Sunday, January 24, 2010

A tired puppy is a GOOD puppy

Exercise is one of the first and foremost important activities that you must share with your dog. Taking your dog for a walk puts you in the leadership role. When you are exercising with your dog outside the house, your dog has to pay attention to you and read your verbal or physical commands so the both of you can exercise as a unit. Having your dog concentrating on you and at the task at hand certainly has obedience training benefits, and it keeps your dog’s mind sharp and engaged. Second, it helps to expend your dog’s energy so it does not need to find other means to release its pent up energy by herding family members, being aggressive, or chewing up your couch. Third, it keeps your pet healthy, happy, physically and mentally stimulated.

But how much walking does a dog need? A new puppy should be walked for short distances a number of times a day. If you can walk your puppy for twenty minutes, three times a day, you will be doing great. The older your dog gets, however, the more your dog needs to be walked.

Forced exercise (running, jogging, conditioning) should be left until after 18 months of age and preliminary hip and elbow xrays, but your puppy needs plenty of time to play and be active. Fresh air and outdoor fun is very important for a young growing puppy. Dogs are a lot like children, especially young dogs, and they need stimulation. This is why it is so vital that you take your dog for a walk a good amount of time during the day. A walk is a way for him to expend energy, helping him to remain calm in the time that you have to spend apart from him.

An adult dog in good health can easily walk for an hour when the weather is favorable. You do need, however, to watch out for older dogs and dogs that have conditions like arthritis. If your dog seems to be having a difficult time walking, ask your physician to check him and ask how long his walks should be. It can be difficult, sometimes, to get your dog walks into your schedule, but it is vital that you try your best to do so on a daily basis. If you can't walk, then try to throw the ball for them to chase as much as you can.

How much exercise is adequate for your dog? That is indeed a difficult question to answer since there are so many breeds of dogs with different physical needs. As a general rule of thumb, larger breeds require more exercise than smaller breeds, although smaller breeds also require exercise outside the house for the same reasons as was previously discussed. The larger the breed or the higher the energy level of the dog, the more exercise it needs. Start with 40 minutes of walking/jogging a day and add more exercise time as your dog requires. After a good bout of exercise your dog should come home and be happy to curl up on the floor and get some rest.

Most people think that having a large backyard for any breed dog is enough exercise. If I gave you a room full of exercise equipment would you use it daily til you are sweating and tired? Most people would not. Most dogs won't either. Panting in a dog is not generally about being tired from exercise, it's mostly about being hot and occassionally about being stressed.

The last time I moved from one house to another, I had to put the dogs outside for four days while we painted and cleaned and did minor repairs, etc. Because they are all under 2, they managed to keep themselves amused and exercised playing with each other, but mostly, dogs just laze around outside. They lay in the sun, lay in the shade, sniff for squirrels, bark at a passing neighbor or cat and every once in a while, a dog may get a burst of energy and race around the yard. The racing around doesn't last very long and is your dog's way of saying, "I know I need some exercise, but this is boring". There are some dogs that never stop moving when they are outside (and sometimes inside), but that isn't the dog getting exercised, it's an indication that there are other problems.

To exercise your dog is to address one of his most fundamental needs and is an undertaking that should be viewed as mandatory. For owners having difficulty making a commitment to exercise with their dog, think about this: Studies have shown that people who walk and exercise with their dogs are generally happier and healthier and live longer.

Studies done is the 70's and again in the 90's found that less then 3% of pet dogs get the amount of exercise they need, often resting for more then 18 hours a day. As part of these studies, the participating human's were asked if their dog had behavior problems and how serious those problems were. The results showed that the more a dog rested, the more problems he had and the severity of the problems got worse the less exercise the dog got.

The inportance of a dog's need for exercise cannot be overstated. Exercise is a key part of a balanced approach to managing canine behavior and ensuring a dog's well-being. I encourage all dog owners to do waht it takes insure their dog has sufficient exercise daily. Pent-up energy has to be vented or it will manifest in destructive and unacceptable ways. There is a long list of behavior problems caused or compounded by a lack of exercise. Aggression, barking, compulsions, obscessions and phobias, etc. Underexercised dogs are likely to be more moody, aggressive and fearful. These are problems about which I am often consulted, and exercise is an important aspect of treatment.

In conjunction with the studies done on exercise was a study done on what motivates a pet dog to move around. In 80% of the participants, the dogs did best when the owner was present. The owner didn't actually have to do anything, just his presence got the dog moving. Dogs look to their owners for leadership. Naturally, dogs don’t just decide to run off to exercise on their own, unless they have decided to leave the pack for some reason. Because the pack keeps alive by functioning as a unit, it is vital that dogs don’t decide to run off on their own somewhere else. A dog that does that would certainly be what we humans call “misbehaving”.

The responsibility to implement a workout regime for our animals lies on our shoulders as owners. Owners must undertake this leadership role. If there is no leadership in the house or the life of your dog, your dog’s natural instinct is to assume its own leadership, which results in your dog running amok in the house and disobeying you because you are no longer its leader. Dogs are not equipped with the instincts to operate in the human built world. Trying to be the leader results in anxiety, obscessions, phobias, aggression and fear.