A Tired Dog is a Good Dog
by Robin MacFarlane
Athlete or Einstein, which one is your dog?
There is saying that has been around in the dog training world for a long time: "A tired dog is a good dog."
There is a great deal of truth in the statement, because a tired dog doesn't tend to get into much mischief. However, I like to caution people who are avid runners or work out enthusiasts that good behavior isn't only based on the amount of physical exercise you can provide the dog with. A highly athletic dog is great, but sometimes they can be a bit like the energizer bunny. Trying to drain the battery gets harder and harder as they get more "in shape."
That is why I really encourage providing both physical and mental exercise for your dog. It is pretty easy to come up with ideas for physical exercise. Going for a walk, a jog, playing fetch or Frisbee are all forms of aerobic exercise that burn energy. For more adventurous minded dog owners, you might try biking or roller blading with your dog. The important thing is that every dog get some form of physical exercise daily that suits their activity level. And here's my shameless plug for e-collar training so your dog can safely enjoy these type of activities off leash.
There is a lot to be said for mental fatigue though. Not only does it tire the dog, it also encourages more stability and calmness over all. Just in case you're a little stumped by what constitutes mental exercise for a dog let me explain. Mental exercise is anything that requires your dog to think, not just act. Anyone who's put in a hard day at a desk job can attest to the fact that thinking can be pretty tiring. Teaching any form of obedience or tricks falls into the mentally challenging category, but so does problem solving like placing a toy or treat into a almost closed drawer or box and having your dog figure out how to get it out.
Search games and scent work are some wonderful ways to mentally challenge a dog. And the cool thing is any dog, regardless of breed or age, can be successful at it. There are also a variety of dog toys on the market that are actually puzzles your dog must solve in order to release a toy or treat.
One of my favorite ways to get the maximum benefit from time spent with my dogs is to combine physical and mental activity into one event. I incorporate obedience and tricks into my games of fetch. Having the dogs hold a stationary position while I toss the ball and then do a couple more things before I release them makes them think. They are learning impulse control PLUS they are getting rewarded for listening and getting exercise when they are released to charge down the field to get the ball.
The dogs have a great time and I get double the impact from my time with them. They are exercising their minds and their bodies, we're improving their skills, and everyone enjoys the process. We can't ask for more than that when training!
Robin MacFarlane is a professional dog trainer and owner of Thatís My Dog in Dubuque, Iowa. Her best-selling dog training DVDs, JUST RIGHT and JUST RIGHT 2 have helped thousands of dog owners teach their dogs basic obedience and fix problem behaviors through a system of training that you can easily work into your daily routine.