Who hasn’t heard the old saying, “A tired dog is a good dog?” You can eliminate stress and reduce behavior problems in your dog with good quality exercise.
Expected and regular exercise can help your dog is several ways:
- Just like humans, exercise can help your dog deal with stress.
- Again, just like us exercise helps us balance our emotions.
Let me tell you about Precious, a very needy toy poodle. She had been carried around most of her life, never walked and spent most of the time (when mom was home) in Mom’s lap. Precious became very needy of her Mom. She was a finicky eater and had to be hand-fed frequently. She became so needy that she was very stressed and anxious when Mom left the house.
I explained to her Mom the benefits of regular walks and exercise and also doing sits to earn food, love and affection. She began to understand that these were things Precious needed and decided to try the program. The changes in Precious after 6 weeks were amazing. We still have a ways to go but the improvements were significant enough to keep Mom on this new way of life with Precious.
Knowing that most dog problems can be directly related to the relationship dogs have with their owners, it only makes sense to look at how “improving your relationship with your dog” can then reduce your dog’s behavior problems.
Your relationship with your dog is more likely to improve if you participate in the exercise together. In other words, the more you can do together, rather than depending on a dog walker or other substitute for you – the better.
Let me tell you a little story “on” my wife. When we first got Sophie, our little terrier, it was because I fell in love with her – not Leila. Sophie is a strong minded little girl and wouldn’t listen to Leila very well. In fact, one time she actually snarled at my wife. So I talked Leila into doing a little experiment. I told her to take Sophie with her on her 2 mile walks and just see how it goes. Begrudgingly, she did it. Well lo and behold in about 3 days Sophie started following Leila around the house, listening to her better and Leila actually started to fall in love with Sophie. Today, a few years later they are best of buds. Trust me, it works.
Walking, exploring and game playing outside with you are events that have high value for your dog.
Confidence begins to build in your dog when he understands he can control fun events in his life by simply giving you the sit or down you request. Much like a child understanding saying “may I please” gets him the cookie.
Make sure that you take special note of the following when exercising your dog:
- Get your dog checked out by your vet before starting on an exercise program.
- Warm ups and cool downs are needed just like us humans.
- Keep your dog well hydrated and shorten time out in excessive heat conditions – or don’t go out at all.
- Keep intensity, duration and frequency in mind as you exercise your dog. If your dog is working hard, shorten the session. Take frequent play and rest breaks.
- Change up the exercises – cross-training – will work different muscle groups and is better for your dog.
- Look for signs of fatigue like lying down in the middle of exercising, stumbling or dragging feet, yawning, etc.
- Check with your vet before any strenuous or long activity with a puppy.
While good consistent exercise is a vital key to any behavior modification program, there are other activities that you need to aware of when it comes to reducing stress in your dog. Just look at all of the activities dogs recognize as “pack activities.”
Here’s a short list of these pack activities:
- Eating together: Meals organized with you eating first and/or at least required sits/downs for food.
- Sleeping together: Not necessarily in your bed as much as lights out same time each night. Routines create peace of mind.
- Playing together: Playing games, doing belly rubs, massages – all cause positive emotional responses as opposed to stress and anxiety. Play can also improve your relationship with your dog and build your dog’s confidence in you as a good leader.
- Exercising together: (benefits discussed above)
- Training together: Obedience training gives your dog with a chance to work for you rather than you following his lead. It also gives you good behaviors you can have your dog do, instead of the bad behaviors. When you consistently ask for and get simple sits and downs your dog learns the mind –set of “when you speak, he responds with the appropriate command.”
These pack activities become planned routines. Dogs “lock on and learn” consistent routines connected to all of the examples above. With dogs, these consistent routines begin to provide security. Security nurtures confidence. The more secure and confident your dog, the less stress and therefore the fewer behavior problems you are likely to have. It’s simple. You just have to be consistent.
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Jim Burwell is a “thanks for making the impossible, possible” professional dog trainer having trained 20,000+ dogs and counting and serving more than 7,000 clients. Jim’s easy to follow, common sense, and positive methods have made him the “dog trainer of choice” for 30 years. One of his clients says it best: There are people who are so good at, and passionate about, what they do, that in their presence, one can’t help thinking that they have found their true calling and are doing exactly what they should be doing on this earth. Jim is one of these rare people. His quiet and understated manner, his effective technique for training dogs (and their families) is something which I feel fortunate to have witnessed and in which to have been an active participant. Jane Wagner
(c)Jim Burwell Inc.