Reasons Dogs Misbehave – Too Much Energy

Happy cartoon dog wagging tail

Dog Personality Types

Dogs come in all breeds, shapes, and sizes; each having its own personality type. From laid back couch potato to X Games adrenaline junkie and everything in between. But even the most laid back dog needs an outlet for the mental and physical energy that’s part and parcel of being a dog.

Put Yourself in Your Dog’s Paws

Imagine you’re thirteen years old and you’ve been confined to your room for a week. You haven’t been allowed to go outside, not even to school. Your parents have taken away your phone, computer, TV, MP 3 player, and any printed paper you might actually still read. Now, your punishment is over.

It’s the first day you’ve been allowed to go out and about and you have tickets to go see your favorite band. The concert doesn’t start until 1:00 AM and you’ve just downed your sixth Red Bull just in case the thought of being tired even peeks into your mind. Your dad hands all your electronic lifelines back to you along with $100 bucks for some tee shirts and sends you out the door. You bolt for freedom screaming at the top of your lungs as your ride arrives. Think you look like a picture of self-control?

It’s a ridiculous question I know. Perhaps a bit unrealistic as well; especially if we’ve never been taught any self-control. But it’s often something we overlook when we are trying to figure out why our dog is misbehaving.

Idle Paws are the Devil’s Workshop

Regardless of breed or personality type, dogs need both mental and physical outlets for their energy. More importantly, they need outlets that work for them. Left untapped, they will create their own outlets and that is often where they run afoul of us.

A ten minute walk with no opportunity to sniff, bark, mark, or do any of the other things that make a dog a dog just won’t do. They need an outlet commensurate with their personality type. This means physical exercise coupled with the ability to use their canine brains for something that makes sense to them.

What’s a Dog Lover to Do?

Daily training sessions and games that challenge their brains and reward them with real life rewards like a game of fetch or going out in the back yard to bark at squirrels are just as important as a giving them a piece of chicken for sitting like a good dog.

No different than our pent up teenager, self-control is another lesson that many dogs need to be taught. They need to be rewarded for calm moments and especially for moments where they choose calm over chaos. Teaching self-control is not as easy as teaching a sit but it is a teachable skill that pays dividends for you and your sanity so it is worth the time and effort.

Ways to Help Dogs with Excess Energy

It’s Yer Choice This is an excellent video by Cindy Briggs on teaching impulse control. Although it deals with food, you can see that the dogs are leaning to control their impulse to take food without asking first. And remember we’re not all perfect, watch the bloopers at the end.

The Positive Interrupter This video by Emily Larlham (kikopup) teaches you how to use a positive noise that gets your dog’s attention away from behaviors you don’t want them to engage in. As Emily mentions near the end, be sure to use this technique when your dog is behaving perfectly as well, lest they learn they get your attention primarily when doing bad things.

Capturing Calmness Another video by Emily Larlham the teaches your dog that calm is a good thing and has its own rewards.

101 Things to do With an Object This video by Pamela Marxsen show us how to play a fun game with our dog that really allows them to engage their mind and spend some of that mental energy.

These are only a few things to help you provide mental stimulation and give your dog positive options for some of those behaviors you find annoying that arise of out an excess of energy. And please remember one of the best outlets you can give your dog is a nice walk where they get to engage in those behaviors that make them a dog in the first place.

I hope this article has given you good insight into why excess energy can cause your dog to misbehave and some of the things you can do to remedy unwanted behavior.


If the behaviors your dog is displaying involve aggression towards people or other dogs, we suggest your consult a qualified trainer, behaviorist, or veterinarian immediately. Fear based behaviors should also prompt a consultation with a professional.

4 thoughts on “Reasons Dogs Misbehave – Too Much Energy

  1. Hiring a reliable, professional dog walker gives you peace of mind that your dog is getting the exercise it needs throughout the day!

  2. Pingback: Reasons Dogs Misbehave | Pet Guardian Angels of America

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