Giving your dog more mental and physical exercise can help prevent behavioral and health issues
Just because your dog isn’t overweight doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is getting enough exercise. Dogs need both mental and physical exercise, both in order to maintain healthy weight and muscle tone and to feel happy and content. By providing your pet with more mental and physical stimulation, you can often reduce or eliminate the following bad behaviors:
- Constant barking
- Destructive chewing
- Trouble sleeping at night
- Excessive pulling while on leash
- Lack of focus
These behaviors are common in puppies, but if your dog is an adult and still hasn’t grown out of one or more of these behaviors, he may be trying to tell you something.
The amount of exercise your dog needs will depend on its breed and personality. For most dogs, a walk around the block simply isn’t enough. Here are some ideas helping your dog get rid of excess energy:
Go on a fast walk or a run. Get going fast enough so that the dog is at least trotting if not actually running. Make sure to keep an eye on the dog and let them stop when they appear hot or tired.
Let the dog lead. Instead of picking the route for your run or walk, let your dog lead you. Letting your dog follow their nose will make the walk more exciting and interesting for them. It’s a good idea to signal to the dog that it is their turn to lead with a specific command, so that it’s always clear who’s in charge.
Play a game. Some dogs love to play fetch, while others fetch once and then want to play keep away or tug of war. Either way, engaging your dog in this kind of game will provide both mental and physical stimulation.
Find a doggy playmate. Many dogs love to play chase or wrestle with other dogs. Try visiting a local dog park to find some playmates for your pet. If your dog has not been around many other dogs, you may need to start with a one on one play date with a friendly, well-socialized dog so that he can learn how to behave.
Do nose work. Put your dog somewhere they can’t see you, then get a nice smelly treat like a small piece of cheese or meat and hide it somewhere. Then, release your dog and let him search for the treat. As your dog gets better at this game you can make the treats harder to find by putting them inside boxes or doing nose work outdoors.
Teach your dog new tricks. One final way to help your pet burn off some nervous energy is to continue with training activities even after puppyhood. Reinforce old commands and teach new ones. The energy required to focus and learn should help curtail nuisance behaviors that dogs do out of boredom.
If your dog continues to have weight or behavior issues even after you’ve added more exercise to his daily routine, contact a veterinarian for nutrition and/or behavior counseling.