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Articles > Dogs

The Importance of Mental and Physical Exercise

Topic: Considerations for High Energy Breeds

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Filed under Dogs
Tags: Barking, Exercise, Socialization, Obedience

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As people we know that when we become bored or disinterested in being around the house we have lots of options to find something else to do. We can always read, play on the computer, get caught up with work or even go out for a lunch and a movie to break up our day. Unfortunately for your dog, they don't have the options that humans do, but they do get bored just as we do.

Dogs that are bored tend to get into fairly significant amounts of trouble. Often the worse behavior includes constant and chronic barking, which in an apartment or even an urban setting typically results in problems with the neighbors and even with animal control. One of the biggest reasons that owners give when surrendering their dog to a rescue or shelter is that neighbors were complaining about the amount of noise that the dog made when the owner's weren't home. Other problems that aren't as challenging for the neighbors include chewing and digging, however if the dog becomes an escape artist that also poses problems for the owner as well as other people in the area.

High energy dogs often have a highly need for physical exercise, but they also need to have something to occupy their minds as well. Many but not all of the high energy breeds of dogs are also classed as some of the most intelligent, meaning that if you don't provide them with something to do they will think up something on their own. Since dogs don't understand what humans think is acceptable and unacceptable, often what they choose to do becomes a huge issue for the owner.

Providing enough physical exercise for a high energy dog has to be priority one for the owner. This means a real, ongoing commitment to get the dog outside for regular and routine walks. Most high energy breeds do best with two to three longer walks a day, but also playtime and time outside off leash. If you are a jogger or a hiker this is a wonderful match as these dogs will have energy to burn and will be happy to jeep on walking, running or hiking just as long as you are. High energy breeds that are kept indoors or in an apartment may self-exercise, however not to the extent that they need to be completely satisfied. Self-exercising means that the dog will literally walk or play in the house and will keep moderately actively even without direct human interaction.

Many owners mistakenly believe that this self-exercising trait means that the dog will satisfy his or her own need for physical movement. If the owner doesn't provide toys, activities and play, the dog will not get enough exercise on his or her own, even if they do trot with you between rooms. Generally the dogs that self-exercise in a house tend to be the toy and small breeds as it is just not feasible to have a large dog running and playing indoors for most people. Even toy and small dogs enjoy being outdoors, especially during the warmer months. Try, as much as possible, to provide your dog with a place to play, romp and walk outdoors for at least two to three thirty minute or more blocks of time a day. If you don't have a fenced yard, you may want to consider a portable dog pen for a toy or small breed, or consider visiting a fenced dog off-leash area a couple of times a day. Teaching your dog to fetch, play hide and seek or providing play time with another dog can also provide lots of exercise that is both physically and mentally healthy for your pet.

Mental exercise often goes hand in hand with physical exercise, but only if the dog is attentive and interested in the world around him or her. If you are walking the same route you always do and the dog is not paying attention, he or she is not being mentally stimulated. This is really the boredom issue that leads to the destructive types of behavior as the dog is looking for something new, interesting and different to do, see and experience.

To avoid mental boredom for your dog you have to provide them with interesting things to do, see and try. Taking your dog to a dog park is a great idea as they get the chance to interact with other dogs and people, plus you can also incorporate a short training routine in the outdoor time. If you aren't comfortable with this idea, having someone with a dog come over can be a good option. Dogs that are routinely socialized are more content overall, plus regular socialization will help with obedience work and compliance since the dog will not be as distracted when other people and dogs are around.

Walking in a new area or taking a different route on your walks on a frequent basis can also help your dog stay mentally alert while you are out and about. You may also want to have different "stations" along your route where you have the dog stop and perform different commands. Rotating or changing these stations will prevent boredom and keep your dog mentally engaged with you rather than just operating from a routine. For example, you could have a spot where you have the dog stop, sit and stay, then move briskly to another station where you have the dog lie down or jump over some object such as a small border fence or a parking curb. Mixing and matching what you are asking for at different spots, plus providing a few treats and some play time during the walk will really encourage mental activity and help your dog burn off excess energy.

The more physically and mentally active your dog is the better companion pet he or she will be. The interaction also helps to strengthen your bond with the dog and build trust and rapport between you and your pet.

Other articles under "Considerations for High Energy Breeds"

Article 3 - "The Importance of Socialization"
Article 4 - "High Energy Dog Breeds"
Article 5 - "Inside or Outside"
Article 7 - "Kids and High Energy Dog Breeds"

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