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The first time you witness it, you might think your senior dog is going crazy!

He will go from relaxing his old head on the couch’s arm or his bed to jumping everywhere and pleading with anyone to come and play with him.

You know the behavior is not normal and you need to stop him before he hurts himself.

The question now is why do senior dogs suddenly become hyperactive and how can you stop them before they break something – hopefully not their bones joints?

In this article, I’ll show you why your dog behaves the way it does sometimes and how you can stop the behavior.

First off, what are the signs of hyperactivity in dogs?

Top 3 Signs of Hyperactivity in Old Dogs. 

Hyperactive dogs often share the same symptoms with people that have ADHD, some of them include:

1. High energy.

Hyperactive dogs seem to have so much energy to run, play, jump, and chase after thrown toys. Trying to tire them out is a futile attempt because you’d get tired first.

2. Distractible.

They have a hard time focusing on one task. One moment you’re enjoying a walk together and the next moment you are trying to get him to spit out something gross. BTW, check out how to stop your dog from eating gross junk for some useful tips to deal with that issue.

3. Impulsiveness.

Hyperactive dogs react to their environment on impulse. A knock on the door and he runs towards the door leaving what he was playing with behind (BTW, Check out these captivating toys for senior dogs with sensitive teeth). Or he can’t seem to get along with the neighbor’s cat because he has this ‘chase’ energy.

At best, these symptoms make the dog uncontrollable, at worst they can lead to serious problems. Hyperactive dogs may…

  • Be overly seek attention.
  • Prove difficult to train due to their nervous energy and distractible nature.
  • Become snappish or aggressive when they’re in a stressful situation.
  • Have difficulty socializing with other dogs, which leads to more stress.

So you see, hyperactive behavior in dogs often leads to negative consequences for the dog. But we’re not talking about just any dog, why do old dogs suddenly become hyperactive?

Why do senior dogs suddenly become hyperactive?

In most cases, we can chuck hyperactivity down to age and breed. Young dogs with excess energy and certain dog breeds are more likely to be hyperactive – most of the time.

To understand why senior dogs suddenly become hyperactive and how to help them, we have to go back in time to when dogs were getting domesticated.

The Working-class Dog: a brief history. 

Dogs are descendants of wolves – yes, the big bad wolf.

However, humans didn’t hunt down their pack and take some of them home.

No! What happened is that they came to us.

Dogs (wolves at the time) started living close to human settlements to feed on scraps here and there. And, since they didn’t hurt anyone they were allowed to roam free and soon became part of the ‘normal’ village life.

This is when they were named dogs or Canis lupus familiaris.

They performed some useful tasks around human settlement such as barking at wolves, foxes and chasing away anything that looks like trouble.  So people began offering them food and protection in return for their services – aka ‘adopting’ the services of a dog.

So dogs got good pay for the services they rendered.

Some were good at tracking, others guarded home and property, and some learned to herd flocks. They were specialists and as such their bodies developed to match the physical requirement of the job.

They had an outlet for their energy level and then something terrible happened.

The company folded.

Human beings no longer had a pressing need for their services. But, we still adopted them anyway since we considered them part of the family. 

So, why do old dogs suddenly become hyperactive?

1. Too much energy. 

Today, your little specialist worker is jobless and he’s snoozing all day in his crate. He’s been like that every workday doing his own 9-5 while you’re at work. Once in a while, he walks up to the window or dog hoping that someone, anyone, will break him out of that prison. So he can, at the very least, go chase after a chuckit! ball.

Walking around the house, looking out the window, or taking a couple of potty trips barely burns enough energy to exhaust him.

And the thing about energy is that it doesn’t just go away. Instead, it’ll be channeled into other actions, which explains why some good dogs bite and why dog toys don’t last in the jaws of energetic dogs.

If your senior dog suddenly becomes hyperactive, maybe he’s trying to have fun all by himself or wants to join him.

2. Medical conditions. 

Medical issues that cause undesirable changes in a usually calm dog’s behavior are those that affect the brain or nervous system. Medical conditions like the onset of cognitive decline, rabies, or brain tumors can cause noticeable changes in a dog’s behavior.

3. Boredom. 

What do you do when you’re bored, play music, a game, binge on Netflix, or go outdoors?

Dogs also need something to do when they’re bored.

They might be okay playing with a couple of durable dog toys for an hour or two. But even the best dog toys lose their appeal pretty soon if that’s all they have to play with.

A bored dog would soon find himself things to do and it might not be activities that you approve of.

Old dogs will accept the lack of mental and physical stimulation for a couple of days, maybe weeks. However, at some point, it’ll just come out in uncontrollable bouts of craziness.

4. Lack of a routine. 

Back in the days when dogs had jobs, those hired to guard property knew that they had to sleep by day and walk around the property at night. The ones herding cattle knew they had to be up by morning to supervise the cattle when the barn door opens.

They had a structured day.

If your dog suddenly becomes hyperactive, it could be due to a lack of a routine. Without a routine, a typically calm dog might become confused and anxious, especially dogs that have changed homes a couple of times.

5. Sudden stimuli – in hard-to-reach areas. 

While hyperactive behavior in old dogs is often an indication of boredom, that’s not always the case. Sometimes a random stimulus can cause your old dog to begin acting strange like he just got an adrenaline boost.

It could be rain or cold air touching sensitive parts. Or it might be flea bites in areas that he cannot reach and scratch.

6. He’s mirroring you. 

Dogs are descendants of wolves. One wolf characteristic they brought along with them is the pack animal mentality.

In your dog’s eye you’re the pack leader, so what you do is probably what’s best – trust me, he has no idea how sloppy you can be sometimes.

They’re pretty intuitive. If what you do is what is best for the pack, then your dog is going to copy your actions.

Are you feeling a little stressed, angry, or sad? Then your dog will try to copy those same emotions.

8 Things You Can Do to Help an Old Dog That is Suddenly Hyperactive!

1. Rule out medical issues. 

Visit your vet as soon as you notice something odd about your dog’s behavior.

However, it is very important to distinguish between abnormal behavior and behavior that is normal for a dog in certain circumstances, but unwanted.

For instance, an injured dog that suddenly adopts an aggressive behavior is acting normal (to protect his injury), but the behavior is undesirable.

Your vet or a behaviorist will evaluate your dog’s daily mental and physical activity to better understand him. This step alone can give you enough information to handle the sudden hyperactive episodes.

2. Exercise. 

If your dog is fine and there’s no medical issue, then you need to tire him out.

It’s much easier to keep your dog calm when he doesn’t have the energy to be hyperactive in the first place.

That’s why it is very important to take your dog on a long, 30-60 minutes walk in the morning, then a shorter one in the evening.

Ensure to keep a keen eye on your dog during the morning walk so he doesn’t veer off scavenging junk. There’s very little you can do to stop your dog from eating junk once he has successfully veered off course.

‘…but, can’t I just let him run around the yard?

Yes – you can. But, No – you shouldn’t!

Both running around the yard and taking a long walk helps stretch the body. However, a walk provides many different sights and smells that will stretch his brain too.

Where running around the yard leaves your dog in a high-energy state, a walk mimics the kind of activity a pack on a mission to find shelter, food, water, or hunt down an enemy would undertake.

There’s a clear difference between the two.

The journey back home is where the reward (food, water, and shelter) for going on the journey is awarded. Besides, bringing your dog home with his excess energy drained through calm exercise will teach him to associate calmness with the reward he’s getting.

3. Build a routine. 

Dogs thrive on routine!

A daily routine gives your dog an idea of what to expect day to day, which often calms his nerves. A typical routine should include playtime, mealtime, time for exercise, and sleep time. For instance:

  • Morning: A long walk followed by breakfast after cooling down for 30 minutes; a little bit of interactive gameplay; and then spend a few hours indoors while everyone is away.
  • Afternoon: Someone (owner or do walker) comes to interact with the dog for some time (no walking while the ground is hot)
  • Evening: A short walk with the dog when the weather is favorable, everyone eats dinner 30 minutes later, one last potty break to prevent potty regression, then sleep.

You don’t need a schedule for how every day should pan out and it doesn’t have to include all these details. It’s just a little guide for making your dog’s days structured. 

Plus, with a structure like this, especially the last potty break before sleep, your dog now knows what to expect. And you won’t have the deal with the issue of your dog waking you in the middle of the night.

4. Exercise the mind too. 

Your dog’s brain is like a muscle. And, one thing we know about muscles is that they get weaker if they’re not put to good use.

Get a couple of toys that require your dog to think of ways to get the treats in them. Toys like the Kong for senior dogs, StarMark Bob-A-Lot Interactive Dog Toy, or Hear Doggy! Flattie with Ultrasonic Squeaker works just fine.

Check our list of toys for senior dogs with sensitive teeth, I’m sure you’ll find something. 

5. Try learning something new. 

The only common language that dogs and humans share are the ones that you teach him.

Obedience training does just that!

Teaching a dog the ‘sit’ or ‘stay’ helps him control his impulses when he’s overexcited. It tells signals to him that some behaviors are okay and others are not.

Learning a new skill is another way to exercise his brain, especially for an old dog running out of that youthful vigor. It can help delay the onset of dog cognitive dysfunction.

There are toys for senior dogs with sensitive teeth that you can teach him to play with. And, if he still has strong dentitions, then teaching him to play without the use of teeth should be the challenge he has to learn.    

6. Encourage everyone to chill the eff out. 

Photo by Bar Kochba on Unsplash

If your dog looks up to you as the pack leader – which he should – then you have to be calm around him.

Check your energy around the dog.

Avoiding getting into unnecessary arguments on the phone when he’s around, cussing at the slow driver ahead of you – yeah, that idiot. Or correcting him harshly.

If you had a frustrating or stressful day at work, do not transfer that energy to your dog. I recommend calming music or meditation –  hey, you don’t even have to close your eyes, just sit somewhere and watch time pass.

How would you feel working with a boss that’s never calm?

You are your dog’s boss, act like it!

7. Engage his nose. 

A dog’s nose is to them what our eyes are to use – it’s their primary sense organ.

Just as seeing a long queue, witnessing injustice, or certain colors can calm our nerves, smells do the same for dogs.

Scents like vanilla and lavender can help put your hyperactive senior dog at ease. Especially if you associate the scent with good times or when the dog is calm.

Place a scented air freshener close to his sleep area and other areas he likes to frequent. 

Before we get to point #8, I have a favor to ask of you.

If you like this article (so far), then feel free to share with your friends!

Thank you!

Last but not least…

8. Help that dog find his dream job. 

What better way to make your dog a responsible canine citizen than to help him find his dream job?

I know the idea of having your dog go to work sounds terrible, but that’s not what this is about.

You can put your dog to work by filling his meal in a Kong – the ones that fall out becomes his payment. If your dog is the canine version of a criminal detective, you can hide his toys in strategic locations around the house so he has to use his strong sense of smell to find them.  

Conclusion.

An old dog that is suddenly playful or so hyper all of a sudden is not an issue that cannot be resolved.

By knowing the symptoms of hyperactivity in old dogs and what the issue might be, you can properly manage and possibly eliminate the behavior.

To achieve the best result, I recommend combining all the factors listed above in a way that works best for you and your dog.

Some dogs could spend hours playing with interactive toys and wouldn’t mind. Others seem to never get tired of walking. And there are those that fall in between both.

You know your dog best, find a balance that’s comfortable for both of you!

Remember to share with your friends!