Hyperactivity and hyperexcitability is a major dog behavior problem. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that 5 to 7 million pets are admitted to shelters each year, with approximately 60% of admitted dogs ultimately euthanized. Many shelters are managed on scarce private donations or limited public funds, resulting in impoverished living conditions for the animals housed. Recently, a few studies have evaluated which behaviors of dogs are attractive to adopters. When asked what determines a dog's attractiveness for adoption, adopters answered that temperament is the most important factor. Hyperactivity has been reported to be problematic for adopters, as increased activity was perceived as indicator of poor mental health or inability to cope in a confined environment.
Generally, dog owners report the following undesirable behavior traits: (1) separation-related anxiety: dog vocalises and/or is destructive when separated from the owner; (2) excitability: dog displays strong reaction to potentially exciting or arousing events, such as going for walks or car trips, doorbells, arrival of visitors, and the owner arriving home; has difficulty calming down after such events; (3) high energy level: dog is energetic, "always on the go," and playful.
For most owners, the ideal dog is calm indoors, yet full of life and energy outdoors, but humans tend to ignore the fact that hyperactivity is normal behavior for some breeds and punishing their hyperactive companions will only increase arousal levels and will not encourage desirable behavior. Small-sized dogs are especially likely to be excitable, energetic and hyperactive.
Some cases of hyperactivity or hyperexcitability are the result of physiological disorder. The behavioral signs of dogs with hyperactivity or hyperexcitability disorder are:
- Dogs are very active and keep responding excessively to everyday stimuli.
- Dogs are hard to train and perform poorly on a sit-stay or down-stay command.
- Dogs bark, chew, and pace when confined.
Like humans, dogs may suffer from compulsive behaviors, often breed-specific, including fly-catching, flank sucking, freezing, chasing light reflections or shadows, spinning and tail chasing. Despite a suspected strong genetic component, the causes of these canine behaviors remain unknown, but they are believed to be induced by stress and anxiety.
Below is the list of mostly working dog breeds which have been reported to be relatively calm indoors: