As much as you love your dog, you cannot spend every waking moment with it. Jobs, families, households, and a dozen other responsibilities demand your attention on a daily basis. You need to find balance, which can be difficult to do if your dog wants to play all the time.

Why does my dog want to play all the time?

If you share your home with one, or more, dogs with high energy, you have probably been interrupted by a toy dropping in your lap at the most inopportune time. Kids and dogs alike seem to have a sixth sense for when you’re especially busy.

How do they do that? Perhaps you’re especially perplexed because your new dog never seems to tire, or you expected your dog’s energy level to stabilize after a few years, but it hasn’t. Your spouse might be frustrated, or your cat might run and hide because your dog always tries to play just a little too roughly. You love your pet, it needs to coexist happily with all the other animals and people in the home.

First, it’s crucial to understand that thousands of years of evolution, including human intervention, have created the adorable pup you might sleep with every night. Most dogs don’t look anything like their wolfish ancestors, but they still have the drive to chase prey and provide for their family. A contented housepet might not have to chase down dinner every night, but that drive still exists. Just imagine that the ball is a tasty morsel that your dog is trying to provide you with. 

Furthermore, your dog’s modern lifestyle doesn’t require nearly as much energy as its ancestors needed just to survive. The same is true for people, which is why both humans and dogs can so easily become overweight—the more sedentary the lifestyle, the less energy that your dog expends. You can adjust its nutrition to avoid your dog becoming overweight, but it still might want to play all the time. 

However, there are also particular factors that can contribute to your dog’s high energy level.

1. Age

As you can guess, a younger dog or puppy tends to have more energy than an older dog–and will often find disruptive ways to use up that energy. Plus, a puppy’s body actively uses energy as it grows, which is why it needs high-calorie food compared to older dogs.

2. Breed

Some breeds are known for having higher energy, including:

  • Siberian Huskies
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Border Collies
  • Australian Shepherds
  • Poodles
  • German Shepherds

You might notice that many of these dogs were designed to work, but instead of herding sheep or protecting property, they now lounge in your living room. Of course, your dog might be one of these breeds and have a more low-key personality, be a different breed and be energetic, or be a mix of various breeds.

3. Socialization

Dogs are social animals. They like meeting new people, roughhousing with children, and romping with new friends at the dog park. If you’re the only other creature that your dog ever sees, it might not be enough to stimulate your dog.

4. Home Environment

This is a broad category that involves everything from the size of your home, whether you have a yard, and if your dog can run free in it or must be attached to a leash, how much time you spend at home, your routine, and your dog’s access to toys and activities.

5. Personality

Like every person, each dog has a unique personality. This means that even an older dog from a breed that isn’t known for being very energetic might seem to have an endless appetite for playing. Dogs that are especially intelligent or curious might be more likely to play more than dogs who are more aloof.

What to do with a dog that always wants to play?

Walks

The first thing you should do is to walk your day. Many dogs enjoy walking between one and two hours a day. Although, that might be too much at once for your dog or even yourself! A morning and lunch walk or morning and evening walk is ideal. It’s good for your physical and mental health, and your dog will look forward to taking walks if you develop a routine. If your dog can keep up, consider jogging or biking with your pup at your side. You might also schedule more intensive exercises such as mountain climbing on the weekend when you have more free time.

Smaller and older dogs may not be able to walk as far, and you should be cognizant of any injuries or conditions that might limit your dog’s physical ability. Finally, be careful in extreme weather, which can limit your dog’s tolerance for walks and cause illness and injury, such as heatstroke or frozen paws. Gear such as booties, sunglasses, and clothing can prepare your dog for the weather, and you should always have water for your four-legged sidekick.

Ensure that you vary your route, even if this means you and your dog need to hop into the car to go to a different part of town, beach, or park. Investigating new areas and their smells stimulates your dog mentally, while the physical exercise provided by walking burns off energy.

Playing

Play with your dog. Not every dog likes playing fetch or catching a Frisbee. Some go crazy chasing bubbles or water from the garden hose. Here’s a hint: toss the toy up a hill or stairs to tire out your dog even faster!

Did you know you can play “Hot and cold” with your dog? Hide a treat and give your dog clues to its location. It’s just as exciting for you who gets to communicate with a dog in a new way as it is for your dog who earns your praise and a treat! Hide and seek can work just as well with dogs as it does with children It is great for days when the weather isn’t conducive to playing outside or dogs that aren’t a fan of walking. A little roughhousing or chasing, especially if you know some kids who love dogs, is a great way to play with dogs. 

Remember to switch up the type of play and toys from time to time to prevent your dog from becoming bored.

Training

Basic obedience training should be a must for any dog. Training a dog to listen to your commands can prevent your dog from unwanted behaviors that stem from boredom or lack of structure, build a bond between you and your dog, and challenge your dog mentally while rewarding it for a job well done. Positive reinforcement is better for encouraging the behavior you want than punishing bad behavior, and dogs live to please! Plus, your dog will learn to respect your commands when you cannot play.

Once you’ve mastered basics such as sit, stay, and lie down, give some intermediate tricks a try. You and your dog will be the talk of the town! You don’t need to be a dog whisperer to master clicker training as long as you stick to i.

If your dog has a high prey drive or level of intelligence, consider specialized training such as agility, bite, tracking, herding, retrieving, earth dog, field trials, fast, cat, dock-diving, or scent work training. Unless you’re a dog sport enthusiast, you likely haven’t heard of all these sports, but that’s okay! The specific type of training depends on your dog’s personality, energy level, and breed, but these events can be rewarding for both of you!

However, you don’t need to buy expensive equipment. You can turn your own backyard into an agility course and train your dog a few tricks with just a ball.

Just Spend Time Together

A dog who wants to play may not necessarily want to do anything specific or have a lot of energy to burn. Rather, it might simply want to spend more time with its favorite person. Whether you cuddle on the couch, sit on the patio, or eat breakfast at the same time, make sure to spend some quality time with your dog. And if there are other members of your household, encourage them to all do the same so that your dog has a chance to bond with everyone and play to its heart’s content!

Get Into a Routine

We’ve mentioned routines a few times. They help ensure that you walk your dog often enough and avoid overfeeding it. A feeding schedule might play a bigger role at night when a playful dog can seriously interrupt your much-needed sleep! Many dog owners swear by a night walk after dinnertime.

Check Your Dog’s Food

While you may have chosen a high-protein food because you only want the best for your dog, it might contribute to a higher-than-normal energy level. This is especially true as dogs age and need to consume fewer calories. A low-protein alternative can keep your dog slim without energy issues.

Watch Your Own Behavior

Finally, the last bit of advice in this section has more to do with your own behavior than your dog’s. Your reaction to your dog’s requests to play might accidentally encourage your dog to continue being hyper or interruptive. Calm and controlled behavior is key. Overreacting simply gives your dog attention and attention, even if it’s negative, rewarding your dog. So ignore bad behavior, and teach your dog that it must behave to get your attention.

Do dogs need to be entertained all day?

You don’t necessarily need to entertain your dog all day. In fact, if you were able to do so, you wouldn’t be reading this article! However, you do need to ensure that your dog is physically and mentally stimulated. If you focus only on physical exercise, your dog may still have a lot of energy at the end of the day and not settle down to bed, even if you’re exhausted. That’s because your dog hasn’t been mentally challenged during the day. Fortunately, some activities accomplish both goals, and you’ll find others that stimulate your dog without much effort on your part. The right balance will give you downtime to rest, work, attend to household responsibilities or spend time outside the house, knowing that everything will be in one piece when you return. 

How to keep my dog entertained?

If your dog needs more attention than you can give, consider one of the following ideas.

  • Hire someone to play with or walk your dog.
  • Drop your dog off at a doggy daycare center where it can run and socialize.
  • Outfit your dog with a backpack when walking or hiking. It may sound unorthodox, but it makes your dog feel like it has a job, which can be if your dog carries its own treats on a hike. However, a backpack can be just as effective as walking around the block or while playing in the backyard.
  • Invest in an automated or robotic dog toy such as the Furwobo that lets your dog play fetch without you.
  • Purchasing foraging or puzzle toys that stimulate your dog mentally. Some of these toys are also feeders that promote slower eating in dogs, preventing issues such as choking or regurgitating food. For a treat, consider tossing a few treats or a spoonful of peanut butter into a Kong. This technique is also great if you need to distract your dog from grooming.
Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.