With shorter days and cooler temperatures, my farm dogs are spending more time inside. My dogs have always been allowed in the house, and this was fine when I had low-energy couch potato dogs. Now my pack consists of three high-energy dogs, and, quite honestly, they drive me batty when they are inside. They bounce off the furniture. They wrestle with each other. They bring me toy after toy after toy and want me to play with them all day long. We go for a 1.5-mile walk morning and evening, but that is not enough to bleed off the excessive energy.
High-energy smart dogs are the hardest to live with because they need mental stimulation as well as physical exercise. After much trial-and-error, I have finally come up with a solution. This is how I survive living with three high-energy dogs without losing my mind.
Just like little kids, smart dogs get bored playing with the same toys. Plush toys last about two minutes in my house so I look for durable, safe, interactive toys that give me the most value for my money.
I bought my dogs a Bullymake subscription, and it was one of the best investments I have made. These toys are durable and keep my dogs interested. High-quality new toys arrive at my door every month, so no more standing in the pet store aisles wondering which toys will survive my pack. One thing I really love about Bullymake is that they have a “toy only” option, which other dog-related subscription boxes do not. All three of my dogs have special dietary needs, and I hate to see treats go to waste. The company’s 14-day guarantee gives me peace of mind that if my dogs do manage to destroy a toy I can get a replacement, no questions asked.
Get your Bullymake toys here!
Sodapup is another brand I love. These toys are made from natural tree rubber, rather than tire rubber like Kong. My dogs are especially fond of the treat dispensing toys. You can buy the beer bottle treat dispenser here.
If your dog is less destructive and likes puzzles, I LOVE the Nina Ottoson puzzle toys by Outward Hound. Difficulty ranges from easy to hard (called Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3) so you can find one that is the right fit for your dog. These definitely require supervision and interaction with your dog, but these are a great way to get your high-energy dog to settle down and use his brain. Buy several so that you can rotate through them to keep your dog interested. Buy my favorite Nina Ottoson dog puzzle toys Level 1 here, Level 2 here, and Level 3here.
Meal Time is Brain Time
My 12-year-old Australian Shepherd Sadie and my 1-year-old Queensland Heeler Lefty are both very treat-motivated, so I use meal time as part of their mental stimulation. This is especially important in the evening before I want them to settle down for the day. I do this in three different ways.
I bought both dogs slow feeder bowls from Outward Hound (buy it here). This requires them to think through how to get their Taste of the Wild kibble (buy it here) out of the bowl, which extends meal time by a few minutes. I have the teal and the orange versions, and I rotate the bowls between the two dogs so they do not become too accustomed to the same setup. I bought the small size because my 50-pound dogs get 1.5 cups of food each feeding, and these easily hold that amount and a bit more.
On days when we are really trapped in the house and the dogs are driving me nuts, I use a treat dispensing ball to give them part of their meals. Their favorite is the three-inch IQ Treat Ball (buy it here). I love that the opening is adjustable so that I can feed different kibble if I need to. It comes apart for easy washing – at least, it did until Sadie thought she could chew through it, permanently mashed the pieces together. The ball still rolls and I can still put kibble in it, but I can no longer take it apart. I also bought them the PetSafe Busy Buddy Hippster treat dispenser (buy it here). This one is made from rubber so it is much more durable, but you have to cut the opening to fit your kibble, so it may not work if you change brands.
To further stimulate my treat-motivated dogs, I made a snuffle mat. You can buy one here, but for less than $10 I made my own.
All three dogs really enjoy trick training, so I spend 20 to 30 minutes every evening teaching them something new. I use the PetSafe Click-R Trainer (buy it here) and Zuke's Mini Naturals (buy it here) as rewards. My dogs each have special dietary needs, so I am super picky about which treats they get to avoid allergic reactions and trips to the vet.
Lefty and Sadie already knew most of the basic obedience commands before I started trick training with them, but my six-year-old Dalmatian Rylee did not know anything when I adopted her a year ago. With her, I started with the basic obedience commands (sit, down, stay, come) and then moved on to the fun stuff, including:
When I have a chance to take my dogs to classes, I will start working towards AKC Canine Good Citizen certification with my three dogs as well.
Lefty loves his toys and is always happy to play “Find It” with my three-year-old daughter. First, I tell him to sit (or down) and stay. Then, I take one of his toys and put it in a cardboard box.
When we first started this game, I kept the cardboard box in front of him and gave him the “find it” command. He would then knock over the box and find his toy. Sometimes I mix it up and put the toy under a blanket. I reward him with the clicker and praise every time he finds his toy.
To make the game more advanced, I started moving the cardboard box across the room, and then told him to “find it.” Sometimes I use two cardboard boxes, put the object under one, and then switch the boxes in front of him.
Sadie is an aggressive chewer, Lefty is average, and Rylee is very gentle, but all three enjoy chewing. I give them the opportunity every day for “quiet time” with a chew so that they settle down and quiet their minds.
All three dogs love Jones Natural Chews (buy it here) and they last FOREVER – several weeks on average. These bones are greasy, however, so I make the dogs lay on an old towel while they chew, and I pick them up after an hour so that my dogs don’t lose interest in them. These cost a bit up front, but seriously last and keep my dogs entertained. This is perfect for when I need to get some work done during the day but my dogs need to be inside.
Just like little kids, my high-energy dogs really do best with a bedtime routine. This way they know when they need to settle down, so they usually go right to sleep.
After dinner, they get one more trip to the yard. When they come in they are usually full of zoomies, but those end after a few minutes. I turn off the lights, put something quiet on the TV (Live PD is a bad choice because of the barking police dogs…lesson learned!) and give each dog a Kong (buy it here) with frozen peanut butter inside. This lasts them about 20 minutes and then they go right to sleep.
Enjoy the Craziness
Even though my three high-energy dogs drive me batty, I have learned to love the craziness. I never need to join a gym because they ensure that I get my daily cardio. Work never consumes my life because they make me take regular play breaks. My dogs are part of my healthy lifestyle, and I am thankful for everything good they bring into my life.
How do you entertain your high energy dog? Let me know in the comments below!
Welcome! I've been a freelance writer since 2002 and have numerous horse-related articles published in print and online publications. I have a Bachelor of Science degree from Rocky Mountain College with a major in Equestrian Studies and a minor in Business Management. My current business ventures include High Plains Arena and real estate investing.