All dogs have different energy levels based on their breed, age, and individual personality. Some dogs, like working or sporting breeds, naturally have higher energy and require more physical and mental stimulation. Senior dogs and puppies tend to have lower energy levels. Get to know your dog's normal energy level before determining if they need help settling down. High energy dogs will need more training and activity to reach a calm state of mind. Low energy dogs may be naturally laidback and only need minimal training for calmness.
Create a Predictable Routine
Dogs thrive on structure and routine. Create set schedules for feeding times, walks, playtime, and training sessions. Try to keep the timing as consistent as possible. Knowing what to expect and when helps create a sense of normalcy for your dog. Calmness often comes from predictability. Stick to the routine on weekdays and weekends. Dogs with a solid routine are less likely to be anxious, hyperactive, or destructive.
Ensure Your Dog Gets Plenty of Exercise
A lack of exercise is one of the most common reasons dogs become restless or hyperactive, especially high energy breeds. Make sure your dog gets adequate exercise for their age and breed. This may mean several long walks, jogs, playing fetch in the yard, or trips to the dog park. Mental stimulation through obedience training or food puzzle toys is also important. A tired dog is a calm, happy dog.
Create a Calm Home Environment
Dogs can easily feed off our energy and emotions. If the home environment is chaotic and stressful, your dog will sense it. Try to keep noise levels, commotion, and other stimuli to a minimum. Make sure your dog has their own dedicated, comfortable sleeping area for down time. Provide lots of affection and positive reinforcement when your dog is calm. Remaining calm yourself can help relax your dog.
Use Relaxation and Calming Aids
Consider using relaxation aids to help overly excited dogs settle down more easily. Playing soft music, putting on a Thundershirt, or using calming pheromone diffusers/sprays can help relieve stress. Calming treats with ingredients like chamomile, L-tryptophan, and CBD can also promote relaxation. Talk to your vet before giving any calming supplements. Use treats sparingly for situational anxiety like storms or loud noises.
Train Impulse Control
One important aspect of a calm demeanor is impulse control. Dogs should wait for permission before eating, exiting doors, playing with toys, and getting affection. This teaches them patience and self-restraint. Start training with basic cues like "sit", "stay", and "wait". Use treats and praise to reward desired behavior. Your dog should always look to you for the green light on daily activities.
Discourage Unwanted Behavior
Hyperactivity and excitable behavior should never be encouraged. Limit excessive barking, jumping, and roughness through correction. Saying "no" in a stern tone or using a spray bottle can stop unwanted behavior. Remove attention if your dog is acting wild. Offer praise and treats when they are calm after an excited episode. Be consistent so they grasp which behaviors are acceptable.
Tire Out Your Dog Before Company Visits
The arrival of guests usually ramps up dogs. Help prevent wound up, jumpy, or mouthy behavior by making sure your dog is well-exercised before visits. Take them on a long walk, have a play session, or go to the dog park. Practicing obedience commands before guests arrive can also get pent-up energy out. Your dog will be more likely to remain calm and relaxed with company after tiring themselves beforehand.
Use Baby Gates to Limit Access
Giving your dog free range of the house during busy, active times can lead to hyper behavior and bad habits. Use baby gates to restrict access when you are unable to monitor them. Keep them confined to a room or gated area with their toys when you have visitors. Limit their access to kids' playrooms and consider gating the kitchen if they beg during meal prep. Remove the gates for supervised playtime.
Manage Children Interactions
Kids running around and playing can rile up dogs and make them overly stimulated. Teach kids appropriate ways to interact and discourage roughhousing or chasing games. Supervise play and have kids pause for "time outs" if needed. Separate dog and kids for nap times and meal times. Show kids how to get your dog to sit or lay down using treats. Having them help train calmness can be beneficial.
Avoid Too Much Stimulation
The energy of a busy household can overwhelm some dogs, making them hyper and disobedient. Avoid overtiring your dog with too much petting, play, noise, and interaction from kids. Schedule down time in their crate or room after periods of activity to help them decompress. Limit areas available when you have lots of stimulation. Remove toys and chews when it is time to settle down and relax.
Have Relaxation and Training Sessions
Set up specific periods throughout the day for relaxation by having your dog lay down in their bed or crate. Provide them with a stuffed Kong or chew toy for distraction. Pet and praise them for remaining relaxed during the session, extending the time. Also include short training sessions daily to mentally challenge them and reinforce calm behavior commands like "down," "sit" and "settle".
Take Breaks From Family Activities
Let your dog take regular breaks from household commotion and gatherings by isolating them in their room or crate. Close doors and pull curtains to minimize outside distractions and noise. Give them a puzzle toy stuffed with peanut butter or a tasty chew while inside. Quiet time for short intervals helps dogs recharge and prevents them from becoming overly hyper.
Practice Real Life Triggers
Exposing your dog to potential triggers for hyperactivity in a controlled setting can help make them less reactive to daily family chaos. For example: play recordings of kids making noise, use visual props that resemble company, or toss toys on the floor near them. Reward calm responses using praise and treats. Work up to real life situations by inviting over small groups of calm friends to desensitize.
Try Interactive Toys and Puzzles
Interactive food puzzles that hide treats, wobbling toys you can insert food into, and durable chews are great for keeping dogs stimulated and occupied for hours. Rotate a variety of puzzles and toys to prevent boredom. Feed dogs primarily through the puzzles rather than a bowl. Long lasting chews should be reserved for quiet time while you are busy. Be present for toy play to monitor and avoid excessive rambunctiousness.
Keep Dog Off Furniture
Letting your dog on furniture can lead to territorial behavior, difficulty listening to commands, and poor relaxation habits. Restrict them to their own dog bed, crate or designated spot on the floor when inside. Unsupervised dogs left on furniture are more likely to exhibit destructive chewing, barking, or hyper behavior in response to outside stimuli and passersby. Consistently keeping them on the floor encourages better obedience and calmness.
Utilize Crate Training
Crate training your dog can be extremely beneficial for encouraging calmness, impulse control, and independence. Crates provide dogs with a personal, safe den space to retreat to. As they learn to accept the crate, you can use it during hectic times, when leaving dogs alone at home, or following activities to induce rest. Start by feeding dogs in the crate and giving treats/toys inside. Very gradually build up time spent loose versus crated.
Avoid Emphasizing Greetings
Dogs tend to get overly excited when greeted by family members after absences. Minimize the intensity of comings and goings by ignoring dogs for the first few minutes after you return home. Avoid petting and play until they are completely calm. Ask guests to take the same approach when entering your home by limiting eye contact and physical affection. This prevents rewarding rambunctious behavior during transitions when calmness is preferred.
Teach Settle Command
Use positive reinforcement to teach your dog the "settle" command. With your dog laying on their bed or crate, say "settle" and reward with a treat. Keep treating periodically for remaining settled down. If they get up, guide them back to laying down and repeat the command. Reward longer settle durations as training progresses. Use settle during exciting situations to calmly refocus their attention on you for redirection.
Consider Daycare or Dog Walkers
For very high energy dogs with working/sporting breed backgrounds, your household's activity level may never be enough to get rid of excess energy. Consider enrolling them in daily doggy daycare for social play and exercise on busy days. If you work long hours, hire a dog walker to take them out midday. Well exercised dogs are less likely to be disruptive or destructive while left home alone all day in a busy household.
Use a Calming Cap
Some trainers recommend using a calming cap to naturally soothe dogs. Calming caps fit over your dog's head to block their vision but allow them to eat and drink normally. The obscured visibility and pressure can have a calming effect by reducing overstimulation. Use periodically when introducing new or chaotic situations. Make sure your dog is comfortable wearing the cap beforehand. Only leave on for short durations and remove if signs of stress appear.
Ask Vet About Medications
For dogs with severe anxiety, hyperactivity, or excitement issues that training alone cannot resolve, talk to your vet about medication. Prescription drugs like Clomicalm and Xanax can help dogs better cope with stress and noise phobias. Short term sedatives may be prescribed for events like thunderstorms or fireworks. Some natural supplements can also help take the edge off. Any medication should always be vet approved and monitored.
In summary, training a dog to be calm in a busy household requires: understanding their natural energy level, providing adequate exercise, using relaxation aids and techniques, managing interactions with children, discouraging unwanted behavior, crating for breaks, practicing real life scenarios, removing excessive stimulation, and asking your vet about medication if needed. With time, patience and consistency using these methods, you can teach your dog to maintain a relaxed, obedient demeanor even in a chaotic home.