Is your doggo getting into trouble? Is he or she digging up your yard, eating your furniture, or chewing your shoes? Increased activity, is the single most effective method to solve dog behavior problems. Unless there is a medical condition, more activity will be among dog trainers’ and behaviorists’ recommendations. This will go a long way to solve your dog problems such as digging, chewing, howling, running away, or general mischief.
But what does “increased activity” really mean? Do you have to play fetch with your dog, talk to your dog, go to the zoo with dog? And, how often should you do it? In this article, we will provide very specific activities that will help resolve dog behavior problems.
How to spend quality time with your dog
- Walking, running, cycling
- Watching TV
- Doing anything together
These activities will engage your dog socially, mentally, and physically. Dogs are very social animals. The “pack” is your dog and family members. As such, your dog will look to the pack for social interaction. Of all pet animals, dogs are most connected to their owners and dependent on you as the “leader of the pack”. For people and dogs, nothing is more devastating than being separated from the ones you love. Doing any of the above activities will keep the connection between you and your dog. These will help the bonds they have with you and increase their desire to please you as the leader or dominant member of the pack.
How much and how often should you play with your dog?
We tell our patients owners that they should spend as much time with their dog as possible. With the demands on your time with work, family, outside activities, friends, etc., our four legged friends can often get the short end of the stick. Making time can be as simple as scheduling it. Just like you schedule time with family and friends, scheduling regular time to play with your dog on your calendar will go a long way in solving behavior problems. The reason is that like some people, dogs love schedules. They like things to happen on a regular basis. For example, if you live in a place that has “Daylight Savings Time” where the clock moves forward/back an hour, your dog still expects to things to happen at the same times as before. Like feeding time. They know what dinner time is and it doesn’t matter what the clock says. Yes, our dogs have a schedule and they remind us when we are late.
Whenever you try something new with your dog, start slow. Don’t try to do too much of anything to start. It might make your dog feel overly tired and think of the activities as a bad thing. Having a tired pup is a good thing, but overly tired isn’t. A good way to figure out how much is enough is to pay attention to your dogs attention level. Keep doing activities only as long as your dog seems attentive and interested. Tiredness afterward is a good sign, but lethargy, vomiting, and heavy breathing are not. Take your dog to your vet right away if this happens.
If you’re not sure, start with short activities, such as 10 to 15 minutes. If you own a large dog or puppy, also watch the temperature (to make sure they don’t overheat or get too cold) and gradually increase the time. 15 minutes will be easier for you to start from, too. Now let’s take a quick look at your options.
When to schedule activities with your dog
- Mornings, when your dog wakes up and has a lot of energy to spare.
- Before meals, therefore encouraging natural rhythm: hunting is done before eating. Don’t exercise your dog after eating as their stomachs are full.
- Before you leave home, so your dog chooses a nap after you leave instead of howling or chewing door jambs.
- After you come back home, so your dog knows it was worth the wait. This is a good time for slow activities, such as petting and brushing or talking.
- Before you go to sleep, your dog will be satisfied emotionally and physically. And your dog will most likely choose to get some wholesome sleep like you.
- Whenever you have a free couple of minutes. Your dog will love it and wag their tail.
Most common activities to do with your dog
Let’s take a look at the most popular activities to do with your dog. P.S. If you have a cat, here’s a list of activities to do with the purring one, too.
Walks are probably the best activity for all dogs. For senior dogs, puppies, overweight dogs, and dogs with chronic health issues, always consult with your veterinarian. For example, your puppy may not yet had all their shots yet so taking them outside for a walk could be dangerous for them.
Make sure to consider the length of walk may depend on your ability to find the time, the weather conditions, your dog’s fitness, and the health conditions of you and your dog.
We have found it’s ideal to have at least a thirty minute walk, twice a day. That may cover times before you leave for work and before you go to sleep. It is good to find even a small amount of time for your dog at random moments. They will appreciate it.
Running and cycling
If you have a younger, energetic dog breed, walking may not be enough. You can add running (my own favorite) and cycling. You will benefit from the higher activity level and it lets your dog meet their physical requirements for good exercise. These are great ways for your dog to release their energy.
Please remember that like people, if this level of exercise is new to your dog , start slow. Start with short jogs and very short runs, and then build up gradually. I found my dog had to learn how to run beside me without running into me, stopping quickly to sniff, and to sit whenever we reached an intersection. For cycling, the same learning is needed for your dog to run alongside you while you are on a bike. Because of the higher speed and machine involved, remember to take extra safety precautions. You can read how to bike with your dog safely here.
You can play with your dog while walking or do it at a separate time in your yard. It is best to do some playing for short periods throughout whole day. We found that one of our dogs loved to play fetch. To the point that we had to teach her when fetch was over with the command “Finish”. She would kind of huff and puff and plot down with her ball. She was exhausted at that point, and often fall asleep with her ball in her mouth.
Most dogs love to fetch a thrown ball, but every dog has its own preferences that may vary by temper and breed. Try different toys and sticks to find out what amuses your dog the most. When we didn’t have a yard big enough, we would find parks or fenced in areas to play fetch with our dogs. This is by far the easiest way to play fetch with your dog. The “Chuckit” throws the ball further than we could by hand. Best of all, we could pick up the ball with it. That meant we didn’t have to bend over and our hands weren’t covered it doggy slobber.
Our Chocolate Labrador LOVED to swim. Labradors have webbed paws and an thicker inner coat to keep them warm. They also used their tails as a “rudder” to steer them through the water. Please note that not all dogs love water. If yours does, they will enjoy swimming during a walk especially if it’s a hot summer day. As with people, swimming is very good for dogs’ health. It provides a range of movements not present in any other activity. It is also excellent for dogs with arthritis or joint issues. If your dog feels slightly afraid of the water, that doesn’t mean no swimming. Check this to help your dog to overcome a fear of swimming.
Remember that swimming can be dangerous. Make sure your dogs swimming place is safe, take note of the water quality and potential currents. Remember to rinse and dry your dog after swimming to avoid skin problems. We put a harness on our dog with a 100 foot long leash for their first swims in a small lake, just to be safe.
There are numerous different sports to try with your dog:
- Agility – race through obstacle course. This requires a lot of training but the rewards are amazing.
- Sled racing – dogs pulling a sled. The Iditarod is the “Last Great Race”.
- Water works – completion of different tasks in water
- Dock jumping – jumping from dock for the distance. Diving dogs is a fun and exciting sport.
These are just a few of the most common examples from all over the world. And new dog sports are being created rapidly. Check what dog sports are most accessible in your region and suitable for you and your dog.
Watching TV or reading
Yes, dogs love to watch TV. Especially because you are “spending more time together with your dog”. Allow your dog to lie by your feet when you are watching television. Sit with your dog as you read a book or the news on your tablet.
As we said in the beginning, your dog will appreciate your presence. You even don’t have to interact with your dog to make them feel pleased. Being with you is part of their social structure, that is ingrained in their being. A nice hug or a belly rub from time to time for no reason will make them feel like they are in heaven. Even if heaven is sitting on the floor with you.
Dogs who spend time with their owners are healthier and happier. With your dogs social and physical needs met, they will spend more time sleeping when you are gone which is when most dog behavior problems happen. By increasing your activity level with your dog, they will be healthier and happier. And a happy pet is a what we all want.