This guy on the left is my brothers dog GSXR (pronounced Gixer) who recently passed away from cancer.  He was a purebred boxer and was as active as can be!  In honor of him today I have a great guest post, courtesy of Ron Rutherford, about taking care of your high energy dog (or if you’re thinking about adopting one).

High energy dogs come in various sizes and shapes, and their energy level can depend on the breed and what they were bred for.  So don’t those little dogs fool you, some of the most active breeds are the little ones!  Terriers for example, will definitely keep you on your toes, and can be quite destructive if not kept active.

Unfortunately, a lot of dogs in shelters are high-energy which a lot of people just don’t understand or know how to deal with.  So before taking on a high-energy dog, take a minute and read up on some tips on how to keep them busy!

You might also want to invest in one of THESE. ;)

Taking Care of High-Energy Dogs

However people go about selecting a dog to join their family, they often find themselves challenged by the energy-level of their canine companion. Many have a hard enough time taking care of their own exercise, let alone that of a relatively cooped up, well-nourished, furry fireball. Unfortunately, lack of exercise can lead to several negative behaviors in a dog and one could certainly argue that their mental well-being may suffer as well. High amounts of energy coupled with negative behaviors can lead to many pet owners feeling frustrated and helpless which often results in the use of punishment as a form of correction. The use of punishment or even force to correct a dog’s behavior will more than likely only worsen the situation. If your dog regularly has excess energy to burn, here are some effective approaches to tackling the problem that don’t require you to use punishment or force.

Two Birds

If you are able to make time to exercise yourself, include your dog as much as possible. This may require you to adapt to exercising in different ways, but mutual benefit is always the best option. Taking your dog running is the most obvious option, but not at all the only one. Bringing a dog on a bike ride, a hike through hills, rollerblading, or skateboarding are also great ways for you to exercise together.

Breeds that traditionally are used as work dogs may also take to pulling a load (either you or a weight) which will help burn energy quickly and efficiently. A dog weight vest may also make a good option for exercising a high energy dog where pulling won’t work.

Dogs are fairly adaptable and generally love to get out and do things, but not all exercise activities we engage in as humans are necessarily suitable for a dog. Use good judgment and consult a vet if you are unsure.

Provide Options for Your Dog

Dogs will exercise on their own in the space they have available, but they need you to provide options that are healthy outlets for their energy. The more options they have, the more likely they will continually keep themselves engaged.

Energy that dogs need to burn is not limited to physical exertion. Toys that get a dog moving are great, but ones that get them thinking are important too. If dogs could speak, I think they would say they can never have too many toys. They will also take more to some than others, so you have to keep offering new ones to find out what sort they like best.

Space can be a trickier issue to handle for providing a dog options to get energy out. The goal is to limit their movement as little as safely possible. A dog door may be a good option if your dog is unlikely to get into any trouble in the yard.

One is the Loneliest Number

Some dogs get along better on their own than others, but most love to interact with other dog-friendly creatures (particularly humans and other dogs). Socializing a dog is a good way to take care of some of its energy demands and this also doesn’t have to take a bite out of your schedule.

If you have a friend who also has a dog (or dogs), getting the dogs together will probably benefit both of you by letting the dogs play some of their energy out. Off leash dog parks are another way to accomplish this, although a wide array of dogs in attendance may require more supervision on your part. Alternatively, it might be a good idea to allow any dog-loving friends to borrow your dog from time to time even if they are not dog owners themselves.

If it is an option, you may want to consider adding a dog to the family so that they can keep themselves busy with each other. Of course, you don’t want to take on more responsibility than you can handle. It can make it a bit easier to take care of your dog’s energy needs though.


If you have time for a little extra training, agility courses are a good way to provide a positive outlet for your dog’s energy. The variety of obstacles and movement required exercise dogs both physically and mentally. A course will require some sturdy and safe materials and space, but this makes a good option for those with available yard space.

There are plenty of options for keeping an energetic dog happy. It’s all about compromise and figuring out what works for you both. With a little exploring, you may find your dog’s demands are not as difficult to accommodate as you thought.

Ron Rutherford is a writer with a passion for nature and a soft spot for Thai food. He currently freelances for Havahart Wireless, which specializes in progressive and humane wireless dog fences.