Exercise for ourselves, as well as our dogs, is extremely important for maintaining a healthy, balanced life. To often, proper exercise is over looked when it comes to dog ownership, and breeds vary drastically on the amount needed throughout the day.
There is a saying that, "a tired dog, is a good dog", and essentially this rings true. Dogs who have been given an outlet for their physical needs are less destructive, less anxious and less hyper active because boredom has been reduced, and their physical needs met. However, not all exercise is created equal.
I always ask my Basic group classes how much exercise owners give their dogs on a daily basis. Many times I am pleasantly surprised with the answers, but not always. When I hear, "he runs around in the backyard for hours", or, "we take her to the dog park" I cringe a bit. Neither is the preferred form of exercise for us here at Smart Dogs Canine Training. I won't get into dog park details, as I will save that for a different post, however, dogs left to entertain themselves, or run themselves silly are not having their energy expended in an appropriate way.
I am absolutely not against dogs having doggy friends to play with, though it isn't a necessity. Good doggy friends, and some playtime in a backyard together is a wonderful treat, but shouldn't replace a dogs daily exercise with their owner. Nor should letting your dog play alone in the backyard (or typically pace and whine in the backyard) for hours on end.
Dogs NEED and CRAVE both mental and physical stimulation (as well as human contact). And what, might you ask, is our preferred method of relieving dogs of excess energy?
- Structured walks
- Interactive play with owners
- More training
Training and structured walks (incorporating training on walks) are absolutely awesome ways to drain your dogs excess energy and provide exercise at the same time. When we work our dogs mind, along side their bodies, they use up a lot more energy than if we just exercise the body alone. This helps to inject rules into your lifestyle, build a better bond, maintain control, practice obedience, (or what ever type of training you like), and helps to make you the focus for your dog.
Interactive play, for example tug or fetch, are wonderful ways to build a bond, exercise the body, and exercise the mind by teaching rules and incorporating obedience to the play routine. For example, teaching an "out" or "give", requiring calm sits before throwing the ball, utilizing high speed obedience during tug, etc. Tug and fetch make you more interesting to your dog, and we always want you to be the interesting one, not what or who is going on around the dog.
More training ... why not? It never hurts to add more training to you dogs life.
Hiking with your dog involves immersing your dog into new situations, new smells, nature and allows your suburban dog to experience the wonderful world beyond the sidewalks and roads. Good for you and good for your dog. Hikes do not have to be structured, but can incorporate the odd obedience command, for example, the recall. Hikes allow your dog just to be a dog for a while, and that is important as well, as long as it is in a controlled situation and their are rules (ie. no running up to other dogs on or off leash, no jumping on passerbys etc.).
My personal preference for dog exercise is for the dog to be involved with the other end of the leash, (the owner) rather than the dogs in the dog park, or the dogs you are passing on the street. I would rather have my dogs focus on me, than the distractions around them such as other dogs and people. I would rather have my dogs engage with me during physical activity, rather than want to engage elsewhere. By exercising in this way, it can help to reduce leash reactivity, teaches manners, creates engagement and always make you the focus anywhere, any time. And heck, it never hurts any of us owners to get out more, get moving, enjoy the weather and play with our dogs.
So get out and have fun with your dogs, exercise, play and train, and if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us. We have lots of classes that involve both physical and mental work for your dog.