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Friday, October 11, 2013

Exercise. Part VI - Exercise Their Minds

Does anyone remember this anti cocaine commercial?

If all we do is exercise our dog's bodies, we can send our dogs a similar type spiral. Some people think the way to fix a frantic dog is more exercise. In many cases they are correct. But sometimes, the exercise can backfire.

Start with a frantic dog. Bike him for or 5 miles a day.  He gets more frantic because:
1. Exercise itself can be stressful
2. He is pulled past interesting smells and sights
Because the dog is still frantic, we increase the bike rides to 8 miles a day.  The dog continues to be frantic so we keep increasing the exercise.  So basically we wind up with a frantic dog who is great physical condition.

We need to also exercise our dogs' minds
Trick training, nose work, etc.. can be mentally stimulating and tiring.  Adding in some impulse control during exercise an also be helpful.  i.e. ask for sit before tossing a ball.

Also see
"A job for a dog needs to engage both brain and body"
"When Ashley was younger and much more active than she is now at 13, a friend at the time, who was a long distance runner, took Ashley and two of his dogs on a 15 mile run in the mountains of southern Colorado.   When they returned, Ashley slept for about 30 minutes, woke up, and proceeded to chew on the legs of the couch at our friends’ house. "
"I'm not convinced dogs require a lot of physical exercise. I realize that many trainers use the phrase "a tired dog is a good dog" but I don't agree with this. A tired dog "behaves" simply because he is exhausted - this is temporary and doesn't teach the dog to truly be calm or relaxed, or how to cope with triggers"
"...if you notice that your dog is aggressive, reactive, jumpy, and mouthy or just can’t seem to settle down after a game of fetch, your dog is probably being overstressed and you need to make some changes."
"Consider this, then. If you engage in activities that cause your dog to become aroused, and therefore stressed, every day, your dog will always have high levels of stress hormones in his bloodstream. High arousal becomes the new norm."
"Training can be both stimulating and fun"
Capture calm and reward it.

For more on this subject, see Laura VanArendonk Baugh's Fired Up, Frantic, and Freaked Out.
An excerpt from the book:
"Even a hyper dog might not be enjoying himself as much as it appears. Frantic behavior often looks happy, with jumping and tail-wagging and licking, but in fact the dog may be just as stressed as the dog hiding under the table, only expressing it differently. While he may not be afraid, he is not in control of his own emotions and reactions, and that can be unpleasant"

See other posts on exercise.

Do you live with a hyper dog?
Tell us about it in the comments section below

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  1. My JRT seems to be self-regulating. For example, he'll stand outside the back glass door with a ball in his mouth (very cute, btw) waiting for me to come out. When I come out, if he's tired, he won't fetch; if he's active (early evening), he'll play fetch.

    If we go to the dog park, he'll run around looking for squirrels for about an hour. After that, he'll start humping, which is the signal that he's had enough and it's time to leave.

    When we play fetch and he's had enough, he'll bring the ball back to me, but won't give it to me. So I say, "Ok, let's go inside" and put the ball away - I'm consistent about it, so he can trust me not to wear him out (i.e. I don't get the ball and keep throwing it - he would chase it, which I don't want).

    If it's hot or the middle of the day (not his action-time), I can throw the ball and he'll just look at me.

    I like to think I'm giving him the right amount of exercise, but it's always good to get another opinion - what do you think?

    1. Hi @ Mr Jack

      Ref: Fetch.
      I think it's great that he knows how to quit . Some dogs will keep going as long as the guardian keeps throwing. I couldn't guess whether or not he stops at a good point though. I 'd just observe carefully.

      Something to think about. If you can see a pattern of when he normally stops giving you the ball back, think about stopping before then. Lets say that he always stops at 30 minutes. Then maybe just stop playing fetch at 20 to 25 minutes and do some type of cool down at that point.

      I probably wouldn't encourage any type of strenuous activity in the middle of day - if it's hot.

      Your description of squirrel chasing has me a bit concerned. Of course I could be wrong (only you can tell), but he sounds a bit obsessed to me.
      I have a huge sweet tooth and I really love the taste of fresh fruit. I enjoy eating it, but I wish I didn't crave sweets all the time. Your dog might appear to be having fun but he might be happier if he had more control over his situation. See the last quote at the above post.

      Here are some questions to ask yourself:
      1. When squirrels are around, is you pup in control of his own faculties?
      2. Would he stop chasing if he were to pull a muscle?
      3. Would he stop chasing if he got very hot?
      4. Is he actually having fun or is he determined to get the squirrels or chase away the squirrels?
      5. Does he get frustrated about the squirrels?

      If humping means that he is over aroused or has had enough, you might want to go home long before he starts humping -- long before he gets over aroused. Would you want to continue an activity until you are stressed or would you rather stop before that point?

      He might be overaroused as soon as he starts chasing - I don't know.

      My Puddin is a little hunter. She would chase squirrels out of the yard then sit at the fence and wait for them to return.
      I thought it was cute at first. Then then one day, I noticed that she was drooling. I decided at that point to stop letting her obsess. I would just make her come back in the house. I made the decision for her.

      Later, I learned about the Premack principle. and it has helped me to help her turn away from the squirrels
      She will still chase, but she doesn't obsess. She is able to turn her attention towards me.

      If I want to get her to a point where she doesn't chase at all, I have a lot more work do. I'd have to do a lot more management, and work on some Control Unleashed games (by Leslie McDevitt) and possibly Dr Karen Overall's Relaxation Protocol

      Stay tuned. I will be writing a 3 to 4 part series on squirrel chasing.

    2. Interesting, thank you for your response.

      I think he's having fun, because his little tail is wagging and "hunting" is a chance for him to do what he was meant to do (I like that he gets a chance to be himself and chase small animals and climb trees and just run around).

      If I call him at a dogpark when he is going after squirrels, then he will come. He doesn't seem to be frustrated, although he might not be in control, because if we are at the end of a fetch session (i.e. he is tired) and a squirrel happens by, then he is full speed after it.

      So I would say he is obsessed, but in an acceptable way if that's possible. With the laser, it was different, that was too much of an obsession - my dogs would wait and wait and wait until the laser came out - we stopped doing that.

      I can definitely stop the dog park activity prior to humping - it's pretty obvious when he's tiring out and that's when I can take him away.

      Thanks again,

    3. Sounds good.
      You are probably already doing this but as a reminder to anyone who might be reading. When your dog is engaging in a fun activity, try to remember to call him away before you need to.
      That way you can call the dog, then send the dog back to play - as a reward for coming. Then "come" won't always mean the end of fun. Try to do more "release back to play" comes vs "end of fun" comes.

      Or don't use "come" at all when it's time to go. Just calmly walk up to your pup and put on a leash.

      Well unless your pup is ready to leave. Then fun wouldn't actually mean the end of fun would it? It would mean, "yaaay! we get to go home" or "yaay! time for a vehicle ride" or "time for dinner!"

  2. I like that "come" and "release back to play" - great idea, thanks!

    1. Thanks and you are welcome. In addition to teaching them that "come" doesn't always end the fun, the good feelings about playing should "bleed backwards" onto "come" so coming when called becomes more exciting.