collies (but there are plenty others!).

High-energy dogs require a significant amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation. High-energy breeds were typically bred to do a certain job like herding livestock or hunting, so they tend have more stamina and persistence than other breeds. They are curious and want to have a sense of purpose. These dogs are likely to spend a lot of time jumping around, playing and using every opportunity to investigate their surroundings.

What to Expect?

If you are thinking about adopting a high-energy or hyperactive dog, there are a few issues you may encounter.

Lack of Proper Training

Talk to the rescue group beforehand to find out if the dog had proper training and how much time and energy you may need to invest to correct some of his “negative” habits. High-energy dogs that are not properly trained can inadvertently hurt children because they may not be able to control their excitement when playing. These dogs often jump up when they meet new people or even when they greet family members, and they can accidentally knock people over!

Destructive Behavior

Dogs with energy to burn will often exhibit destructive behavior if they don’t get enough exercise or when they feel bored, especially when they are left home alone for a long time. Barking, whining, digging, chewing and other forms of undesirable behavior can be expected as a way to release built-up energy or simply to relieve boredom. Even some type of self-mutilation, like chewing or licking, is possible.

How to Live with a High-Energy Dog

Taking care of a high-energy rescue dog requires a lot of time and effort, especially if you are adopting an adult dog that hasn’t had proper training. So, here are a few things you can do to deal with your dog’s high energy levels.

Have a Regular Exercise Schedule

The best way to keep your hyperactive pooch calm is to tire them out on a regular basis. Regular exercise is the key to having a happy and well-behaved high-energy dog. Some of these dogs need up to two hours of activity on a daily basis, so make sure that you have the time for it.

Outdoor Activities

The best thing to do is to set up a daily exercise regimen, with 30 to 40 minutes of vigorous activity at a specific time. For example, you can take your pooch on a morning run. Even if you don’t run, you can take your dog to the local dog park and let him or her roam free or play fetch. Other activities you can do include bicycling, swimming, running an obstacle course, etc.

In addition to this brief and intense activity, walk your pooch every day for about an hour. You can break this up into two walks if that suits your schedule better. Regardless, it is important to set a routine and to follow it every day. This routine can help your dog stay relaxed until it is time to do the activity.

Indoor Activities

If the weather or environment is not suitable for outdoor activities, you can keep your pooch active and entertained indoors. You can play fetch if you have enough room, run up the stairs with your dog, play tug of war or keep-away, or even set up an indoor obstacle course.

Provide Mental Exercise

High-energy dogs require mental exercise as well. One of the easiest ways to provide this is by making your dog work for his food. There are many feeding toys that provide mental stimulation to your pooch by making him or her solve puzzles to get the treats. You can also hide treats around the house.

Another way to stimulate your dog mentally is to play games like hide and seek or the shell game. You can even teach your dog the names of toys or simply teach them some tricks.

Train Your Dog

Include obedience or manners training in your dog’s daily routine. High-energy dogs need direction and discipline, so if you want your dog to listen to you, teach some basic commands. For example, the “stay” command can help a lot when your dog gets too excited and you want to calm him down. This type of mental exercise can also help your dog burn some of their energy.

To make the training easier for both you and your dog, do it after exercise and try to make it as fun as you can by always staying positive.

Feed a Proper Diet

It’s important to consult your veterinarian about any new dog’s diet; this is doubly true for dogs with a lot of energy who might require lots of physical activity. Making sure these dogs receive proper nutrition is essential to their health and well-being, and that’s where your veterinarian’s recommendation comes in.

Don’t Leave Your Dog Alone for Long

If you work outside the home, it might be impossible to avoid leaving your dog home alone for long hours. In that case, it may be wise to hire a walker or take your pooch to doggy daycare while you are at work. Whenever that’s not possible and your hyperactive pup needs to be alone for several hours, ensure that they have access to interactive dog toys that will keep their brain stimulated and prevent destructive behavior.

However, if you have to leave your dog alone for 8 to 10 hours, it’s best to leave them in a dog-proof area designated for your dog, like its own room or a crate. This should be a safe space that feels like a den to your pooch, so make it comfortable with cozy bedding, food and water. You can also leave a piece of clothing that you wore recently to make your buddy feel safe.

Make Sure the Dog Doesn’t Have a Medical Condition

If your dog always has abundant energy and you suspect they might be hyperactive, take them to the vet to eliminate underlying medical conditions like metabolic issues, hyperthyroidism or neurological conditions. You should be particularly wary of any changes in behavior, like higher energy levels than usual.

Adopting a rescue dog is always a life-changing decision, but adopting a high-energy dog can be particularly challenging. Of course, it can also be a very rewarding experience.

Make sure that you have enough time and energy to provide plenty of daily exercise for your new pooch and that you have the patience to train him or her. And no matter what, be sure to provide lots of love. You’ll get it back!

The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.

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