What is overstimulation in dogs?
Written by Louise Glazebrook
What is overstimulation in dogs?

This can vary greatly in each dog depending on their breed and their genetics but to give you an easy example – a Working Cocker Spaniel that has been being walked with an owner using a ball lobber on repeat for the entire dog walk to ‘wear their dog’ out will be totally and utterly overstimulated. On the flipside, a puppy who is getting tired and then the kids come home and try playing and getting all the toys out could also be overstimulated and then unable to settle. 

Overstimulation can happen in many situations and in many different ways for different breeds of dogs. Some common causes for overstimulation can be:

  • Too much noise e.g. kids running around screaming and shouting
  • Too much contact e.g. dog not left alone to rest and keeps being fiddled with
  • Too much play e.g. keep lobbing a ball over and over and over again
  • Too much environmental stimulus – e.g. walking on a London street

Over stimulation can also happen because a dog’s breeding has created them to exist in a ‘hyper’ or ‘overstimulated’ way – clients often describe their dog as – hyper, unable to settle, always on the go, there is no satisfying them. There are of course many other words used but these are the most commonly used that you might also be thinking about your own dog.

What people don’t consider is the impact of breeding on creating overstimulated dogs. There is a difference between a dog that sometimes finds certain situations or environments ‘a bit too much’ vs. a dog that literally lives their entire life switched ‘on’ and sometimes the only way to get them to turn off can be by crating them or putting them into a kennel.

When we look at some of the ‘working’ breeds – these can provide an insight into where some of these traits can come from when we look at the Cockapoo and the Working Cocker Spaniel. Where dogs are being bred to be able to be ‘on’ and ‘able to work’ more and more by selective breeding or by breeding the wrong kinds of dogs, if we are looking at dogs that go into family homes. 

If you have a Cockapoo and want to understand this in more detail, you should really watch the Cockapoo Masterclass. We also discuss how overstimulation can look very different in the bull breeds, you can watch the Staffie masterclass to understand this in far more depth.

What to do when dogs are overstimulated?

There isn’t a one size fits all solution but here are a couple of examples to help you.

If you are using a ball lobber, stop now. Unless your dog can do a couple of throws and not be too worried, then it’s fine to keep using. If your dog is barking at you, obsessed by it, will keep chasing and chasing until you end the walk, then the lobber is definitely something you need to remove from your life. You are running your dog literally into the ground by overstimulating their entire adrenal system and creating a stress response every single time inside your dog’s body. We do discuss this in much more detail in the Puppy Wonder Club alongside canine nutritionist Alison Daniels.

If your puppy is finding certain situations over stimulating and is biting, getting nippy to try to get away from it, then do look at how you can amend the places you are taking them. Or the way you are allowing people to interact with them. If they are chewing on the lead as you walk them down the road because the road is too noisy and busy, then try a quieter road for parts of the walk.

There are many ways to help our dogs, it’s about choosing the right ones for our individual dogs. You can join the Puppy Wonder Club for our monthly live Q&A sessions or book 121 tailored online or in person sessions. 

Need help with your adult dog?

Whether you’re considering getting a rescue dog, or have a change in your life that you and your dog need help with, I can support you. 

 

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