Teaching an Australian Shepherd how to be calm (no medication)

The Australian Shepherd is a high-energy working dog that requires a good volume of daily exercise and mental stimulation. They can go all day long and never seem to tire. However, this does not mean they need to be hyper all the time and in a state of overexcitement.

Having an Australian Shepherd that never seems to stop and be settled can be exhausting. Your life as an owner of an Australian Shepherd does not need to be so stressful.

Being overexcited all the time is a stressful state for a dog and not good for their mental health. This can cause frustration for both you and them and result in behavior issues. This can be destructive behavior, nuisance barking, digging, escaping, or even aggressive behavior.

Fortunately, it is possible to train your Australian Shepherd to be calm and to manage and control their level of excitement.

When do Australian Shepherds calm down?

Do Aussies calm down as they get older? Most Australian Shepherds will become much calmer as they mature and reach adulthood. This is around 18 to 24 months of age. Some Australian Shepherds will take longer to mature. This doesn’t mean they have less energy. They become better behaved and are easier to control.

The amount an Australian Shepherd will calm down will vary between individuals. Each dog has its own personality. Some Australian Shepherds will calm down more while others won’t.

If your Australian Shepherd is over 2 years old and is still extremely hyper there are actions you can take to help them learn to surrender to a calm state when required.

Teach Your Herding Breed To Be A Great Companion Dog – From Obsessive To Outstanding. A MUST READ for all owners of a herding breed dog – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. View here.

Why is my Australian Shepherd hyper all the time?

An Australian Shepherd that is hyper and in a state of overexcitement all the time is a sign of a dog that is not happy frustrated and stressed. Even though they are a high-energy active breed is not the reason they are behaving like that. The reason they are running around in circles, jumping, barking, and carrying on is because that is the only way they know how to release all that pent-up energy and frustration.

A high-energy breed like an Australian Shepherd can still learn to be calm when required. If your Australian Shepherd is hyper and overexcited all the time the cause is most likely boredom, lack of stimulation, and pent-up energy. It can also be because they have not learned impulse control and regulating their energy levels.

How to calm an overexcited hyper Australian Shepherd

The best way to have your hyper-overexcitable Australian Shepherd become a calmer and more mature dog is to provide for their needs and teach them how to surrender to a calm state of mind. As an active working breed, they require a fair amount of exercise, both physical and mental to tire both their body and their minds. They also need to be taught impulse control. Impulse control is where they are able to go from a state of high arousal to a calm state.

Ensure they receive sufficient daily exercise

The Australian Shepherd is a high-energy working dog that requires a good volume of consistent regular exercise to release all that pent-up energy. If you find yourself asking whether or not your Australian Shepherd is getting enough exercise they probably aren’t. For a full guide to Australian Shepherd exercise with suggestions see here.

A healthy adult Australian Shepherd will probably be up for as much physical activity as you can give them. The minimum should be at least one hour of intensive physical work, but two hours daily would be better. The exercise needs of an Australian Shepherd puppy differ from those of an adult dog. For more info on exercising an Aussie puppy see here.

Therefore the first step in having a calmer Australian Shepherd is to ensure that their exercise needs are met.

Tire and calm their minds

The Australian Shepherd is a smart dog and requires lots of mental stimulation and enrichment. It is often underestimated just how tiring mental exercise and enrichment can tire a dog.

If you are trying to calm the mind of a hyper Australian Cattle Dog, providing plenty of mental stimulation and enrichment will make a huge difference. For a guide to mental stimulation and enrichment with suggestions see here.

Obedience training

Regular obedience training will not only make your Australian Shepherd more obedient and compliant. Learning is an excellent way to provide additional mental stimulation and teach your Aussie to be more focused on you.

Teach impulse control

Teaching your Australian Shepherd impulse control will give them the ability to go from a state of high arousal to calm on command.

One of the best games for teaching your Aussie impulse control is to use a flirt pole. A flirt pole is a stick with a rope attached and a toy or lure at the other end. A flirt pole is an excellent training tool for teaching your Australian Shepherd control and response to commands such as “leave it”.

View Flirt Poles on Amazon here.

One of the best games to teach this skill

Catch the excited state early

A dog’s mind doesn’t go from a state of calmness to extreme over-excitement in an instant. A good analogy is a car going from 0 to 100 miles an hour. The car doesn’t go straight to 100mph but gradually increases in speed from 10, 20, 30, …. 80, 90, and 100.

If you take your foot off of the accelerator the car begins to slow. If you tap or gently press the brake the car slows some more until you have come to a stop. If the car is only going 50mph when you take your foot off the accelerator and apply the brakes it will come to a stop easier than if you were doing 100 mph.

A dog’s mind doesn’t go from calm to out-of-control arousal even though it can quite quickly. The trick is to be aware of when they are getting into a state of excitement and arousal and take the actions required to calm the mind. The earlier you catch the excitable state the easier it is to calm them.

Calm your energy

Australian Shepherds are very empathetic and aware of your energy and feelings. If you are calm they will be calmer. However, if you are feeling stressed or frustrated they will feel it also.

Yelling at your Australian Shepherd to settle down will in fact probably make them more worked up. When trying to calm them it is important that you give off calm energy. Speak to them in a calm low tone and avoid sudden movements.

If you are speaking and interacting with your Australian Shepherd with excited energy it will excite them. If your energy is calm and you speak to them in a calm monotone pitch it will keep them calmer.

How you deal with and treat your Australian Shepherd will play a significant role in the calming down process.

Reward calmness

At times your Australian Shepherd is in a calm state you can reward the behavior with a gentle pat or even a treat. It is best to avoid giving your Australian Shepherd affection or rewards when they are overexcited or aroused as this reinforces the state of mind.

Giving treats can often cause excitement and arouse the mind to do the exact opposite of what you are trying to achieve.

Use calming techniques

There are several techniques you can use to calm your Australian Shepherd down including –

The calm hold

To do a calm hold place your hand on the side of your dog’s shoulder just holding them still. Don’t make eye contact with them and you don’t even need to say anything.

You can hold your Australian Shepherd by the collar if you wish to hold them in place with your other hand on the shoulder. If you wish you can say something like “Relax” in a calm monotone unemotional tone. Once your Australian Shepherd has relaxed you can remove your hand. 

You will be able to notice as their mind becomes calmer from their body language. Their bodies will become more relaxed, their breathing will change, and their eyes and face will show relaxation.

Rub the stop

The stop is the area on the bridge of the muzzle between the eyes. This area has many nerve endings. Rubbing in this area releases endorphins to their brain giving them a feeling of relaxation and a good calming effect.

Another similar spot is where the ears join the head. Rubbing here has the same result as rubbing the stop area.

Gentle massage

Giving your Australian Shepherd a calm gentle massage and pats help to relax them and release tension and they may even fall asleep. This should be done in a calm manner and avoid it turning into a game.

How to calm down an Australian Shepherd puppy

The same strategies and techniques for calming an adult Aussie also apply to a puppy. The main difference with a puppy is it is important not to overexercise them. High-impact or repetitive activities such as flirt pole exercise are not recommended for a puppy. For more on exercise for an Aussie puppy see here.

 One of the best ways to tire a puppy is by providing mental exercise. Mental activity can tire a puppy (or adult dog) just as much as physical activity.

Do Australian Shepherds calm down after neutering?

Neutering refers to desexing a male Australian Shepherd. This stops testosterone production and will help with sexual behaviors such as humping. However, it does not change your dog’s personality. This means that castrating your Australian Shepherd is unlikely to calm them if they are excitable.

The bottom line

Just because Australian Shepherds are extremely active dogs does not mean they need to be hyper and over-excited all the time.

If they are it is most likely because of boredom, lack of stimulation, and pent-up energy. The reason they are hyper is that it is the only way they know to release their energy and frustration. Providing for their need to have sufficient exercise, both physical and mental, and teaching them to be calm means you will have a calmer, happier Australian Shepherd.