7 Ways To Tire Out Your Dog
Do you have an hyperactive dog? What about a dog that digs in your yard? One that barks all the time? Or one that pulls on walks or is reactive? Paces in your house? Chews up your shoes? These behaviors often have roots in boredom and unspent energy. When dogs are not given positive outlets for their energy they find outlets on their own, usually ones that their owners are not happy about. I'm sure you have heard the phrase "a tired dog is a good dog." It's not an old wives tale, it is fully based in reality. When your dog has been given mental and physical stimulation that meets their energy requirements, they are much less likely to engage in behaviors that drive you up the wall. No matter whether you have a brand new puppy or a senior dog you have had for years, there are activities you can do to meet their needs. The best ones are going to include both mental and physical stimulation, but anything to work out your dog is great.
Walks, Hikes and Runs
This is probably the first thing you think of when you are trying to tire your dog out. Not everyone has the time, energy or inclination to take their dog as often as is ideal. So when you do, make the most out of it. I have 3 tips to get more bang for your buck by adding in mental stimulation to a physical activity. 1. Vary your route. Not only will this make things more interesting for you, but it will also stimulate your dog's mind. There are new sights and smells for your dog to explore. which will engage them as opposed to allowing them to go on autopilot. 2. Let your dog sniff. You don't have to constantly let your dog sniff the whole time, that can get a little annoying for you, but every so often you can stop and let your dog sniff. This engages their brain as dogs primary sense is scent and they can learn a lot about their environment from smell. 3. Work in some obedience training. This will not only improve their training, but work out their brain. Some examples: ask your dog to sit before crossing a street, practice heel for a block or two, call your dog away from different things to practice their recall, or put them in a down-stay while you are picking up their poop. If you are unable to take your dog for walks, hikes or runs as often as they need, you may want to consider hiring a dog walker to do it for you. That way you can ensure your dog is getting the exercise they need.
Interactive Play Time
Interactive play means that you are playing with your dog, not leaving them to play on their own. Easy games that most dogs will enjoy at least one of are fetch, tug, and hide and seek. To get the most out of fetch, play in an open space where you can throw the toy in different directions so your dog never knows which way they are going to run. Also try using a ball that bounces randomly so your dog may have to make quick turns and will engage their brain as they try to figure out the bounce pattern. If the weather isn't so nice and you don't want to go outside, you can throw the toy up the stairs or around corners to make it a little more interesting and challenging for your dog. For tug, make sure you are actively tugging. If you are just holding the toy, your dog will get bored and stop playing. But by pulling and shaking and tugging, you are activating your dog's prey drive which engages your dogs brain and makes the game better. To play hide and seek, either put your dog in a sit or down or have someone hold your dog. Then you go hide out of sight. Call your dog so that they can look for you. When your dog finds you get really excited with lots of verbal and physical praise or you can give them a treat. Make sure to use a variety of hiding spots. Dogs who are affection focused especially love this game. This game is an especially good brain game as your dog is using scent and pattern recognition to find you, as well as running all over your home or yard.
One of the best ways to work out your dog is by doing a training session with them. This is excellent mental exercise and good physical exercise as well. Keep it fun and engaging. You can teach your dog obedience, tricks, scent work, agility, fly ball, frisbee, etc. The options are endless. Whatever you and your dog enjoy, go for it. When it comes to tricks and other fun training, it's not a big deal if you mess up a little. You are doing it to entertain and exercise your dog, so the results aren't as important.
Long Lasting Chews
I know that we don't always have time to interact with our dogs when they want us to. In these situations, a long-lasting chew is a great way to activate their chewing instinct to mentally stimulate them and keep them entertained. While they aren't being physically active, they are at least using their brain which will help tide them over until you have the opportunity to exercise them. When choosing a chew, try something that will take at least 20 minutes for them to work through. Some of my favorites are raw beef bones, deer antlers and No-Hide Chews. Whatever you choose, make sure it is safe for your dog and an appropriate size. You can try a chew toy, but many adult dogs get bored of them pretty quickly, if they take to them at all.
Puzzle toys are another good option for when you are busy or your dog is home alone. There are stuff-able ones, ones where your dog has to root around to find treats, move things to get the treats under them, or knock them over in the right way for the treats to fall out. There are lots of options out there for puzzle toys to buy and lots of tutorials out there for how to make ones for free out of everyday items like water bottles, old towels, cardboard boxes and muffin tins.
Dog Play Time
If your dog has the right temperament for it, you can allow your dog to play with other dogs. If you have multiple dogs in your home, than you have an automatic play time. If not, you can set up a playdate with a friend who also has a dog, or take your dog to doggie daycare. Be careful if you take your dog to a dog park as not every dog that there is fully social and even if they are some dogs who are otherwise good with dogs may not like each other. And especially in the larger parks, owners may not be near their dogs to step in if needed.
Take Your Dog With You
Simply taking your dog with you when you leave your house can help stimulate their brain. Of course only do so when it is appropriate. For example, if you are allowed to bring your dog to work, you could bring them and let them lay on a bed under your desk. Even if they aren't getting much physical exercise, their brain is still stimulated by being in a different place. Or if you need to run a quick errand, you can let them look and smell out the window on the way to and from. Now make sure that the weather is cool/warm enough to leave your dog in the car. The sun can be intense and quickly warm up a car to dangerous levels. If you go out to eat or for coffee, and your dog is well behaved, consider bringing them with you. Many restaurants, cafe's and breweries in Colorado allow dogs on their patios. This can be a great way to allow your dog to observe lots of people and other dogs while you get to enjoy your food and drink. And once again, while your dog is not getting much physical exercise, by stimulating their brain, you are reducing the amount of exercise they need.
By mixing and matching these different ways to tire your dog out, you will ensure that your dog has a great quality of life and they are going to stop driving you crazy with some of their problem behaviors, or at least less often. In the time of COVID, you should make some alterations for some of these suggestions. For example, when it comes to playdates, you should meet somewhere outside and observe social distancing. But even without using the public options, there are still plenty of ways that you can tire out your dog while still staying safe. Remember that making sure your dog is well exercised and stimulated will certainly help with problem behaviors, additional training may still be necessary. If you need help training your dog, reach out to me for a free consultation.