Have you got a dog who won't settle - no matter how much exercise you provide?
By Sarah Groves - your puppy training specialist covering Neath, Port Talbot and Swansea
When we get a dog, we think about the physical exercise they need - of course our dogs need to be walked to be happy, healthy and fulfilled.
What if I told you that for some dogs there's such thing as TOO much exercise!
If you find that you have a dog who just WILL NOT TIRE no matter how much you go out and throw a ball, it may be that you need to take a step back and REDUCE your dog's exercise - sounds counterproductive doesn't it?
I will tell you why....
Throughout the day, your dog is going to get peaks of excitement and with these peaks of excitement, your dog will get a boost of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.
These stress hormones will also raise in the body with activities such as:
- Lots of exercise
- Certain types of play (such as chasing a ball, rigerous tugging of a toy)
- Playing with other dogs for a long period of time
- When scary or stressful situations occur
- When they get excited to see people
... and the list could go on.
Through the day with all of these stimulating activities, these stress hormones will raise and raise in the body - until it hits a certain threshold, and once it goes beyond this point, this is when we see behaviours associated with what we call 'over arousal'.
During over arousal your dog will not be in a good minset where they are able to think properly, listen or learn effectively and this is when you start to see unwanted behaviours spiraling out of control.
The unwanted behaviours can look like...
- Not listening
- Zooming around the house
- Not able to settle
.... along with other behaviour traits.
Many people see these behaviours as the dog needs MORE exercise, but this is far from the truth.
How long does it take for stress hormones to level out after hitting the threshold?
So adding more exercise when your dog is in a stae of over arousal is likely to make things worse - not better.
What you can do to help
- Reduce the number of daily walks
- Reduce the duration of the walk
- Avoid overstimulating activities
- Provide mentally stimulating activities on the walk instead
Instead of HUGE runs and ball games:
Build focus games
Play recall games
Teach loose lead walking
Take enrichment games out with you such as 'find it'
Allow your dog to sniff
Teach your dog to lie down and relax in different areas and environments
It may also be worth looking at other aspects of your dog's day such as the type of food they are eating. This is because foods with a high percentage of carbohydrates can cause behaviours associated with hyperactivity.
Check out this website All About Dog Food to find the nutritional rating of your dog's food.
Take a look at changing the delivery of your dog's food - instead of feeding all of your your dogs meals from the bowl, use feeding toys to further provide mental stimulation and promote calm.
Check out my enrichment article to give you more enrichment ideas.
If this sounds like something which might be going on for your dog, just these small daily changes will make a huge difference in a short period of time - normally within a week or two.
If you think you have an overstimulated dog and need help with building calm behaviours GET IN TOUCH!