By Sue Asten
Is your dog a chewer? A digger? A barker? Does he bug you for attention all the time? You are not alone! Many people are in the same boat with their dogs. Chances are your dog is telling you that he/she needs more stretching of the legs to unwind. Introducing exercise into your dog’s schedule can fix many of the bad behaviors that annoy us.
A healthy puppy or adult dog needs to have some form of daily exercise. Many of us make the mistake of thinking we can turn our dog out in the back yard by themselves for exercise. Dogs are very social creatures and because of this, chances are they will just wait for us instead of exercising themselves. Exercise can include the following:
- Fetching a ball, toy or Frisbee
- Jogging with person
- Bicycling with person (special leashes are made for people who enjoy bicycling with their dogs)
- Swimming in a pond or pool
- Running and playing with other dogs (i.e. dog parks)
Notice that “walks on a leash” aren’t included in the above list. While walking our dogs on a leash is a wonderful way to relax and have time together, it doesn’t provide the best type of exercise for our canine companions. They need more of an aerobic workout to tire them out.
Rainy Day Fun:
On the days when outside exercise isn’t possible (snow, rain, excessive heat) there are things you can do with your dog inside the house to wear them out a bit. This is where mental exercise comes into play. Just like with humans, any type of thinking can burn off steam. Here are some suggestions for “inside exercise.”
- Play Hide and Seek – have someone hold the dog while you go “hide” someplace in the house. You call your dog, and they will joyfully use their eyes, nose and ears to locate you. When they’ve found you, lavish them with praise and perhaps a treat or two. Make the hiding places increasingly more difficult.
- “Find It!” – in the beginning, have someone hold your dog while you go into another room and hide tiny treats; under sofa cushions, under the edge of a rug, behind a pillow. When ready, call your dog to “Find it!” At first you will need to help them learn the game by making the treats easy to find and helping them find the first one or two. After they are used to it, work on the stay command, so they have to stay while you’re hiding treats. This can be done with multiple dogs. It can also be done with a favorite toy.
- “Name that Toy” – teach your dog a name for each of his toys. This is easily done by starting with one toy, and telling your dog to get it, using the name of the toy. Example – “get the Bear.” Make it easy by only having out the toy you are working with. Once your dog is consistently getting the “Bear” put out another toy, and start again with the Bear. Help him if he is confused by pointing to the one you want, or moving it a bit. Eventually he’ll learn the name. Then you can make it more difficult by putting out more toys. Once he knows the names of the toys, you can teach him to take them back to the toy basket. So he’ll retrieve them by name and take them back by name.
- “Tricks are for Kids!” Teach your dog some basic tricks, and even help your kids to teach the dog the tricks. Teaching them to “shake paws,” “crawl,” “dance,” and “roll over” burns off lots of mental steam.
A few words of caution about exercise:
- If your dog isn’t used to hard aerobic exercise, start slowly just as you would with a person.
- Be cautious of heavy exercise in the summer heat and humidity, or in the frigid cold of winter, unless your dog is accustomed to it.
- Above all keep your dog SAFE – if your dog doesn’t stick with you off leash, it is best to look for fenced in areas to exercise your dog off leash. Many parks have fenced tennis courts or baseball fields that are available, as long as we pick up after our dogs. Or, make use of a 50-foot clothesline “lead” to be able to get your dog quickly if necessary.