If your dog seems to be constantly alert or hyper vigilant, they bark at the slightest noise, are hyperactive, find it difficult to relax, or they have become ‘snappy’ in certain situations, then you may need to consider sensory overload contributing to the problem.
All occurrences in the environment can stimulate our dogs to varying degrees. What that stimulation looks like is down to a number of things. For example, breed type, age and health status are the obvious factors, but we also need to consider a dog’s individual personality. Dogs, just like people, are all different. Some are shy, sensitive introverts, some are happy-go-lucky, and some are bold, confident extroverts. All of these factors impact on just how much stimulation a dog can cope with, and how that manifests.
Considering your dog’s behaviour
If you are struggling with their behaviour, consider what an average day consists of for your pooch.
How much repetitive ball chasing is your dog doing? How much rough-housing and playing with other dogs is he doing? How busy and noisy is your household? Does he practice barking and ‘seeing off’ postal workers and passers-by? Essentially, how much of the average day does your dog spend being active, alert and over-excited?
When we are stressed, stress hormones are released into our brains. During this time we can’t concentrate properly, our tolerance levels drop, and our sleep is affected, as is our behaviour. We commonly associate stress with negative things that occur in our lives. However, over-excitement, high levels of stimulation and endurance exercise can have the same physiological effects, owing to the stress hormones being released into our brains. This is exactly the same for dogs.
Did you know that the average adult dog should enjoy resting/sleeping for approximately 16 hours over a 24-hour period? If they are not getting close to this amount of sleep due to an over-stimulating lifestyle, then you may start to see some behavioural issues.
The answer isn’t to force downtime on your dog, but to consider how you can introduce some calming activities into their life so that they are less stimulated. This will help to calm their brain activity, resulting in them being more likely to take themselves off somewhere for a good nap.