What has four legs and more energy than a quadruple espresso shot? That’s right, it’s your hyperactive dog.

But just what is hyperactivity in dogs? What’s the difference between a dog that is excitable and one who is clinically hyperactive? Read ahead to find out more about hyperactive dogs.


The clinical term for hyperactivity is “hyperkinesis” and can be defined as a dog with a short attention span, impulsivity, and frenetic activity (frantic movement that is seemingly uncontrollable). It’s also often accompanied by an excessive need for attention. 

Understanding Hyperactivity | A Comparative Glance

Hyperkinesis is widely over–diagnosed and, according to certified dog behavior specialist, Pat Miller, who writes in her book, Positive Perspectives 2: Know Your Dog, Train Your Dog, there are four primary reasons.

  • Popular dog breeds—Labrador Retrievers, Border Collies, German Shepherds, etc.—are bred for a specific purpose. That is to be highly attentive, high energy, hyperalert, and vigilant. These are often sport breeds.
  • Puppy mills and dogs sold through retail chains will often contain under socialized dogs. A dog that isn’t socialized properly at a young age can have various neurological and behavioral lapses, resulting in behavior problems.
  • Dog owners are unaware of how diligent a dog’s training has to be—especially one who exhibits hyperactive behavior already.
  • Owners who don’t offer adequate exercise and socialization time to high energy dogs, which exacerbates behavior problems.

Miller also likens it to the child-ADHD phenomena, where a child is given a central nervous system stimulant (Ritalin, Adderall, etc.) when they can’t focus in school. One could argue some children aren’t built to sit still for hours and focus on math.

The same argument applies for high energy dogs. German Shepherds, in the right condition, can run anywhere from five to twenty miles before becoming winded. If they’re forced to stay inside all day, with a quick walk around the block in the evening, that energy has to go somewhere—it goes straight to their anxiety and can lead to undesirable behavior.

Hyperactivity or High Energy Dog | Telling the Difference

When an owner brings a hyperactive dog to the vet for medication, the vet might first suggest professional training and an overhaul to their diet and exercise routine. Doing so provides one way to tell the difference between a neurological disorder and a health issue.

Often what looks like the inability to pay attention for long spans of time is actually an acutely attentive dog who is overstimulated by their environment. Does this sound backward? It’s really not—dogs have different heightened senses than humans. Whereas we may see a boring room with nothing going on, they may smell a whole other story.

The Hyperkinesis Test

Want to determine whether your dog is overstimulated or needs medication? Ensure that your pet has all of these factors in place:

  • Plenty of time to exercise
  • A healthy diet with all the nutrients their brain needs
  • Time set aside for training
  • Regular schedule (including feeding time and sleep time)

Note: Don’t expect results in a single day, be sure to apply this test for a few weeks to see optimal results. 

Importance of Physical Activity

As mentioned above, high energy sport dogs have a lot of energy. This energy needs to be diverted somewhere to effectively control your dog’s behavior. Make sure they have a large space to run full-stride and bring some tennis balls, frisbees, and throwing apparatuses to keep their attention.

Once they’ve used up their excess energy, they’ll be more ready for when it’s time to train.

Importance of Diet

Dogs’ brains function off of the diet you feed them—just like people. Make sure that your dog is eating well-balanced dog food with carbs, proteins, healthy fats, and a touch of vegetables and fruit. Dogs are omnivores, so they should be offered an omnivore diet.

To ensure your dog is absorbing all of the key nutritional complexes and vitamins and nutrients they need for a healthy brain, find them a supplement that gives them the cognitive and energy balance they need. Vetericyn’s ALL-IN supplement not only has the necessary ingredients, but it also has a protein-based delivery system to make sure the nutrients are absorbed. Our supplement contains essential vitamins and nutrients for every breed and life-stage!

Importance of Training

In the same way that a proper diet positively affects the body and brain, proper training positively affects the mind. This aspect is the one that owners typically struggle with the most. So, don’t be afraid to take your dog to dog training classes or one-on-one sessions with a certified dog trainer to work on behavior. A certified dog trainer can teach your dog better behavior through positive reinforcement.

Another way to think of training is:

  1. Proper diet allows your dog to have the optimal amount of energy.
  2. Proper exercise allows your dog to spend that energy and be prepared for training
  3. Proper training is what secures your relationship with your high energy dog and helps normalize them. 

Fourth, and finally, the proper routine.

Importance of Routine

Routine offers calm to a hyper dog. If they know when to eat, when to sleep, when they’re getting exercise, and when they’re going to be trained, they will have significantly less to be anxious about.

Additionally, routine helps with digestion and with gaining a full night’s rest.

Listening to Your Vet

Remember that while many commonly beloved dogs are high energy sport dogs, this doesn’t mean that the hyperactive behavior is a result of poor ownership. Many dogs are, in fact, diagnosed with hyperkinesis.

However, it’s always important to offer your pet a drug-free life if you can afford to. By regulating your dog’s diet, exercise, training, and routine, you can be sure you’re making the right choice at the vet.


  • Pat Miller. Positive Perspectives 2. https://books.google.com/books?id=Fv6m9XTw4msC&pg=
  • Embora Pets. Can German Shepherds Run Long Distances? https://emborapets.com/can-german-shepherds-run-long-distances/


Dr. Melinda J. Mayfield-Davis, DVM, WCHP-AH, brings over 20 years of experience in veterinary medicine.  She is the Technical Services Veterinarian with Innovacyn, Inc., parent company of Vetericyn Animal Wellness. She received her DVM from Oklahoma State University and now resides in Southeast Kansas with her husband, two children, four dogs, and six horses. Prior to working with Innovacyn, Dr. Mayfield owned and operated the Animal Care Center in Columbus, KS.

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