I know my dog needs exercise but how much? And how do I provide this with the winter weather right around the corner? My dog is making me crazy! High-energy dogs need a rigorous exercise structured training routine. We cannot expect a high-energy Jack Russell, or a young Pit-Bull, or an adolescent Border Collie to live happily in a sedentary lifestyle. Dogs, as a whole, are social creatures. They need power walks as well as social, dog-to-dog, times and times to sniff and play. This may also be supplemented by daily wrestle mania sessions with other dogs in the household. Many dogs benefit significantly from this type of lifestyle. I sure know mine do.
All dogs benefit from regular physical and mental stimulation. Depending on your dog’s individual needs, you may have to provide more than just a leisurely stroll around the block. We all have busy schedules, so we often don’t give the dogs in our lives the appropriate amount of mental and physical exercise for their needs. With no way to release this unused energy, or without having been taught how to cope with it, we can then see problematic behaviors develop.
Exercise is essential to keeping your dog’s physical and emotional health at an optimum level. Lack of exercise can lead to obesity, poor muscle tone, heart problems, bone and joint disorders and will often result in emotional problems, boredom barking, destructive behaviors and anxiety.
There are a variety of solutions to address this pent up energy. Here is a great suggestion:
Instead of feeding your dog out of their food bowl, try playing training games that require her to problem solve. Prepare your dog’s meals and stuff it into a Kong or Busy Buddy Toy. When they eat, they will have to work on the problem of getting the food out and this will work their brain. There are many interactive toys out there for you to choose from but these are two I recommend.
Here is an example of what I do with my dog: I take a Kong Toy stuffed with my dog’s dinner and I lay it on a scrap piece of fabric (about the size of a hand towel). I then sprinkle some of her dry food over the toy and the fabric. Next I take another piece of fabric and cover that. All the while my dog has been getting praised and rewarded for practicing and maintaining her down-‐stay.
With this example you can exhaust your adolescent and/or busy dog’s mind. You can work and rework your obedience skills and raise the distraction levels, all to earn the food that they are going to get for their meal. This method of feeding is a great way to provide enrichment as well as a mild form of physical activity. This is also a great way to work your dog on a rainy day as well as if they are recovering from an injury or surgery.
We get a lot of calls inquiring about help for behavior problems. Our top three are:
- Poor leash manners including lunging at other dogs and people on walks,
- Bad door greeting manners, including jumping up on people when they come over.
- Aggression, of all different kinds, including resource guarding, controlling, nipping and fence fighting.
For example, if the dog is a young cattle-‐dog puppy and full of energy and has full run of the house, or a large portion of the home, without much structured exercise or good brain stimulation then we know that there is going to be a need for that structure.
Some very useful things to get started are:
- Block off sections of the house with the correct sized baby gate. If you have a dog that is a pretty strong jumper, then get a baby gate or a few that your dog is not able to jump over.
- Provide a good amount of mental and/or physical exercise. In my opinion, enriching mental and physical exercise is non-‐negotiable. I can see it in my own dogs when I have been lax with stimulation. So to work with a dog that has short triggers I teach families how to break down each item into individual and smaller, more attainable goals. The idea is to give them shorter endpoints in order to reward more frequently. With a higher rate of reinforcement you will see drastically improved results.
- Make sure you are feeding the right food, i.e.; stay away from foods that are loaded with junky preservatives and inferior ingredients. I stay away from BHT, BHA, Ethoxequin and propylene glycol. I make sure the foods I give my dogs have meat in the first or second ingredient listed and that anything else listed isn’t an abbreviation.