Life with my loveable but over-excited dog
September 20, 2019
Physical exercise and mental stimulation are really important for a dog’s wellbeing. But for some dogs it can be too much of a good thing. Read Caroline’s story about her over-excited dog, Jimmy the Whippet, and how she brought calm to his life.
It took us a long time to decide what type of pup we wanted to welcome into our lives. Breed, size, girl or boy? The choices and changed minds were endless. Finally, after lots of research, we decided on a little whippet boy. Gentle, affectionate, intelligent and they give wonderful sofa cuddles. It sounded like the perfect choice for our lifestyle. We lived near plenty of places for him to sprint and had lots of comfy places for him to sleep, which apparently they did a lot.
“This gorgeous little blue boy was an absolute rocket, a hyperactive unstoppable lightning bolt.”
Well, boy oh boy, we were in for a shock. We could never have imagined such a little whirlwind turning our lives upside down. This gorgeous little blue boy was an absolute rocket, a hyperactive unstoppable lightning bolt. We were fully aware that puppies were a handful but Jimmy was just so excitable and no amount of play or exercise was going to wear him out. It actually seemed like the more we played with him or exercised him the more excitable and naughty he became. We tried toys, puppy parties, chews and bones, canine enrichment, lots of socialisation but he seemed to find it all too much to process.
Over the following months his typical puppy naughtiness seemed to get less and less and he was growing into a really gentle, sociable and loving boy but he was still struggling with, what seemed like, over stimulation. If we took him on long walks on the lead he would want to sniff and look at everything and after a while he would become over excited and a bit stressed. He would spin and pull and generally play up for the rest of the walk until we got home. It was quite disappointing because long walks with him were one of the things we were really looking forward to. If he was off the lead it did not seem to be so much of a problem.
If we took him to other people’s houses we would have to keep him on the lead because he would sprint around their houses in excitement and try to jump up on people. We were worried he could possibly hurt them without meaning too and we didn’t want people to think he was a terror. At home he was starting to become really gentle and loving. We had to try and stop people from playing with him and getting him excited because once he started it would just increase until we couldn’t calm him down. It really did seem as if he was getting more stressed and frustrated rather than happy and playful. It was like he was struggling to calm himself down and the adrenalin was just build in him.
Still we continued to try and exercise and play it out of him. We always heard that a tired pup was a happy pup right? This was until one day it all fell into place.
Jimmy came down with a bit of a cold and seemed really lethargic. He didn’t want to do much for a few days and wasn’t up for his usual sprints, games and play. He spent most of his time on the sofa sleeping. He perked up towards the end of the week but was still quiet and unbelievably relaxed. This was the first time we’d seen him go a whole day without a crazy tornado outburst. We were still limiting his exercise due to him being poorly and he was happy to spend more time at this slow pace. We were surprised he wasn’t missing his regular play times.
Fast forward a few weeks and Jimmy was fully recovered and his behaviour seemed to be settling down. We’d been doing some reading about how sighthounds love to chase things for exercise and decided to buy him a lure toy. It was similar to one of those fishing rod type toys that you use to play with a cat but on a much bigger scale. Wow did he love it! He would go and go and go until he couldn’t go any more and he was like a dog possessed when he was chasing.
At first it was amusing until we started to notice his behaviour taking a complete u-turn. It was as if that naughty little whirlwind was back, spinning, jumping, pinching and all the usual antics. It was as if the adrenaline was building again and the excitement of the lure was the cause. We did lots of research and started to read about problems with over stimulation and it all suddenly clicked. The more we stimulated him the harder it was for him to relax and he could never truly switch off.
Rest & relaxation
One story in particularly rang true with us and it was of a lady who began taking her Whippet to Flyball training. The kind of thing you see at Crufts where the dogs run, one after the other, as fast as possible over the hurdles to retrieve the ball. The dogs are so wound up with excitement that it makes them explosively fast. She went on to say that even though her dog thoroughly enjoyed the training she had to stop taking him due to a massive change in his behaviour. He was also struggling to wind down and was constantly over stimulated. This was our turning point. That light bulb moment that changed everything.
“We needed to concentrate on teaching Jimmy how to take time out and how to switch off after times of excitement and stimulation.”
We already knew the importance of exercise for a dogs well-being but we needed to learn more about the importance of rest and relaxation too. We needed to concentrate on teaching Jimmy how to take time out and how to switch off after times of excitement and stimulation. We had to make lots of changes but all of those changes were very simple.
Firstly we removed the toys that were lying around to stop him feeling like the house and garden were a constant playground. We started having more scheduled play times where we could control levels of excitement. Fetch was a great choice because we could get him to stop and wait in between throws and it helped to calm him down.
“One of the toughest changes to make was convincing family and friends to keep calm around him.”
We made sure he had plenty of time for chewing on either nice juicy bones or some of the great natural chews that are available now. We made his on lead walks shorter and more frequent instead being long and over stimulating. We still let him sniff as much as he wanted because it seemed to be one of his greatest pleasures but because the walks were shorter he didn’t get to the point of spinning craziness.
One of the toughest changes to make was convincing family and friends to keep calm around him. To try and resist from constantly trying to play or run around with him. Unfortunately sometimes people don’t want to listen and think you are being too serious but always remember that it is your pet and your choice. You know your dog better than they do so just be confident and insist that they do as you ask.
Overall we just made his life less over stimulating and taught him how to relax. We were more structured and learnt how to listen to his body language.
He is now a fabulous two year old and gets more loveable everyday. We couldn’t imagine life without him and even when he does get excited he knows how to calm back down. It has definitely made him a happier, balanced and more down to earth little whippet.