A client recently asked me a question about a behavior issue her dog was exhibiting, and she started her question like this: “I don't know if you have every heard of the 'whoopies,' but it is when . . .”
As a professional dog trainer, there are not many canine behavior issues I have not at least heard of. However, I occasionally come across jargon I do not recognize, so I listened in anticipation as the client went on to explain the symptoms of the “whoopies.” As it turns out, what the customer described as whoopies is actually a well-known phenomena I have dealt with many times.
While “sudden bouts of hyperactivity” might be a more clinical description of the behavior, the term whoopies describes the dog's state of mind in a fun way. One moment the dog may be sitting quietly beside you. The next moment he may shout “WHOOPIE!” and start sprinting through the house, leaping over furniture, jumping on guests, mouthing you, and applying the death shake to random toys or items of clothing within his reach.
In a nutshell, the dog displays a sudden burst of seemingly uncontrollable energy and excitement, as if he were a well-shaken champaign bottle blowing its cork! Here are a few tips for dealing with the whoopies.
• Make sure your dog is getting appropriate nutrition. Every dog is different, and all not all dog foods are created equal. Therefore, the feeding instructions on your dog food bag is not necessarily appropriate for your dog. The amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats in your dog's diet can affect his energy level, either leaving him lethargic or over-energetic. While the details of a proper canine diet are beyond the scope of this article, if your dog is experiencing the whoopies, you should consult with your veterinarian to ensure your dog is getting the appropriate nutrition. (Of course, your veterinarian probably will not have heard of the whoopies either, so be prepared to explain it!)
• Give your dog sufficient exercise. Breed, age and physical condition all influence your dog's need for exercise, but most dogs need at least a couple long walks each day. Visits to the dog park also can do wonders for depleting excessive energy, as can retrieving tennis balls at the park , jogging, or going for a swim. And then there are sports such as agility and flyball that can expend energy and provide a great venue for interacting with your dog.
• Provide your dog with plenty of mental stimulation. Sometimes dogs get bored and just need something to challenge their minds. There are commercial products that can engage a dog's brain by making them work for their food, such as The Buster Food Cube (available at most pet supply stores). Taking your dog to a local park, putting him on a 25-foot long lead, and letting him sniff the ground and tree squirrels also can allow him to use his brain in a way that satisfies him on an instinctual level. Similarly, sports such as K9 Nose Work and Treibball are great ways to engage your dog's mind.
• Schedule your dog's activities before your down-time. It could be just a coincidence, but the whoopies seem to happen at the most inconvenient times: when guests arrive, just before the episode of Dancing With the Stars you have been awaiting, or when you are exhausted and just need to rest. You can prevent a lot of stress by giving your dog the exercise and mental stimulation he needs shortly before you need him to be calm, quiet and non-intrusive.
About the Author: Thomas Aaron is a certified dog training instructor and the owner of FetchMasters, LLC in Denver, Colorado. He is a strong advocate of positive reinforcement training, believing it provides the most humane path to a well-trained dog and nurtures an appropriate and strong bond between people and their dogs. He has trained hunting hounds since childhood and currently specializes in off-leash obedience training, behavior modification and positive gun dog training. FetchMasters.com