Exercise - Why Dogs Need It

A dog whose exercise needs is met may rest more calmly at home and be less fretful when left alone. The modern dog-management mantra of "A good dog is a tired dog" is gospel to many people. Exercise can improve bone and joint health. Heart and lung function can improve. Sport and working dogs need the right exercise to be able to perform well. Exercise makes show dogs look better and feel better to a judge's exploring hands.

Some exercise is better than other exercise. The best exercise channels the activity of both mind and body. The best exercise is purposeful, with a purpose that increases the dog's ability to live happily in human society. The best exercise is balanced by teaching the dog how to be calm and physically composed through regular practice of this skill.

Excessive or inappropriate exercise can damage a dog's body and mind. Jumping high in the air to chase a toy and landing awkwardly has crippled many dogs. The epidemic of dog knee injuries testifies to the results of human thinking that "if some is good, more is better" when it comes to wild canine exercise.

You don't need to take up marathon running in order to adequately exercise your dog, and in fact you could harm your dog that way. Walks with your dog can be great for both of you, but even these don't have to be long distance.

Teach your dog to retrieve, using one of the many positive teaching methods available now. Some dogs may require months to learn, but that's okay-it's all good mental exercise and bonding time between you and your dog! A dog that retrieves is easy to exercise by throwing a favorite toy. If you don't have a fenced area, keep the dog on a long line during this game, and of course don't throw the object farther than the length of the line.

Dogs enjoy catching tennis balls, and lightweight toys like these are okay for catching. Don't throw a heavy object for a dog to catch, because it could damage the teeth, neck, or other part of the body. Don't throw sticks for a dog to catch or fetch. Too many dogs have suffered serious injury from sticks jammed into the back of the mouth or throat.

 

Exercising Your Dog Will Stop Bad Behaviors

It's not news that we humans don't get enough exercise, so it's no surprise that our dogs aren't moving much, either. While most pet lovers recognize that exercise is good for their dogs, few seem to make the connection between a lack of exercise and behavioral problems that have excess energy and boredom as components.
               While environmental management (such as removing barking triggers or giving a dog something acceptable to chew) and training your dog are important, these strategies are only part of the solution. Dogs aren't getting the exercise they need, and it's causing problems.
                Look at the big, active dogs we adore, such as the Labrador, golden retriever and German shepherd. These breeds make up three of the American Kennel Club's top five most popular. You don't have to go far down the popularity list to find other active breeds as well. Factor in the countless retriever and shepherd mixes, and you have a lot of dogs whose genetics have prepared them to work nonstop, but are spending their lives in small, boring back yards.
                And what are they doing to burn all that natural energy? You guessed it: barking, digging, chewing.

 

Moderation

As in most other things, moderation works admirably for dogs when it comes to exercise. Dog use body language to communicate, and many dogs will get enough exercise just from spending interesting days with people and other animals they enjoy. Exercise that is healthy for both mind and body is the very best kind of exercise.

 

Heat

Dogs can experience heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Unlike humans, dogs do not have an efficient body-cooling system. Young dogs and old dogs have poorer temperature regulating abilities than dogs in the prime of life and the peak of physical condition. Dogs with shortened muzzles are at an enormous disadvantage in heat tolerance. Black dogs in the sun are at greatly increased risk of overheating, as are longhaired dogs whether in sun or not.

Under ideal conditions, consider the top temperature for working a dog (or allowing a dog to play hard) to be about 85 F (29.4C). If the dog were young, old, black, longhaired, short-muzzled, not in perfect health, not acclimated to the outdoors, etc., 85 F would be too high. That would also be too high when humidity is also high. Note that this situation can easily exist inside a house that is not air-conditioned. Some dogs are dependent upon air conditioning for their very survival in summer.

 

Warm-Up

If your dog is going to be jumping, doing a lot of running, pulling a sled, or other physically intense exercise, make sure the dog receives the correct regular exercise that our human "weekend athlete" forgets to do! Don't just take the dog to a dog park to run crazy and call that adequate.

 

In the House

Teach your dog how to rest calmly. It may be fine for your dog to scamper around your house depending on the size of the dog, the size of the house, and the dog's individual tendency to crash into furniture. Some dogs are quite agile in close spaces and others not at all.

Avoid the routine of crating your dog all day and then having the dog "explode" out of the crate for a wild-eyed exercise session. This can lead to future behavior problems. Delay exercise until a few minutes after letting the dog out of the crate. Also give a dog time to unwind after exciting exercise before you crate the dog and leave for work.

 

Dog Whining

The dog who whines in training class, at the veterinarian's office, or when out with you on leash tends to have a different mindset. With other dogs or interesting action in view, some dogs want so much to join in that they "bubble over" with noise. The solution is to turn the dog's attention elsewhere. Teach a focused attention exercise using treats, and have them with you in exciting situations whenever you're out with this dog.

Sometimes you can't give treats, such as waiting at the veterinarian's office when you've been instructed not to feed the dog. Training can handle whining here, too. Have the dog sit, and praise. Then have the dog down, and praise. Now do a stand, with, you guessed it, praise. Keep it upbeat and happy, and keep the dog moving and working.

The dog who whines in the car may be stressed by riding in the car. If this is the case, work on the same steps you'd use for a dog who gets car sick . More often, though, the whining dog is excited about the car, wishes to interact with action viewed through the car windows, and/or is eager to reach the destination!

Don't try to train your dog in a moving car, unless you've got plenty of help and are not the driver! It might be possible, for example, for someone to get in the back with the dog and work on directing the dog's attention into other things, such as toys.

Crating the dog in the car with great toys may be your best bet. Make them special things the dog doesn't get at other times, such as a Kong with treats inside-provided the dog doesn't get carsick from eating.

Another thing that can work if the dog is noisy when you go to a particular place is to just drive right by! If you do this enough times, the dog may stop considering the sight of that place so exciting.

Also notice any other cues that may start your dog whining in excitement. Dogs become aware of actions that precede other actions; perhaps you reach for something as you approach a certain destination. You'd want to do that action many times and then not go to the destination. Do the same de-conditioning for each cue.

If your dog whines in reaction to sights from the car, blocking the dog's view can help. This risks the dog being more susceptible to carsickness, though. In the car, your best bet much of the time will be to ignore the whining. Yelling at the dog, throwing things, spraying the dog with things-all this action is not conducive to safe driving! Nor is it likely to eliminate the whining without high risk of producing even worse problems.

 

Controlling Problem Barking

Barking at windows and fences has a fairly simple solution, when you're there. Check what the dog is barking at, and when you're satisfied it's not a threat, back up and call him to you. Praise him, pet him, and perhaps give him a cookie. As is taught in most obedience classes, make a dog always very happy when he comes to you.

A game of ball, if he likes that, is a great reward instead of the cookie. Be sure to always praise first, and if he will respond to petting, do that. It switches him into a different drive, and is very useful in improving this behavior.

After reward, release him. If he goes back to barking, call him again and give all the same happy rewards you did before. You might have to call him 7 times in a row to start! Over time though, you will see a vast improvement, needing to call him only once or twice, and noticing that he doesn't bark as long, or work himself up so much.

You will have interrupted his adrenaline high from barking, which is probably addictive to dogs. Without this kind of intervention, barking at barriers tends to escalate, and can lead to other problems, such as turning and snapping at another dog or person who is standing nearby, out of frustration.

Getting out on more walks, even if they're short ones, can help any kind of problem barker. But what do you do if the dog barks at people or other dogs while on a walk?

If he can be fitted with a Halti or Gentle Leader (possibly he cannot, if his muzzle is shaped like a Pug's), one of these head collars will gently close his mouth when you have him on leash and he tries to lunge and nip at someone.

Whatever kind of collar you use, try the following maneuver to get your dog to turn his attention back on you, when he starts barking at someone while on a walk. Do it enough times, and instead of barking, he'll automatically look at you!


Digging
                 Do you have a dog who loves to dig? Are you wondering if it's possible to have a nice garden and dogs, too?

When considering this problem, realize that digging is a powerful instinct in dogs. What options do you have?

1. Direct digging to an acceptable spot and train the dog only to dig in this area.

You can direct the digging to a specific area in the yard. This requires a few weeks of supervision, and also "seeding" that area regularly with treats and toys to make it interesting for the dog to dig there.

To teach dogs to use a specific area for digging, you have to supervise them outdoors at all times during the training process. You prepare their area, and "plant" treats and toys there. Actively encourage and praise them when they go to that area, and even more when they dig. When you find them digging elsewhere, say "No--Dig in your spot" (or whatever phrase you want to use, just keep that phrase consistently), lead the dog to the proper spot and praise there. Keep putting treats and toys in the ground at that area, to keep the dogs interested.

2. Outdoor supervision.

You can supervise the dog at all times it's in the yard and redirect all digging into other activities (play with you or with toys, for example), but dogs left alone in a yard are likely to dig.

I recommend housing dogs indoors with the family, using a crate to keep the dog safe when you are asleep or not home. When the dog goes out, you watch her. End of digging problem.