Many successful dog trainers have done wonders for dogs through positive reinforcement training and behavior modification, but there are some dogs where the rules just don't seem to apply. They need extra help. It's not because these dogs are overly aggressive, trying to dominate you or are basically non-compliant, it's because they are overwhelmed by the world! Every little butterfly, rustling tree leaf, scent or motion seems to send them into overdrive. They are simply overwhelmed by the world at large.
How can you tell if your dog is overstimulated?
- Hyperactivity: Boredom and over-stimulation can often look alike. If you are regularly exercising your dog (mentally and physically) and they still seem to be going bonkers, you may want to evaluation whether you are over doing it and your dog is over stimulated. Yes, dogs like humans can be over trained.
- Hiding: Dogs will often try to find a place to hide that is quiet and dark when they are over stimulated. If your dog is hiding somewhere, check your environment. If you have children in the house, make sure they are following proper dog etiquette with boundaries. Let's face it, kids need to be loud and crazy sometimes, but that often does not mix with canines. Allowing your dog to have a place to retreat will minimize the risk of nipping, biting and "accidents" that cause injury to your two-legged family members. Same goes when you have guests over. Sometimes, the human life can be just too much for your canine.
- Nipping and Biting: Again, please re-read the above about hiding. Your dog will first try to retreat to a quiet place before resorting to nipping and biting. Sometimes though, dogs nip and bite when they are overly playful. It's how dogs play with each other. Your job as a human parent to a dog, is to recognize when the playing has gone too far and your dog is starting to get overstimulated. Try to keep playtime to a duration where your dog does not get over stimulated.
- Compulsive Behavior: Tail chasing, constant licking and spinning in circles can all be compulsive behaviors. Yes, puppies and kitties will tail chase and spin in circles in normal play, but there can be a point where it becomes compulsive and cause injury. If these behaviors are becoming compulsive, chances are your dog is over stimulated.
- DAP (dog-appeasing pheromone) : This pheromone mimics the scent of a lactating mother dog. It is said to help calm about 80% of dogs. It can come as a collar, a spray or a plug-in.
- Thunder Shirt: This is a snug wrap that is often used for canines with a thunder phobia. It can also be used to calm dogs in busy kennels.
- BACH Rescue Remedy: This is developed for humans, but many trainers often use it on canines as well. It is a blend of medicinal flowers designed to help deal with immediate problems. For more information click here.
- GoDesana Stress and Nerves: This essential oil blend can be made into a linen spray to spray on a bandana, a massage oil or diffused in your household. Always remember to dilute your essential oils to a dilution meant for canines, not humans. For more information on essential oil safety for canines, click here.
- Eye Contact Game: This behavior modification technique is part of Chris Bach's The Third Way training program: "[The trainer] uses food to reward a dog’s choice to do something right and simply interferes with a dog’s choice to do something wrong. By utilizing THE THIRD WAY’S exclusive teaching and proofing processes and without force or punishment, owners teach dogs how to ignore food and obey cues. As a result, they are very reliable in the face of strong distractions and are not dependent upon food to be accurate and willing performers. Dogs learn what owners want."
- T-touch: Is a massage technique that employs circular movements of the fingers and hands all over the body to activate cell function and awaken cellular intelligence. You can find out more here.
- Socialization: There is a critical period in which puppies must be socialized: 4-16 weeks of age. But, dogs must also be socialized after that period on a continuous basis. Proper socialization is key to dog behavior. There are dogs, especially rescue dogs with abused pasts, that normal socialization will just not work. These dogs may never have a normal life and owners will need special vigilance to give them an environment conducive to their individual needs.
- Calm Hand Strokes: When your dog is anxious about a situation or over stimulated, sometimes calmly petting your dog in long, slow strokes on the back while avoiding the head works wonders. The key to this technique is that the owner must be calm.
- Anti-anxiety medication: Medication can be used after all other options have been exhausted or as a way to calm your dog in order to effectively institute other methods. These options should be discussed with your veterinarian and a professional dog trainer.
For more information, go to these links:
- 5 Ways to Calm a Hyper Dog, The Dogster: http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/dog-puppy-training-behavior-calm-overstimulated
- Is Sensory Overstimulation Stressing Your Dog?, PetHelpful: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Understanding-Sensory-Overstumulation-in-Dogs
- 4 Signs Your Dog is Overstimulated, I (heart) Dogs: https://iheartdogs.com/4-signs-your-dog-is-overstimulated/