I get called out on a lot of bad dog behavior cases. Now, let me define bad dog behavior. Behavior problems in dogs can literally be puppy biting and jumping, digging-jumping-barking in adolescent dogs (that’s your teenagers) to leash aggression, dog-dog aggression, separation anxiety and much more.
Without exception all of these dogs doing these bad dog behaviors have one thing in common: All of these dogs are simply not getting their physical needs met. Not enough or no exercise at all.
I truly believe that in most all cases where dogs are have problems, the severity of the dog problem can be significantly reduced and in some or many cases, completely fixed with adequate structured exercise WITH you.
There is a definite connection between dog problems and a lack of exercise. But exercise can be a natural remedy for dog behavior problems. Just ask Sophie, our little terrier mix who starts whining if Leila doesn’t take her on their daily 4:00 walk! It’s a predictable and very consistent walking exercise program she has come to expect because it is meeting her needs.
Owners must take a vested interest in partnering with their dogs to provide rhythmic, aerobic exercise for at least one hour, five days a week. Improvements in some dogs can be seen within 2 weeks but it will usually take at least 6 weeks and sometimes longer to see substantial results.
Now I’ve written on the benefits of exercise before but I think these same owners don’t believe it can really work because I’m still getting calls to fix dog problems. I guess I shouldn’t complain, right?
When I mention exercise, here are the complaints I hear: I’m too busy, not enough time, I have a bad back or I can’t walk my dog because he’s out of control. The list goes on.
So, I sat down the other night and listed all the different ways you can exercise your dog and there are really more ways to exercise your dog than there are excuses for not exercising your dog.
Before you start up any exercise program with your dog, have your vet give him a clean bill of health to exercise in the way you choose. Warm ups and cool downs should be done before and after exercising your dog for an hour. Exercise can be overdone so make sure you build up your dog’s endurance. There is a balance to how much AND how little you do. Balance his exercise wisely.
This list will help you figure out a way to exercise your dog. Who knows, maybe it will re-energize your relationship with your dog. Let’s take a look:
Treadmills: Many folks usually have one in the garage collecting dust like my weight bench in my office. Treadmills are great for bad weather days and/or if you personally don’t like breaking into a sweat.
Play fetch with your dog: Like the treadmill, you don’t have to do much here either. It can burn a lot of predatory energy. Make sure you put rules to the game. Require a sit before releasing him to get the ball.
Jogging with your dog: It’s great exercise for you and your dog. The only drawback is that if you are out of shape, you may not be able to jog enough for your dog’s 5 days of exercise to do him any good.
Swimming: Because it is so low impact, it is probably considered the best exercise for your dog. Not everyone has a pool or place to take your dog. Make sure your dog is pool ready and knows how to enter and exit the pool safely.
Dock diving: This is a relatively new sport where the dog runs and jumps off a pier or dock after a ball or dummy that has been thrown. The dog with the longest jump from the pier to his water landing wins.
Pulling: Large breed dogs like the Malamute, Newfoundland, Bernese mountain dog, Rottweiler and Saint Bernard are great for pulling wagons or carts. There are even contests for pulling the most weight. There is also a sport called Skijoring which is pulling people on skis. This sport has been modified in warmer climates to pulling people on their bikes or even roller blades.
Agility: Agility encourages co-operation between you and your dog to track the course together and is great exercise for you both. It also requires practice to do off leash but is a great confidence builder for your dog as he learns to traverse through the obstacle course.
Flyball: This sport is fast and intense. It too is done off leash. It’s like “fetch on steroids” where your dog flies over jumps, retrieves a tennis ball and brings it back in record time.
Dog-on-dog play: Dog parks and doggie day camp, what’s your pleasure? It depends on your budget. Dog parks are free but you pay for your dog’s play with other pre-tested dogs. It’s a good feeling knowing that your dog is staying well exercised and socialized no matter which way you choose to cut the pie.
Was I right?
There are really more ways to exercise your dog than one could come up with excuses not to exercise your dog. Now surely with this list of great ways to exercise your dog, something should “tickle your fancy.”
If your dog has a dog behavior problem, it’s usually stress related. Increase your engagement with your dog “with a daily exercise program” and watch his behavior get better. For some of the more complex dog behavior problems you may have to add structure to his life and do very specific exercises designed to eliminate or change certain behavior, like fear of other dogs.
I know first hand from a client that has a dog with mild separation anxiety. When they leave the house, he is so anxious, he chews up stuff of theirs if it is not put high up. Their solution was to put him in day camp every day while at work.
With long family walks every day, structure in his life and predictable dog training exercises each day, they have restored a confidence in their dog to a point where they can now leave him alone for 3-5 hours without incident.
He’s less stressed and they are happy. Soon they hope to cut back on day camp during the week and re-distribute part of their day camp expense to a much needed vacation – with their dog.
There are so many behaviors like boredom barking, digging, destructive behaviors and many adolescent behaviors that could be cured or almost cured with a great, consistent exercise program.
When you think about it, exercising your dog is free, can be fun and it’s something you should be doing anyway.
We’re always learning and there’s a bunch of you out there we are grateful to be able to serve and learn from. I’m really interested in your thoughts and opinions on this. I’m here to help.
“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”
Expert dog trainer and behaviorist, Jim Burwell is Houston’s most trusted dog trainer. His success encompasses 25+ years, serving 8700+ clients. Jim has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad. Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.
His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is your must have easy, step-by-step process to helping your dog. Your dog must and wants to understand what you expect of him. But you have to empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you must empower him to be successful at living in a human home. Ground Rules gets you there. Grab them now.