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Q: My Labrador retriever never seems to tire out. I can play fetch with her for an hour and she still wants to play. I take her to the doggy day care three times a week and she plays happily all day with the other dogs. But at night, she still has energy to burn. She is almost two years old. What can I do to tone down her activity level?

Doggy day care is fun but doesn’t seem to tire out pups as much as mental stimulation. Try including a dog savvy person that will take your dog for a run (alone) and include obedience training on walks. Throwing a ball, delivering a treat, or spending time with your dog isn’t always enough; it’s quality that counts!

True hyper-activity in canines is rare. In fact, many overly active dogs are anxious, stressed, in need of obedience training, or desperate for an emotional connection with you. Dig deep and connect … talk to your dog, work on eye contact and reward for being calm and focused. Really mean it when you say, “good dog”!


Obedience train with a focus on “stay” and practice impulse control exercises. Before throwing their favorite toy, ask for a “sit”, wait for eye contact, and then throw the toy. For more advanced fetch training, wait 10 seconds before sending them off to retrieve. Apply rules to your game of fetch and turn the games on and off on your terms; only “crazy” on demand. Try setting up a chill station for your dog!

Brooks’ Canine Energy Expenders:

  • Agility training
  • Automatic ball launcher
  • Chase the garden hose
  • Diggity Dog Digging Pit
  • Dock diving
  • Stuffed KongTM with food
  • Tug-of-Toy (controlled)
  • Dog Paddle
  • Flyball
  • Kibble hunting
  • Sniffing games (Nose work) – toy hunt!
  • Slow feeder / puzzle
  • Treadmill (supervised)

Signs of anxiety and attention seeking include: jumping, pawing, whining and barking. These behaviors can be put on cue and allowed only when you ask for them. Ignore attention seeking and teach positive behaviors that are incompatible with unwanted behavior.

Anxiety Aids:

  • Beef liver (cooling food) can help calm
  • Dog-appeasing pheromones
  • Lavender massages
  • Rescue Remedy
  • Spa music (helps mellow)
  • Thundershirt(R)
  • Turkey (tryptophan) has a calming effect

Remember to improve your emotional connection with your dog, and never punish; punishment only increases anxiety. Keep greetings low-key. Consult your veterinarian if your dog has too much energy to rule out any underlining medical issues.

Keep in mind that labs were selectively bread for high-energy activities and require lots of supervised activity!