Although most dogs sleep 12 to 14 hours per day, few are actual couch potatoes. Most have high energy levels.
As a pet parent, how do you cope with an active dog? After all, you likely can’t spend every moment helping your high energy dog channel that excess energy.
Learn more about why dogs have high energy levels and discover seven dog-friendly ways to help them burn it off without indulging in problem behaviors like excessive barking, scratching, or digging.
Popular high energy dog breeds
First, recognize most dogs need jobs. They originally were bred to help their owners, either as hunters or herders. High energy dog breeds include:
As their name indicates, Aussies first herded sheep before becoming a popular house pet. The dogs are energetic and need attention and exercise. Australian Shepherds need at least 30 to 60 minutes of exercise plus playtime or other attention daily.
Beagles first helped their owners by using their natural ability to sniff to help hunt rabbits, gophers, and other small game. Today, you need to channel that energy positively, or you’ll wind up with a dog that barks nonstop and is prone to roam unless you have a sturdy fence.
One of the best herding dogs, Border Collies need people with time and energy. The dogs need to feel useful and need daily walks or runs. Their high energy level means they often don’t get along with other dogs, and they typically aren’t a good choice for families with young children.
If Boston Terriers don’t get adequate exercise, they become bored and frustrated. That leads to problem behaviors. They also need direction, so leaving them alone in the backyard won’t work. This breed needs at least one or two brisk walks daily plus playtime.
Routinely used as police and military dogs, German Shepherds are energetic and athletic. If they don’t get regular exercise, they get stressed and become anxious or aggressive.
Jack Russell Terrier
Terriers used to hunt rabbits, gophers, and other small game. Consequently, dogs like the Jack Russell Terrier have excess energy. If they don’t get enough exercise, they can become problem barkers and behave aggressively.
America’s favorite dog is friendly and outgoing. First bred to retrieve game for hunters, Labrador Retrievers are energetic and athletic and need more than walks to keep them happy.
First used on farms to control rats, this muscular breed is fearless and energetic. Miniature Schnauzers love vigorous play and need daily exercise. Be careful letting them off-leash unless in a fenced-in area. With a strong prey drive, they will take advantage of any opportunity to chase small animals.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
With their short, stubby legs, it’s hard to believe Pembroke Welsh Corgis originally were farm dogs that herded cattle and other livestock. But these energetic, muscular dogs love to run fast. If they don’t get enough daily exercise, they can easily gain weight. Bored Corgis also tend to develop bad habits like barking and nipping.
Although the Samoyed may look calm and regal, they are strong and energetic dogs first used to herd reindeer and pull sleds. They need exercise and thrive when trained to complete simple tasks like fetching the morning paper or bringing your shoes.
Keep high energy dogs calm
Although your high energy dog needs exercise, the good news is you don’t have to go for a 10-mile run every day. Try a mix of exercise, sports, training, mental stimulation, chewing, distraction and companionship to manage your dog’s energy.
Daily walks are a good start — plan on taking at least one or two walks a day. Most dogs need at least a 30- to 60-minute daily walk. Remember, the goal is exercise. That means you need to keep your dog focused on walking and not sniffing every blade of grass or peeing on everything. Let your dog take care of business and sniff a little, but then start moving.
Playing fetch with a tennis ball or another favorite toy gives your dog a chance to run and burn off some excess energy. Stick to a short 5- to 10-minute session to start.
Try some conditioning and toning exercises. For example, have your dog stand on a wobble board or inflatable peanut. While your dog works to keep his balance, he’ll burn energy while strengthening his core.
Dog sports like swimming, agility, dock diving, or flyball let your dog burn off energy.
Swimming or even walking in water burns calories. It also puts less stress on your dog’s joints and is an excellent alternative for older dogs or dogs that suffer from injuries or arthritis.
Competing in agility gives dogs a chance to exercise with a purpose. Learning how to navigate the obstacles is both physically and mentally challenging.
Dock diving or dock jumping lets dogs compete at either distance or height by jumping off a raised platform into the water.
Flyball is playing fetch on steroids. Dogs compete in four-member relay teams. Each dog jumps four hurdles, then catches a ball before running back over the hurdles to the finish line.
Dog training sessions also engage your dog both physically and mentally. Dogs learn through repetition, which helps them use energy.
Focusing on obedience training drills helps reinforce commands like sit, down, and stay. Teaching your dog basic obedience commands creates a well-behaved dog, and it’s a positive way for your dog to expend energy.
Teaching your dog tricks like rolling over, weaving through your legs, and shaking also helps your dog burn energy.
You also can challenge your dog and have fun using impulse control games to teach your dog patience.
Challenging your dog’s brain also tires him out and keeps him calm. Consider using puzzle toys, food-filled Kong toys, or a lick mat to keep your high energy dog busy when you’re not home.
If you use these options, be aware of the calories and include them in your dog’s healthy meal plan.
Usually feature compartments with flippers or slides where you can hide kibble or treats. Your dog will learn to use his nose or paws to open the puzzle toy compartments to get to the food. Another option is a puzzle toy with openings for smaller toys that your dog will learn to pull out and play with.
Giving your dog a food-stuffed Kong toy can keep him busy for hours. Just be sure to fill it with healthy food items and not high-fat treats.
These grooved rubber mats can stick to walls, glass, or furniture. You can even leave them on the floor. Coat the mat with wet dog food, xylitol-free peanut butter, mashed banana, vegetable puree, plain yogurt, or cottage cheese. The mats can also be a distraction while you bathe your dog or cut his nails.
Chewing provides mental stimulation and is self-soothing. Chomping on a favorite toy or a bully stick releases endorphins that help relax your dog. The challenge is to give your dog the proper object to chew.
Hard plastic toys, bones, or rawhide chews can be hazardous. Pieces break off and can pose choking hazards or cause digestive obstructions.
Instead, consider healthy, safe, single-ingredient bully sticks or chews from Bully Sticks Central. The company sources its products from two family-owned grass-fed cattle farms in the U.S. and Argentina. None of the company’s products contain artificial ingredients, flavors, or chemicals.
Bully Sticks Central offers products designed for different breed sizes and types of chewers. Some options include:
Thin Bully Sticks
Made for puppies or smaller breeds, Thin Bully Sticks snacks are easy to chew.
Standard Bully Sticks
Created for mid-sized dogs, casual chewers, or dogs with sensitive teeth. The Standard Bully Sticks can last from a few hours to a few days.
Jumbo Bully Sticks
Designed for larger dogs and aggressive chewers. Jumbo Bully Sticks keep dogs occupied for an hour or two.
Monster Bully Sticks
Created to pose a challenge for powerful chewers, Monster Bully Sticks work best for giant breeds like Great Danes, Mastiffs, and St. Bernards.
You can calm some dogs by distracting them with sound or using a product like a Thundershirt.
If you leave your TV, radio, or favorite streaming device on, it can help keep your dog calm. But understand dogs hear at a higher frequency and may need to hear music designed specifically for dogs. Hearing simple melodies or classical music can help dogs relax.
Another option, use a calming wrap like a ThunderShirt. Although many people use them during storms, they also can help calm dogs when they’re home alone. The gentle pressure around your dog’s torso helps him feel safe.
Get your dog out of the house. Visit a dog park, take your dog to doggy daycare one or two days a week, hire a dog walker or schedule a play date.
Before trying any of these options, make sure your dog plays well with others.
If you opt for a dog park or use doggy daycare, make sure either you or someone you trust is there to provide supervision to ensure your dog can play safely with other dogs.
Be sure to vet a dog walking service before you trust your pet with them.
Set up a playdate if you have a friend, relative, or neighbor with a dog who gets along with your dog. Your dog can play with a companion at their home, or you can bring the other dog to your home.
Although it may seem like you’re doubling your work, getting a second dog can solve many behavioral issues and help calm your high energy dog.
Dogs are pack animals, and most benefit from having canine companionship.
Before taking the plunge, watch how your dog interacts with other dogs. Or maybe offer to watch a friend’s dog for the weekend and see how your dog reacts.
Consider adding a second dog if he enjoys doggy daycare or playdates and seems restless when home alone.
Find the best challenge for your high energy dog
There’s no one right way to help calm a high energy dog. Instead, you’ll need to experiment to find the right solution for you. Or, you may discover a mix of them provide the best way to keep your dog busy and happy.
Sara B. Hansen has spent 20-plus years as a professional editor and writer. She’s also the author of The Complete Guide to Cocker Spaniels. She decided to create her dream job by launching DogsBestLife.com in 2011. Sara grew up with family dogs, and since she bought her first house, she’s had a furry companion or two to help make it a home. She shares her heart and home with Nutmeg, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Her previous dogs: Sydney (September 2008-April 2020), Finley (November 1993-January 2008), and Browning (May 1993-November 2007). You can reach Sara @ firstname.lastname@example.org.