Mind Stimulation for Your Dog
02/06/2014

Do you come home from work and find your garbage strewn all over the house? Are there holes dug all over the yard? Do you find chew marks on your furniture? Has the stuffing been pulled out of your couch? Are all of these and other naughty things being done by your lovable pet pooch? The cause is simple. Your pet is bored!



Now a more challenging question; what do you do about it? All dogs need to do more than eat, sleep and love you. All dogs need exercise to start with. A walk isn't just about having a pee or a poop. A walk is a fabulous way to build a strong bond between you and your dog, and an opportunity to demonstrate to your pet that YOU are the leader. As Cesar Millan, the dog whisperer, would say, "YOU need to be the Pack Leader". Remember that when you walk your dog, you should be the first one out of the house, the first one back into the house, and your dog should walk beside you or slightly behind you.



I know that we all love our dogs and often think of them as our children... our babies. Truth be told, in order to provide your pet with what he/she truly needs it is important that you think of your dog first as a dog, and then consider the characteristics of the breed. Then you need to remember that your pet is also an individual.



Some breeds need more physical exercise than others. Some need more exercise than others. Herding dogs, as an example, were bred to herd or move livestock. This "job" requires intelligence and an enormous amount of running and endurance. There are dozens of breeds belonging to the "herding" family of dogs including the various types of Sheep dogs and Shepherd dogs, Collies, and Giant Schnauzers to name a few. Other breeds like Jack Russell Terriers, Shelties, and sporting dogs, although not herding breeds, are high energy breeds; requiring more exercise than some lower energy breeds. Think in terms of a 5 mile RUN (not walk) each day as a guide. Also, you can ride a bike or roller blade while your pet keeps up beside you.



On the other side of the spectrum; Poodles, Terriers, Shih Tzus, Schnauzers, Bull Dogs, and Pugs, for example have a much lower demand for exercise. Understand that these dogs still need to be walked, at least once each day for at least one hour.



You'll know if your dog is getting enough exercise based on its' behaviour and weight. If your dog is gaining weight you're either feeding him way too much, offering too many treats, or not giving him enough exercise. If your dogs' weight is fine and he's behaving, then the exercise that you're giving him is likely sufficient. Remember, too, that older dogs will need less exercise than puppies. If there is any question or concern, get advice from your Vet.



One thing to note about walks is that you do NOT want the walk to be about your dogs' bathroom duties. Dogs absolutely LOVE their walks. If the walk is over immediately after the dog does his "business", he will try to hold it so the walk will last longer. In fact he may wait until you give up and go home, then do his business in the house. It will work better for you if you wait for the dog to "potty", and then reward that behaviour with a one hour walk.



If you have some reason that you're not able to provide your dog with the kind of walks he requires, there are a couple of things you can do. For high energy dogs you can put a back pack on them filled with water bottles. The extra weight will add more of a challenge on their walk and tire them out quicker. You can also consider purchasing a treadmill. There are treadmills designed specifically for dogs that can also accommodate the speed that your canine companion needs. When using this type of device please do NOT leave your pet unattended. Any number of accidents can occur if no one is watching. Besides, you can still use the "pack leader" attitude and strengthen your bond while your dog is on the treadmill.



Now that covers the dog walking part of this segment. Here's another newsflash. Dogs also need to be mentally stimulated. Again, the amount of stimulation necessary is dependent on the breed and the individual dog. If there's any question or concern, remember your Vet is an excellent resource and can guide you appropriately.



Mental stimulation can take numerous forms. Rough housing with your pet can help to stimulate them mentally; as does training. Once they're completely "behaviour" trained, you can work on fun tricks. Playing catch or fetch is also helpful. These activities can be fun for both of you, enhance the bond between you, and keep your pets mind active. You can also consider agility training for all the same reasons. NOTE that before you begin any serious, intense regimen you should consult your pets' Veterinarian. Some agility drills can be harmful for your dog under certain conditions; like dogs suffering from arthritis, hip or joint problems, or young pups. Agility drills involving a lot of jumping can be too stressful for young developing joints. Intense weaves are another obstacle you'll want to be careful of when training your puppy.



Swimming is a great activity for your dog. Most dogs enjoy it; it's good exercise and builds strength. You can have a lot of fun with your dog while swimming. It can also be easier on the joints of an older dog. Again, please check with your best resource, your Vet to make sure this is a good activity for your specific dog. There may be a health issue that would be aggravated by a particular activity. I know, like any good parent, you want what's best for your pet.



Remember to hug your dog today.



Brigitte Synesael

 

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