With our busy modern lifestyles, it feels that there just isn’t the time to give our dogs the exercise they need. The consequences of not giving a dog the exercise they need, both physical and mental, can result in a dog that is unhealthy, bored, frustrated and just plain unhappy.
Tossing your dog out alone in a fenced backyard, or even with another dog, is not mentally stimulating, nor is it exercising your dog! Actually, it could even be making behavior problems multiply. Dogs with behavioral problems are not happy dogs! Their inappropriate behavior is their cry for attention and help.
It is a fact; most excessive barking, chewing, jumping, digging and running away behavioral problems are caused by boredom and pent-up energy. It’s like living with a time bomb! You never know when it will go off…or how much damage it will do. The cost isn’t just in terms of property. There is the cost to your dog’s psychological health and ultimately physical health could cost you a lot more in vet costs and dog trainers to fix their behavioral problems.
Dogs need stimulation, both physically and mentally. If left unexercised and unchallenged, they will resort to finding creative and usually destructive and/or dangerous ways of getting into trouble. They will create a way to provide the stimulation they need if you don’t.
This reminds me of a story about two German Shepherds who were guard dogs at a car yard. During the day they would be shut up in a dog run and at night they were brought out to guard the cars. They were getting no exercise or ever leaving the car yard. One day the owner of the car yard came in and discovered that a number of the cars had broken rear tail lights, but only the left-hand side ones. He couldn’t figure out how anyone got into the yard with his two guard dogs on duty. This went on for about a week. The following week, when he came in to discover that many of the cars had broken right-hand side mirrors. Long story short, it turned out that the dogs where bored and frustrated so they invented there own game to relieve the boredom.
To successfully accomplish your goal of changing your dog’s inappropriate behavior and keeping them healthy and having a happier dog, the first thing you must do is make a commitment to them.
You must promise to provide your dog daily with enough structured exercise and mental stimulation, so as to take the edge off their boredom and pent-up energy. But what about the time problem? Here are a few tips on time-efficient ways to provide that necessary physical and mental exercise.
Take them for a short walk.
Even if you only have 10-15 minutes to spare take your dog for a short walk so they can absorb the sights, sounds, and smells. It is not healthy for a dog to never leave their property. A walk to the end of the street and back is significantly better than no walk at all. Also, if you are able to take them when you go out for short trips to the local shop or where ever, do it. The trip in the car will give them some mental stimulation.
Add extra resistance to your walks
Walking on sand or in shallow water will use just a little more energy than walking on firm ground. Or walk uphill as much as possible. This is also great for strengthing there often weaker hind legs that can lead to a lot of back related problems. Alternatively, put a backpack or a weighted vest on your dog with some added weight. No more than 10% of their body weight is recommended.
Make use of a treadmill
Walking on a treadmill is not going to be a substitute for going for a walk, but a least it will provide some release of physical energy. Once your dog is trained to walk on the treadmill you can fit in any other small tasks you have to do while they walk. Obviously, you will need to stay nearby and supervise for the safety.
Recruit some help
Hire a dog walker to come and take them out for a walk or run when you are not home. Alternatively, ask if any friends and family are able to walk and spend a little time with them.
Self Playing Dog Toys
There are many self-entertaining dog toys for when you don’t have the time or are unable to spend time with your dog. Read “Self-playing dog toys” to learn more.
Provide toys and games to keep them occupied.
Ensure your dog has toys such as puzzle and interactive toys to provide a mental challenge. Chew toys and chew bones are also excellent for stress relief. Dogs can hold a lot of tension in their jaw and chewing helps to release that tension. Better a chew toy that your shoes. Check out “Top 7 Puzzle Toys for Dogs”
Check out the great range of dog toys on Amazon
Find activities that burn energy fast in a short time period.
There are many games you can play with your dog that use energy including
Fetch – throw a ball or toy a dozen or so times when you have a spare minute. To increase the intensity throw down hill or stairs
Frisbee – throwing a frisbee will really get your dog moving
Flirt Pole – a flirt pole is like a big cat tickler with a stick, rope and a lure or toy attached to the end. Move the lure around in circles or in all directions along the ground and your dog will chase it. Works with the dog’s natural prey instinct so will provide plenty of mental stimulation too.
Tug of War – play a game of Tug of War with your dog. Make them crouch and pull back using extra energy.
Spring Pole – a spring pole is a rope with a spring with a toy or lure on the end that is attached to a tree or beam. Encourage your dog to grab the toy and pull. They will play tug of war by themselves.
Automatic ball launcher – automatic ball launcher will throw the ball for your dog. If you have a dog that loves chasing balls one of these is an absolute must. Once they know how to drop the ball into the launcher they can quite happily ball fetch by themselves. Read “Automatic ball launchers for dogs” to learn more.
With a little imagination, there are countless quick easy games like these that will go a long way to releasing that pent-up energy.
Running or Cycling with your dog
Your dog will be able to burn more energy in a shorter amount of time if they are moving faster. Read “Tips for running with your dog” for more
If you have access to a pool, swimming is an excellent time-efficient exercise for dogs. Ten minutes of swimming is equivalent to an hour-long walk. They may not be a confident swimmer so ensure you put a lifejacket on them and supervise them while in the water. If you don’t have a pool there are many canine hydrotherapy centers around that can provide swimming facilities for your dog.
Set up an agility or obstacle circuit in your backyard
You can set up obstacles such as tunnels and jumps and when you have a spare five to ten minutes run them through the course a few times.
View dog agility equipment on Amazon
Make a commitment to spend time with your dog even if it is just in 10 – 15 minutes blocks to provide your dog with some physical and mental exercise.
Go for a quick walk down the road or play a quick game, but the key is to do it daily. Going to the park for an hour at the weekend with nothing in between will not be as effective as a little each and every day. You will see a change in their behavior and overall health and also be building and reinforcing the bond between you. The results will astound you!
You may also be interested in “Mental Enrichment and Mind Stimulation”
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