How to tire out your high-energy, hyper dog

My dog is super lazy, and I love that about him.

Ace is perfectly fine with a 30-minute walk each day, and he doesn’t seem to mind if we miss a day or two. He’s a nice balance for me, because I tend to get obsessive about exercise.

Of course, a lot of dogs require much, much more exercise than Ace.

So, I reached out to some owners of supercharged dogs and asked how they manage all that energy.

Here’s what they had to say.

Lots of exercise – a walk just isn’t enough

Mort the kelpie mix

Jen deHaan says she has yet to completely wear out her dog Mort.

“I did manage to tire him a little after 24 hours of flyball competition in a single weekend,” she said. “Almost.”

How to live peacefully with a high-energy dog

If left to his own devices Mort would probably run and play until he collapsed, according to deHaan.

“I’ve taken him out to a regional park with a lake and hills to run up and down, and he swam and ran full speed for over three hours,” she said.

“He rested for the 45-minute car ride home, and as soon as we got inside he found a ball and was ready to sprint around the house again.”

Read more about Mort and deHaan at DOGthusiast.

Alfie the Entlebucher mountain dog

“There is no way on this earth that I could tire him out by leash walking alone,” said Linda Liebrand about her dog Alfie.

She said she thinks of him as a small nuclear plant or a self-charging battery.

“I take him for a long walk, using up his batteries. He sleeps for an hour or two, recharging, and when he wakes up he’d happily do the walk all over again!”

Tips to tire out your active, high-energy dog

“There is no way on this earth that I could tire him out by leash walking alone.”

She said she tries not to miss walks with Alfie because he would likely turn into a really stressed and poorly mannered dog.

Tips to tire out your hyper dogBorder collies Roxy and Summit

Bonnie Joy Dewkett and her husband are the owners of two dogs, Roxy and Summit (pictured).

“We are not either dog’s first family, as they were both given up previously by people who couldn’t take the activity level,” she said.

She takes her dogs walking, running or hiking on average about 15 miles per week.

Mia the pitbull/Lab mix

Natalie Maniscalco adopted her dog Mia from the Bidewee animal shelter in Manhattan.

Her 5-year-old dog has slowed down a bit these days, but she used to exercise Mia for at least an hour a day. This would include running, walking and throwing a ball.

Another trick she uses to tire out Mia is to play tug of war. She said Mia likes to pull, shake and twist at a rope or other toy.

Tips to tire out an active Lab, pitbull mix

Training, dog sports and other mental challenges

Linda and her Entlebucher mountain dog AlfieOn her walks with Alfie, Liebrand (pictured right) tries to vary the locations as much as she can, as that adds to her dog’s mental stimulation. 

She also tries to build in a variety of fun games and training. For example, she:

  • Finds spots to do some “urban agility” such as getting Alfie to jump up on a park bench, balance on a low brick wall, sit on a rock, etc.
  • Plays games of fetch on land or in water.
  • Works on obedience skills such as heeling, coming when called, etc.
  • Hides toys and treats and plays “find it.”

She and Alfie also particpate in nose work classes, which she said is a brilliant activity for high-energy dogs.

Mort and deHaan are also involved in different activities such as flyball and disc dog, and deHaan suggests other dog owners look into dog sports as well.

“These activities help you develop a strong bond with your energetic dog and keeps him content during down-time,” she said.

Finding an off switch – teaching the dog when play is over

Liebrand and deHaan stressed that if you have a high-energy dog, you must teach him a command to signal play is over, for example “finished.”

“It really is the best command in the world as it teaches your dog when play time is over,” Liebrand said.

“It really is the best command in the world …”

She taught Alfie the command by saying “finished” when she wanted playtime to end. Then she would give him a treat and walk away.

“The dog will quickly learn that playtime is over when you say so,” she said.

I actually use a similar command with Ace – “that’s enough!” – to signal when fetch is over.

Tips for people who recently adopted a high-energy dog

Roxy the border collie sitting on a chair

Time for exercise

If you’ve recently adopted a hyper dog, the best thing to do is take the time to tire him out, according to Dewkett. It will make your life so much easier!

“If you can work out with them first thing in the morning, even better,” she said.

And for anyone thinking of getting a high-energy breed, Liebrand said if the dog books say the breed may need an hour of daily exercise, remember that a puppy or young dog of that breed will have even more energy.

Puzzle toys

Dewkett recommends puzzle-type toys throughout the day, which is what she gives her border collies when she’s in meetings and can’t pay attention to her dogs as much as she’d like.

Make sure you’re ready

For deHaan, high-energy dogs are incredibly fun and worth the extra work in training and activity, but they’re not for everyone.

“Make sure that if you choose to adopt a dog like this you’re ready for a bit of an extra time commitment when it comes to keeping him or her busy and content,” she said.

Do you have a high-energy dog? How do you tire him out?

Let me know in the comments!

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  1. Rebekah on June 5, 2014

    I wish this post existed two years ago when we first adopted Faolan! He has mellowed out quite a bit, but still has his incredibly hyper moments.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on June 5, 2014

      I didn’t realize he was the most active of your three, but now that I think about it, that makes sense!

  2. Anna on June 5, 2014

    Love all the advice!
    I’m thinking about adopting a puppy this summer and I’m super stressed, overthinking it all. I have a doggy backpack ready and am willing to invest in a second hand treadmill. Also, I’m hoping to bike with my dog and do bikejoring (I bike every day to and from my child’s school, two round trips of 6 miles total and would love to take a dog with me). Definitely hiking, beach days, and doggy playdates or daycare.
    Thanks for the tip on trying out the dog sports!
    But there are days when you’re too busy/lazy/sick so teaching your dog to chill out on command would be helpful.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on June 5, 2014

      As you know, I think teaching solid obedience skills is key as well. That way you can at least get the dog to lie down and stay when you can’t pay attention to her.

      Gosh, biking to school and back every day would be ideal for the right dog. I used to bike with Ace in his younger days. It was a great way to exercise him. Definitely used the dog backpack a lot too!

      Can’t wait to hear more about your potential puppy!

      • Anna on June 5, 2014

        Agreed on the obedience.
        We fostered a young hyperactive terrier mix and the best thing I could do for him was teaching him how to relax. He had no off switch, no basic obedience, no manners, no impulse control, was not even potty trained. So we focused on that. He had to work for every handful of kibble by sitting for it for at least a few seconds. He was literally shaking all over, it was that difficult for the little guy. We also used the crate a lot.
        (Of course he got a lot of physical and mental exercises too.)

        • Lindsay Stordahl Author on June 5, 2014

          Aww, poor guy! Well, actually he was lucky because he got to live with you!

          • Anna on June 5, 2014

            Thanks, Lindsay. :-) Our whole family, including the other foster dog, was often frustrated with him. It was a good exercise in patience for all of us.

  3. Sean on June 5, 2014

    I’d add the following:

    1. Anything with wheels that gets your dog moving faster (like they want) instead of slower (how we walk or run to a dog) – bike attachment, scooter, skates, etc.

    2. Playing with another similarly matched dog – dogs will tire themselves out chasing, running, and playing with one another if you give them the space and opportunity. This is especially true as a play date or meet-up that is limited to a space and dog(s) you’ve chosen, not just hoping some random dog will nicely play with your dog at a park.

    3. Flirt pole! This can be the greatest toy ever for prey motivated dogs. In 20 minutes, you can exercise and challenge the dog in a way that 2 hours of walking won’t do. Note: You need a solid “drop” command, some form of stay/wait, and it’s not recommended for dogs whose prey drive is creating serious behavior issues already (stalking kids, vehicles, family cat, etc.).

  4. Ayla on June 5, 2014

    When I adopted Arya (we call her a Australian Cattle Mutt) We lived in a 4th floor walk up. We would let her off leash as soon as we got in the door and she would do the stairs. When walked up she probably cover the stairs 4 times. We made it into a fun training game too. She would wait on landings on command and go up and down

  5. Kimberly Gauthier on June 5, 2014

    We live with herding breeds and although walks are great, they don’t do the job for our pack so we play games in the yard. We have the property so they get lots of running done. We use flyers and balls. Sometimes we just throw things back and forth and let the dogs race to catch them before we do (important to dive out of the way). Having them figure out where we’re throwing, where the wind will take it and when they need to jump to catch it seems to wear them out.

    What’s funny is that they never get tired of it. Everyday, they run to the side yard to play. Hilarious.

    It does take at least an hour (broken up) to wear them out.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on June 5, 2014

      I bet it helps that your crew can run around and chase and play together. You’re also so lucky to have a great yard for them! Jealous.

  6. slimdoggy on June 5, 2014

    Great post and advice. Luckily, my seniors are content with short runs and leash walks.

  7. weliveinaflat on June 5, 2014

    I think I would go crazy with a hyper dog, not being that active myself and also the type of human who needs me time!! Definitely good advice to consider the dog’s energy levels instead of just how cute the dog is! :P

  8. Emma on June 6, 2014

    Mom has yet to find a dog she could not tire out. All her dogs have worn down within a time of living with her, all our guest dogs have worn down within a few days of arriving. Even Labs seem to get tired out. We don’t do Border Collies or that type of dog as they make Mom nervous with their herding behaviors. She doesn’t like that or their constant demand to please. We prefer high energy independent types. Running and walking has always been the best medicine, but nose work is a wonderful way to tire us out fairly quickly as it is a great mental workout.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on June 6, 2014

      Running and walking is what I typically do to tire out my foster dogs/pet sitting clients as well. And if the dog is friendly, an adventure in a fenced dog park also helps tremendously!

  9. nancyspoint on June 6, 2014

    Great tips. Sometimes I forget that mental exercise is important, too, and definitely tires a dog at least a bit. I should work on providing more of this. I find that just having my dogs outdoors tires them out. Just like when you’re raising kids, getting them outside really helps tires them out! Walking my dogs is easier now that the weather is nice, so no more excuses. I can see how having a hyper dog would be quite a challenge for most of us. Another reason to think about what kind of dog you’re choosing.

  10. Karen on June 7, 2014

    I still can’t understand how my supposed “border collie mix” is the laziest animal I’ve ever owned. Sleeps more than a cat, couldn’t care less about playing fetch, and has no interest in running more than a few miles. She’ll go on long walks when it’s not too hot, but when we’re at home she spends 90% of the time napping or looking out the window.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on June 7, 2014

      Interesting! Just goes to show every dog is an individual, regardless of breed.

    • AuntSue on June 11, 2014

      My daughter has an australian/bassett mix. Pretty laid back. Those bassett genes are mellow ones.

  11. Lara Elizabeth on June 10, 2014

    I’ve figured out that the “dogs required to keep up with Ruby” is a 3:1 ratio. Boca and I take turns entertaining her now, but it is never enough!

  12. Sharon Wollenberg on June 11, 2014

    I always say a tired dog is a happy dog! And a Happy owner :)!!!

  13. Joyce A. on July 26, 2014

    Dear Lindsay, I have a 5 year old mixed breed dog. I think she is terrier mixed with another terrier. I’ve had her since she was 9 weeks old and have worked with her house training constantly since. I’m not able to take her out so she uses puppy pads. The problem is she has been untrainable to the degree that I’m about to give up and give her away if I can’t get good results soon. I’m getting too old to be able to keep cleaning up after her constantly. She knows what to do, it seems. She knows I’m happy with her when she uses the pad, she will even show me if she’s been “a good girl.” If she’s been bad she shows that too, by acting guilty. Missing the pad, as with two feet on and two feet off the pad is understandable, although aggravating. The problem at least half the time, she down right wets on the bathroom floor, where her pad is placed. She will wet 2 feet before she gets to it or she will wet right at the intrance to the bathroom, which is on my bedroom carpet. She will not wet on the pad if she poops on it first, so I get her the 27×30″ pads and put two down. Strangely enough, she will not poop on the floor, ever! No matter what I do she will not be trained. I say this is due to her being stubborn since she knows where to go and knows she’s going to be punished if she doesn’t use her pad. I have used praise, treats and praise, ignoring it, and punishment. Nothing works! She just has no fear of any punishment, or enough joy for praise and treats. I have tried everything I know of and have worked very hard trying to train her. I don’t know what else to do. She’s very smart and she will follow some commands, unless she is excited over having people visit. She loves people and seems not to hear me then. There seems to be a thing about what she poops on and what she wets on because when she is outside she will wet on the grass but she will poop either on my or a neighbors porch or on the sidewalk. Why? There has to be a reason! She doesn’t mess up anywhere else in the apartment. I’ve been working with her for 5 years. I have had two other dogs, (puppys) that I have completely house trained by the time they were at least 4 months old and no later than 6 months. They made mistakes but very rarely. Do you have any advice, I’m desparate? It’s hard for me to give her up because I worry about how she will be treated or worried she would be left outside alone and in the cold and that breaks my heart. Should I try to limit her water intake, maybe? I have a real dilemma here because I have this worry and being stuck cleaning up after her the rest of my life. Please, if you can, HELP.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on July 26, 2014

      Hi Joyce. First of all, how frustrating! No one wants to clean up after a dog day after day.

      Obviously I don’t know your exact situation or what exactly you have tried, but I will give you a few ideas and link to some of my potty training posts in case you haven’t seen those. Hopefully you can brainstorm something.

      My first advice is to hire a trainer to come and give you some ideas. It’s worth the cost if it will save you some stress, time and frustration. There are a lot of good trainers out there.

      Second, don’t assume she knows what to do. If she is peeing where you don’t want her to, then that tells me she doesn’t understand what you want. It almost seems like she thinks she can go anywhere on the bathroom floor.

      Next, start over with the basics as though you just adopted her today and she knows nothing. So, take her to the correct spot (the pad) every couple of hours and reward her with highly valued treats for going in the correct spot. Use hot dogs, pieces of steak, etc. If she happens to go in the wrong spot, ignore that, get her onto the pad and reward her there.

      Keep her on a leash when you are home so she can’t go in there and pee on the floor. Go with her every time and reward her for going on the pad.

      When you are not home or can’t supervise, put her in a kennel if possible to prevent her from peeing on the floor when you’re not around.

      Here are a couple potty training posts that may be helpful. These are based on training the dog to go outside, but you would use the same concept with the pads:

      • Joyce A. on July 26, 2014

        Thanks Lindsay, It makes sense to start over as though she wasn’t trained at all. My sucesses in puppy pad training a new puppy was to make a trail of pads or newspapers from a place where the puppy sleeps to the place you want her to go. Little by little you pick up the pad nearest to the puppy, starting with the one nearest where she sleeps, making her have to go to the next pad or paper. Give it a few days before you pick up the next one. Continue picking up one at a time and they learn to go to the next pad until they get to the last one in the place you want them to go. That has worked for me with all my babies, and with this one too, except she doesn’t seem to get that she needs to pee on the pad too. She seems to want to find another place to do that, most of the time if it’s not the pad, it’s in the bathroom floor where her pads are. Sometimes she does like she is supposed to do. I always reward her for that. Maybe I have been confusing her some way. This is an active dog, she wants to be the center of attention and she can be stubborn but I believe if I find what I’m doing wrong she will be ok. She is a good dog, she’s smart, she’s learned to mind me pretty well, and she does funny things and that makes me laugh and cheers me up. I am willing to start over or try anything I haven’t tried. Thanks for the websites.