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Can a dog be over stimulated?

Discussion in 'Behavioral Issues' started by Clavin, Apr 5, 2011.

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  1. Clavin

    Clavin Boxer Booster

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    A couple of weeks ago I posted a thread about my 2+ year old Boxer Clavin. He is super hyper from the time he gets up in the morning (6:00am) until the time he goes to bed at night around 6:00pm. When he FINALLY does go to sleep he sleeps like a log. We pretty much repeat this process every day.

    I am retired so I am around him most of the day. I take him to the dog park at least once a day, sometimes twice. He plays with a neighbors dog once a day for about a hour and we also go for a couple of short 30 minute walks. He might rest for a few minutes after some playtime but he still drives me totally crazy with his energy level. I've had Boxers before so I know they can be hyper until at least the age of three or four. I'm telling you for the first 1/2 of the day the dog does not lay down for 10 minutes. I would think he would eventually get tired from all the walking/pacing around the house. He has lots of toys and will play with them for short periods of time but he wants to be out playing with other dogs. I think he could do this 24/7.

    Somebody mentioned in the previous thread that he actually might be overly stimulated and now expects to be doing all these fun activities (for him) every day. I've been thinking about this some more and was wondering if anybody else feels the same way or could elaborate more on this topic and possible "cause" to his 12 hours of driving his daddy crazy.
    Since this is a pattern we have maintained for so long now is it possible to reverse the trend and daily routine? Is he getting too much social time and thus is over stimulated? I find it a fascinating concept and just was wondering the thoughts and/or suggestions from other Boxer owners who might have faced (or are facing) some of the same challenges.

    Thanks...
     
  2. johann

    johann Boxer Insane

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    I think they can. And I can tell when Johann is overtired or overstimulated because he drives us insane. Barking, howling, trying to eat furniture, chases the cat, punching us, etc. In general, just a monster and poorly behaved dog. We mostly notice it after he does something that is super fun and exciting for him (agility class, weight pull class, running at the beach, staying at my parents house with their 2 dogs).....it's like he has soooo much fun doing whatever that his brain can't shut off and let him relax. Even if he is completely exhausted, he won't lay down and go to sleep on his own if he's overly hyped up.

    We're trying to recognize the signals that he's getting out of control and intervene before he progresses to complete monster. :p If we notice him getting too out of control, then he gets a chance to listen and go to his on command and stay there. If this doesn't work, I put him on a thin leash and pull his bed next to wherever I'm sitting and make him down/stay. After a few minutes he will pass out and sleep. Make sure you are rewarding for quiet behavior while he's being quiet and resting (treats and praise). When he's first learning this behavior (if he doesn't know down/stay), it'll take a lot of repetitions for him to figure out that lying on the bed = treats. Getting up and trying to walk away = getting guided back to the bed.

    Since we've been catching him earlier and earlier (his first sign is usually trying to eat furniture or chasing our cat) and "forcing" him to settle down....he gets out of control less and less.

    Doing something like this might work with your dog to help him settle down. The goal is to have the dog learn to settle on their own and not need the leash to get them on and keep them on the bed or mat. He has to learn that while he does get to do fun things while outside, that whining and being obnoxious inside does not mean he gets to go out sooner or get something to keep him amused (our biggest downfall with Johann...he'd whine and be obnoxious, so we would give him a kong or bone to keep him quiet :LOL:).

    Another thought is to only do the dog park a 4-5 days a week and not multiple trips in a day. More structured walks (at heel) and obedience work will help him develop good behaviors. Remember that it's easier to teach him to do what you want (lay quietly on his bed), instead of teaching what you don't want him to do (bark, whine, pace). :)

    This does work....Johann was just getting nutty when I was typing this (overtired from a 2 hr long obedience class). I told him "go settle down" and he looked at me, punched the cat 1 more time (bad dog :LOL:), and then went and laid on his bed. He's already asleep.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2011
  3. ELubas

    ELubas Boxer Insane

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    This is excellent advice-I bet if you do this for a couple of weeks you will see a big difference!
     
  4. larrygs

    larrygs Super Boxer

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    It probably depends on the dog, however I also think they can be overstimulated and agree with the advice.

    Layla was getting more and more wired and reactive as she was getting older, eg lunging when on leash, less tolerant at the dog park, just acting out at times. Became a problem for learning and competing at agility. We finally got help from a behavorist. She indicated we, like many, were overstimulating, especially with dog parks, day care, and relentless treats. It becomes an escallating spiral. Initial steps focused on destressing, meaning no dog parks or day care. We also taught Layla how to relax on command, "get Easy." This then moved into cycling where she learns how to relax herself rather than work herself into a spiral of increasing intensity and stress. I haven't gone into the details on how to do all this, and was skeptical at first. However I am convinced. The results have been amazing and very much a life skill for her. It is also so very nice to have a calmer, well mannered dog.
     
  5. whiskers

    whiskers Boxer Insane

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    I have to leave for work shortly so I might add more to this later---I think I'm the person in the original thread that suggested overstimulation, so yeah I think it's possible. :D

    I've experienced it with Juno. It's very obvious that when she comes home after being at daycare for 8-12 hours, and still wants to run laps and whines and chases things around the house.... she's too stimulated. There is no reason that she needs more to do, she just spent the whole day running and playing! She needs help to shut down after all that activity.

    Last winter I got into the habit of going to the dog park every day for an hour, thinking this was good for her. Normally, one hour at the dog park would EXHAUST her, and she'd be done for the rest of the day. Well, the more frequently we started going, the worse her behavior got... an hour was no longer enough. It would take TWO hours to tire her out. It makes sense--she got accustomed to the exercise and now it took more exercise to achieve my desired effect. It's like when a person first starts running. At first, it doesn't take much for you to get winded and need a break. But the more you do it, the longer you can go before needing a break, and if you keep it up you could run miles before getting tired.

    If he's used to doing so many activities and being go go go during the day, he's going to expect that activity. So if you want to spend a day just relaxing... that's not going to be easy for him. Johann gave you great advice. It's not easy because they are good at convincing you that they need more exercise. But I had to teach myself, you know, if we just went for a 30 minute walk.... it's okay for the dog to come home and have to relax. Do activities with him but have him lay down and chill out inbetween those activities. Initiate play etc when he's laying down and being calm--try NOT to do it when he's amped up. Otherwise being crazy gets rewarded and he's learning that the only time he gets to do things is when he's acting like a nut.

    I do like to give my dog a Kong, bully stick, trachea etc. during the afternoon so that I can relax and do what I need to do, and she will be happily occupied with chewing her treat. But there are also other times during the day where she is expected to just go relax, without having something to occupy her.
     
  6. Clavin

    Clavin Boxer Booster

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    Thanks Whiskers (and everyone else) for your responses and suggestions. I did give a lot of thought to your reply from my post of a few weeks ago and would love to be able to implement some techniques to quiet the Boxer Dog down without multiple trips to the dog park and/or the neighbors backyard.

    I just don't know if the word relax is in Clavin's vocabulary. I can't spend the entire day sitting and/or playing with him. He will play for a few minutes by himself with his massive amount of toys and then come in wanting to do something. I'm sure the fact that I am home all day doesn't help. Obviously when I leave the house he must be laying down most of the time as nothing is ever destroyed or even touched in the house.

    I do look forward to the days when puppyhood ends. I think the warm California summer might also put a little dent in the boys energy level...or at least I can hope for that :)
     
  7. Cami

    Cami Boxer Insane

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    I remember seeing your original post and being a little jealous! I was thinking that I would love for Raine to crash out after 12 hours but sadly it isn't the case. She is however only 9 months old so hopefully, in time she will decide to take a break! I don't know if I will be that lucky since my previous girl was overly hyper as well. Maybe it is something I am doing since I just remembered that a friends Boxer is pretty much a couch potato until she comes and stays with us. I couldn't believe it when her owners told us that she never played with toys at home. At my house she is non-stop energy!
    Raine starts at 6am most days.....as early as 4am on occasion. She is still going at midnight and the puppy temper tantrums usually start around 8-9pm. I know she is just exhausted but she won't settle until she drops.
    When she has had an overly stimulated previous day I can get a 20 minute nap out of her but I can't get much accomplished since I try not to even breath when she is sleeping for fear she will wake up.
    Maybe I make Boxers even more crazier than they are normally. :D
     
  8. johann

    johann Boxer Insane

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    He may not know how to relax and settle himself. Johann certainly didn't.....when he was a puppy, we'd put him in a crate for set naptimes every day. :LOL: Once we got rid of the crate, we were at a loss and had a dog that would harass us endlessly for attention and playing. Regardless of how much he had already played/walked/done that day. He was out of control and we were at our wit's end with him.

    Rather than strangle him (which was tempting during tantrums :p), we taught him the behavior we wanted from him. It took a lot of work and still takes reinforcement (I'll randomly go get a yummy treat for him or sit and pet him when he's quietly laying around), but he is much better than he was before. I don't think it's that he's grown out of the puppiness, because he can still run and play all day long if we let him. But....he has learned that when I'm on the laptop or watching TV trying to relax, that he is not to bark loudly in my face for attention. Or constantly throw toys at me (yes, he throws them at me), or harass the cat, and so on. He'll still get all antsy and will let me know when he needs more exercise by doing boxer burns around the house. :) Then we go outside and play, or play tug for a while.

    But no obnoxious whining, pacing, misbehavior, or tantrums are allowed anymore. I really think that we could have taught this to him as a puppy and saved a lot of headaches and frustration....but better late than never (he's now 3, we started this training at 2 yrs old) right?

    It sounds like your guy has a wonderful life with you, with everything a boxer could wish for. :D But goodness, I'm tired from just reading all his activities in a day. :LOL: I'd aim for a bit more structured activity (obedience work, heeling while on walks, even trick training) and less free run around like a nut time (dog parks and playing with neighbors dogs).
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2011
  9. whiskers

    whiskers Boxer Insane

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    Ditto the above. I started cracking down on Juno this winter because she was DRIVING ME INSANE lol. She's much better now.

    At first you'll have to "force" him by leashing him up. Food rains from the sky when he lies down. Do this a few times during the day, sit on the couch and watch a 30 minute show and reward his relaxed behavior. It sounds like you might have to reward pretty frequently in the beginning, but when he catches on to the game and is laying there nicely, you can start waiting longer and longer between rewards. Disengage from him; don't be leaning over, staring at him, etc. Sit back, relax, watch some TV and just occasionally drop a treat. I'd practice this in multiple environments, too--different chairs in different rooms, a bench at the park, etc. Eventually, he'll be so good at this game, that he'll know that when you're ignoring him/relaxing, that means it's time for him to lie down and relax too... what a nice thought that is, huh. :D

    Also reward him any time he chooses to lie down. Which if he doesn't do that now, he might be more likely to after a few "forced" relaxation sessions. The more it's reinforced, the more likely he is to repeat the behavior. Hopefully it'll get to a point where that's his default behavior--"I don't know what else to do, so I'll just lie down."

    Any time Juno starts acting like a nut and is too crazy for my liking, I have her lie on her bed. 100% of the time she does it willingly, and falls asleep--it's like she was just waiting for someone to guide her and tell her to lie down.
     
  10. johann

    johann Boxer Insane

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    That was why we started. It was training or beating....one of the two. :LOL:

    Johann will do the same thing if I leash him and tie him to the chair leg. Lets out a big sign and is asleep within a minute. Goofy creatures. :p
     
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