Your puppy is cranky, rebellious, and slightly wild… and you’re wondering if your puppy is overtired.
It really does sound like it could be the case. Too-tired puppies turn from being these cute little balls of fluff into a tiny terror with teeth – and they’re rotten to live with.
The temptation is that a young dog needs a lot of exercise when this happens, as that might be your tactic with an adult dog! But it may not be the best way with your puppy.
The good news is that it’s quite easy to fix.
By my experience? One of the reasons puppies become wild dogs, is because they’re overtired.
Tired Vs Overtired
What’s the difference between tired and too tired?
Think of kids! I know I used to do it (and you probably did too right?) I would get overtired when it went past bedtime and I’d had a pretty full day. It’s the same with your puppy, they’re beyond the point of being tired. So they’re being loud, obnoxious and in your face – all the while not listening to you for even a split second. I want to help you with this, it’s usually a really easy fix.
Want to know the primary cause?
I’ve often said that a Tired Dog Is a Good Dog — but that’s not just mean physical exercise! Tiredness is more than just muscles – it’s mental too.
Overtiredness is far too often found in over-exercised puppies.
Purely physical exercise will exhaust the muscles, sure, but it doesn’t mean that their brain is tired. In a way? This is a good thing! It means you have a bright little puppy who needs a bit more time!
What Are The Signs Of An Overtired Puppy?
Common overtired puppy symptoms include: A sudden burst of energy and having a lot of energy it results in things like the “Zoomies”, crazy eyes, an increase in biting, and often an inability to listen. It could even lead to a lapse in potty training, short bursts of massive energy.
These things may result in a lot of “unruly” behavior, and sometimes an understanding that your puppy is being a “demon”, “little devil” and in the mind of a new puppy parent can lead to the conclusion that they need another walk – but I promise you it’s really not the case. All of this is being caused by a lack of sleep.
little cavapoo puppy having fun and running around in the garden or yard. Too much play can definitely be a factor in your puppy’s overtiredness..
You need to provide mental stimulation. This is a super easy fix, I promise.
Don’t start today if they’re already on wild dog mode, but tomorrow? Try cutting their walks down to the recommended daily amount and focus on some of the ideas below to try and wear out that little puppy brain!
Remember not to make it too difficult, and remember to keep sessions nice and short so as to not overdo it!
Here’s a few ideas for you;
1 – Structured Naps
First, you need to know that young dogs do not have the ability to “Self regulate”, and they have no self control! So the mindset of “Oh, they’ll sleep when they’re tired” is just not true. So creating structured nape times and ensuring that your puppy is getting enough sleep is always step one.
Did you know your puppy needs 18-20 hours of sleep every day?
Yep. It’s a lot, right?
Well, not only does this mean that you have less time to be around your puppy, with all that wonderful puppy biting, but it means that when they start getting roughly that amount of sleep, then their behavior will improve.
You may want to consider things like crate training, in a quiet place, with a super comfy little dog bed in it in order to facilitate a more structure and obvious zoning so that your puppy begins to associate their bed or crate with down time, nap time and great, deep sleep.
I’d also suggest setting up a routine which allows your puppy sleep, appropriate potty break, training and exercise at the right amount for your puppy’s age (months of age, not years!).
2 – Less Exercise, More Sniffy Walks!
Instead of spending it socialising, going on long walks, or trying to use physical activity to exhaust your dog, try letting them sniff and experience all the different smells in your neighbourhood – sometimes even picking a different direction can work wonders to make their nose start working!
Imagine it like when you got an awesome new book when you were younger and you loved reading (Well, ok, I did, that was definitely me!) – this is what smelling is for your puppy.
So yeah! Short walk with lots of sniffs and experiencing new things without necessarily interacting (this is a great time to use a long line by the way!)
Letting puppy win will not encourage tenacity – it’ll just encourage them to play more!
3 – Low Energy Play
If you’re looking for some low energy play, tug can be great, it relies on strength and brain – just remember to let puppy win, lots and lots! Contrary to popular belief, letting puppy win will not encourage tenacity – it’ll just encourage them to play more! Interactive toys like those that tug-e-nuff produce are fantastic – but you can still find (or make!) great tuggy toys too. Remember to keep your play session short, and if they’re not into a rope toy, a soft toy will work too.
Looking for great toys?
collie puppy doing clicker training with their mum/mom! Look at how good that little one is doing! Training is great for helping tire out your puppy’s mind
4 – Training
Why not try some training? Teach them some new tricks, or push their current ones on another level! If you’re looking for inspiration, try acing sit, or play around with recall! Both of these are staples of your dog training repertoire, or if those are awesome already? (Call me, because I swear, recall is something to be constantly worked on so if you’ve cracked it let me know right now!!)
Why not try some cute tricks? These are totally unnecessary, but they’re great for mental stimulation, something like Paw, spin, roll over or anything else you can think of. I’ve even taught Indie to open doors with a pull! So, the world is your oyster, keep training and keep their brain working.
Oh! And remember, we’re always using positive reinforcement, and we’re keeping to short training sessions. Puppies are literally built to learn!
5 – Feed in a fun way
Did you know there are feeding toys? Like the Kong! These offer “Mental exercise” (also known as enrichment). But you can do it for all sorts whether that’s a stuffed buffalo horn, or Toppl. Or, why not try scatter feeding? All of these sorts of things are that can make your puppy use their cute little snoots and become hunters of kibble or treats!
Golden Retriever puppy enjoying a blue puppy Kong. Kong’s are not only great enrichment but a wonderful way of feeding interactively. This interactive, slow feeding will help soothe them by encouraging licking, and will tire their mind out also. Remember to make your young puppy kong really rewarding. Things like peanut butter can be a simple way to encourage the outlet of excess energy.
6 – Try Enrichment!
Enrichment is a trainer buzzword for activities that stimulate your dogs brain and make them happier. But these exercises awesome for puppies too. These can range from things like Snuffle mats, or a game of which hand? You can also do things like playing hide and seek where you hide one of puppies toys and ask them to go find it (make it easy to start!).
7 – What About Hoopers?
It’s like agility? But it’s no impact, so it’s perfect for puppies and elderly dogs alike! You can set it up relatively easily in your garden or yard, and just have a little fun with it! It will help you two bond, give you time to play and learn whilst playing. What’s to lose? If you don’t enjoy it, you can at least say you tried and probably had some laughs along the way!
Hoopers! A wonderful activity for old puppies, young puppies and all those in between – this is a wonderful low (no) impact version of agility that will work mind and body!
8 – Downtime with a chew
Some quiet time in their crate or bed with a delicious natural chew or other chew toys will not only reinforce their love of their safe space, but release endorphins to make them happy and potentially help with focusing where those razor sharp teeth go! I don’t see a downside to this one.
We love yak cheese chews if you’re looking for it, check them out on amazon.com.
9 – Reward calmness
Throughout the day, give your puppy a reward for desirable behavior, calm behaviour, and what you want to become normal behavior. It won’t register the first time, but as your adorable puppy grows, they will learn that being relaxed is a good idea for them.
Note; Avoid Doggie Daycare
This may sound counter intuitive, and whilst doggy daycare can be so much fun, it is one of the most common reasons I see overtired puppies as they don’t get daytime naps, and their energy level just becomes frazzled as they often don’t allow your puppy rest time, and even if they do, it’s rarely good sleep.
Also, Be Careful Of Creating Problems
If you begin to over exercise your dog at a very early age, then you risk doing lasting damage to hips and elbows, as their growth plates are not yet closed! You can also create something we trainers call “An Endurance Monster”, i.e. a dog who can literally run all day and not find an end to their energy. This dog? Is (frankly) a huge pain in the butt for the average family.
This might be useful too! How Much Exercise Does My Puppy Need?
And The Sleep-Wake Balance Is Restored
With that, your too-tired, poor pup should start becoming balanced once more! With this, you should find that your puppy is learning faster, becoming a better, more sociable family member, not biting as much and ugh! The list goes on! A well-rested puppy is a happy puppy, and there is no such thing as too much sleep.
An over tired puppy is a lot like what we see in young children, too much energy that doesn’t have an appropriate outlet.
If you need a little more guidance on how to raise your puppy, why not sign up to Pupdates? It’s a week by week guide on how to raise that little companion of yours into a world ready dog!
Author, Ali Smith
Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert, dog trainer and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start. To help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.
Ali has won multiple awards for her dog training, and has had her blog (this blog!) rated as 2021 & 2022 worlds’ best pet blog!