Exercise your dog to drain their energy. -One of the most common problems dogs experience is that they do not get enough exercise!
We tend to think that having a backyard is enough exercise for them. But it isn’t! When a dog doesn’t have enough exercise or enough “energy drained” as I call it, they will experience many different kinds of problems. Think of it like this, each dog has a certain amount of energy and when that energy is not drained, it will come out in ways we do not want; like aggression, separation anxiety, and generally being too much to handle, along with many other behavioral problems. If you want to have a well-trained dog or at least a dog that will listen to you and behave in a way you want, then the very first step is to drain their energy on a daily basis. It is absolutely essential. Every single dog that has come to me with behavioral problems is a result of having too much energy stored and not enough of it released!
-Dogs also like to leave the house.
Can you imagine what you’d feel like if you never got to leave the house? You’d go a little crazy too! If you look at their history they were travelers! They need to get out of the house and experience life with you! A walk down the street and back is not enough. So, we’ve learned the very first step you need to take in order to have a dog that can become well trained is to drain their energy. How do we know how much energy our dog needs drained?
-Expect to take the dog on about a 30-45 minute walk twice a day.
Your goal is to get the dog tired out. You need to base the intensity of your exercise on your own dogs energy needs. Some dogs are high energy and take a lot to tire them out and some dogs will need less. How do you know if it is enough? When you are on your way home from your walk, does your dog drag a bit behind you? When you get home, does the dog immediately lay down? Then you know they’ve been tired out. Success! If you are on your way home and your dog has as much energy as they did at the start of the walk then you know it isn’t enough. Or if you get home and they are still full of energy you know it is not enough. You should expect that the dog would feel tired out when you get home and go lay down.
-What if you don’t have the energy or time to tire out the dog?
There are some other possibilities for draining your dog’s energy that go beyond the walk. But, remember, the walk is not to be substituted by anything else. The walk is an important way for you to establish and maintain yourself as pack leader. We will talk more about that in later articles. If you can only make yourself do a minimum of a 20-minute walk, there are some things you can do to make the dog more tired.
-Buy a doggie backpack!
It is a backpack specifically designed for dogs. They carry it on their back and it has two straps, one strap wraps in front of their chest and the other under their belly. The goal here is to add weight to the backpack that the dog will carry and thus, feel more tired out because they are carrying the extra weight. A doggie backpack has 3 huge benefits; the first being, a 20-minute walk can feel more like a 40-minute walk to a dog carrying the extra weight. You can put about 10-20% of their body weight by pounds into it. So for example a 50 pound dog can carry anywhere from 5-10 lbs, depending on their energy level and age. Gauge it by your particular dog and talk with your Veterinarian to approve it for your particular dog. Have the weight evenly distributed on either side of the backpack, so if you want to add 10 pounds, make sure you add 5 pounds on each side. You can use anything you want to add the weight from bags of dried beans to canned goods.
There are two other added benefits to using a doggie backpack. Dogs love to feel like they are important and have a job to do in their life. When a dog is wearing a backpack they feel like they are performing a job and it gives them a sense of pride. I’ve had a lot of clients comment on the fact that they feel their dogs are almost prancing when they have the backpack on, like they are happy and proud. It is similar to when we’d see Guide Dogs wearing their harnesses or Search and Rescue dogs wearing their packs. These dogs that have jobs feel important and proud and the backpack is a symbol to the dog in the same way, that they have a job and it is important! I can still remember when I would visit the homes of blind people with Guide Dogs, the dogs would get so excited, wagging their tails, when they would see the harness was about to be put on them! It was a beautiful site to see! They were performing an essential duty and they loved it!
The third benefit, besides the draining of energy and making them feel proud is that dogs usually can only concentrate intensely, on one thing, so when they wear the backpack they tend to have a more focused walk. A dog that generally tries to sniff and pull on a walk will be more likely to walk in a controlled manner when wearing a backpack. They are focused on that extra weight they are carrying and balancing the pack so you’ll see that it helps them be more composed.
Some dogs feel a little odd when you first put the backpack on and may show physical signs that they feel uncomfortable, like balking or laying down. Don’t worry. The most important thing for you to do is be positive about it and just start moving. Getting them walking right away will make them forget about it and just get used to it. They should be fine within a couple minutes. Just encourage them to get moving. If needed you can add the weights later after your dog has become accustom to wearing the pack for a while.
-Another thing you can do is put a dog on a treadmill to drain more energy than you have the ability to give them.
Remember, your walk is still important and a treadmill should not be a substitute but only an addition to the energy drain. When introducing a dog to a treadmill there are some important things to consider. First of all, you want to put their leash and collar on them and guide them up onto the treadmill when it is NOT moving initially. Do this several times until the dog feels totally comfortable standing up on it. Then when you’ve accomplished that goal you can start the treadmill VERY slowly while they are standing on it. It is important to do it very slowly initially until they get the idea they need to walk on it. Try to support them and not allow them to jump off. If they jump off, lead them back onto it. Eventually when they get very good at it you can increase the speed. It is common for dogs to even enjoy this and when introduced properly they will jump right on it!
-Other ways of draining energy
There are many other ways of draining a dog’s energy in addition to the walks. You can throw a ball or Frisbee for them. Or you can even go running, roller-blading or biking with your dog too. Or if you have a motorized type wheel chair or something similar they can run along beside you. All of these types of exercises are possible to do in a controlled manner. Just to be safe, check with your Veterinarian to approve all exercise for your particular dog.
So, as we’ve learned, exercise and draining the dog’s energy is the most important first step in having a happy, well-behaved, well-trained dog.
This article was contributed by Julie Bjelland Lokhandwala the founder of webDogTrainer
webDogTrainer is a popular website that offers Consultations with Julie, the dog trainer, LIVE about any dog-training related questions you may have! Also on the site you will find more in-depth information on how to train your dog to be the kind of dog you always wanted and how to fix problem behaviors should they occur.
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