I feel the need to preface all of this with that acknowledgement that I am not a dog trainer. I am not a dog behaviorist. I am not an expert in anything, other than running my mouth and counting the freckles on Charlie’s snoot.
I feel like for a while C, my trusty spouse, and I were of the mindset that our dogs were really naughty. And by “our dogs” I pretty much mean Charlie. And by “C and I,” I mean me.
We (I) were always thinking that they (Charlie) didn’t know how to settle or they had a specific set of frustrating traits – for Charlie it was by and large his potty training.
He would pee in the house or attention bark. He would be a little too mouthy and jumpy. It was super annoying. I sort of thought, for a solid year and a half, that he didn’t have that “off switch” people talk about with their intense sports dogs. Except he wasn’t an intense sports dog. He was a giant dumb dumb bench English Springer Spaniel.
Owen has had some similar problems before, too. He would obsess over tennis balls (which is pretty normal for border collies) or he would get a little too obsessed with cuddles. It was actually really hard, and slightly more complex, for Owen – mostly because of his surgery and subsequent crate rest. He had a lot of growing up to do, and some of that meant legitimately taking a break from physical activity. We gave him lots of mental stimulation, but that really could only go so far.
But then we realized… it wasn’t our dogs that were shitty. It was us. (or Charlie and me… but you get the picture)
We (I) were being sort of shitty by not giving our dogs (Charlie) the credit they deserve. We have high energy dogs (yes, even Charlie). And they needed to run every single day. They needed to eat out of puzzle toys and be mentally stimulated and use their muscles, or they went a little nuts.
I don’t want you to think C ever neglected Charlie or anything like that. C has always respected my agency when raising my dog.
I think this whole realization happened about a year and a half ago when I started bringing Charlie to work with me. While at work he would get a solid mix of mental stimulation while visiting coworkers, but he was also getting a ton more exercise than he had ever gotten before. And, oddly enough, he magically started sleeping better, not being as crappy in the house, and having WAY less accidents.
Was he a new dog, void of his crap puppy teanagerdom?
Nope. He was just getting proper exercise and stimulation.
You see, when Charlie gets the proper amount of exercise, he’s less of a crap bucket. He had always gotten quite a bit of mental stimulation with his TDI work, but because he never was chompin’ at the bit to run and play, I never made him.
But, his lack of enthusiasm for exercise didn’t mean that he didn’t have pent up energy. Obviously.
The same goes for all of our dogs really. If Pilot goes a few days without doing something stimulating, she eats holes in our throw blankets.
When Lila doesn’t play frisbee for a while she starts sassing out the others.
And when Owen doesn’t get to run around and play, he tries to fuze his body with C’s, breaking their laptop and annoying everyone.
So like, I’m not saying that we need to drop everything and run our dogs until their paws bleed every night. But the fact of the matter is we have some pretty high energy animals (even Charlie) that have legitimate exercise needs. And yes, we still have to train them and teach them not to jump up and chomp on our back fat when you reach for their leashes (Charlie, I’m looking at you bud), but I am saying that they tend to be less naughty when they are properly taken care of. And properly taking care of your dog means making sure they are getting ample exercise.
Alright – controversial part ahead – but I can’t help but think that this is why some dogs end up in shelters. Behavior problems can pop up so easily when people get in over their heads with a dog that they don’t have the time or ability to handle. Think twice before you and your 9-5 schedule adopt a Malinois. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but I am saying that extra effort needs to be made. Because like, this 9-5er can hardly handle her marshmallow English Springer Spaniel on some days.
So, what do you do with your dog to not only work their mind, but also their muscles? Let me know in the comments!