Finding strategies to properly exercise dogs is always an ongoing challenge for most clients. As puppies get older they might slow down a bit, but they still need daily mental and physical stimulation.
I constantly reinforce to my clients that dogs need MUCH more exercise than most people realize. Exercise is simply good for the dog; for behavior, for their physical and mental well-being.
A walk on a leash should NEVER be considered true exercise for your dog. Walking is simply not enough. Walking with your dog is a “sensory excursion” for Fido. But it is certainly NOT exercise for him. Visit a dog park playgroup and watch the dogs GO for one solid hour in large space, even acreage……then you will understand what I speak of. I ran a private membership dog park for several years. The members paid a fee because they had come to realize the Scott mantra – “EXERCISE your dog” is a truism, and they saw remarkable improvement in the overall behavioral and physical health of their dogs.
I frequently hear the puzzled remarks of people that have a fenced backyard, yet their dog still doesn’t behave properly. It is important for you to remember that dogs often will not self-entertain in terms of exercise. Dogs find things to do in whatever space they are in, often choosing activities that we deem inappropriate. Backyard examples include digging, barking and chewing on landscaping. Letting a dog “out” into a fenced back yard without interaction on your part is also NOT exercise. They MIGHT exercise for a bit, but more than likely they will lay down and rest.
Sometimes people remark that there must be something wrong with their dog because they still need so much time and attention even though they are in the back yard for hours each day. Being in the back yard alone won’t cut it.
Dogs need structured play and training no matter how much space they have to roam. The fantastic benefit of a backyard is that it provides easy access for training sessions, games of fetch and play. But putting a dog in a back yard without engaging them YOURSELF and interacting with physical and mind play does not accomplish what most folks believe.
The other issue that I see with backyards is that people get into the habit of letting their dogs out, playing in backyard and not going on walks. The biggest issues that can arise for dogs that don’t get a lot of time out of their yards are decreased skills in leash walking as well as decreased skills in dog-to-dog interactions.
If you have a backyard, I urge you to continue leash walking, training and ensuring dog-to-dog and dog-to-people social skills throughout your dog’s life.
To make the most out of your backyard, and to avoid problems, I recommend the following tips:
1. Do not allow your dog to bark at people, dogs or squirrels – or barrier frustration can develop.
2. Schedule play sessions with dogs in the neighborhood to allow your dogs some true play time
3. Get your dog out in the neighborhood and go on field trips to new neighborhoods and dog-friendly businesses – dogs get bored and need new stimulation
4. Perform structured training sessions in your backyard
5. Schedule dog training on your calendar
6. Work on off leash control; LOOK, WITH ME, and HEEL are all wonderful (yet often forgotten) commands.
7. Teach your dog to retrieve or play frisbee
Scott Cook, a professional K-9 Trainer of 45+ years, has been an avid Canine Enthusiast since childhood and it is worth mentioning that he successfully trained his first dog (a rescue dog with behavioral aggression issues) at the age of 11!
His passion, enthusiasm and love for the dog is evident in his many years of experience as well as his hunger to learn more and it is all this that has made him what he is today! He has had extensive training in the area of canine behavior and training! His studies have included 2 summers in the kennels of the New Skete Monestary, 1 year mentoring with Dr. Ian Dunbar, 1 year mentoring with Ed Frawley, and 2 years association with Michael Ellis!
He is a current Professional Member of the International Association of Canine Professionals and owns and operates his own dog training business with 45+ years of professional Canine Training experience in his kitty! You are in good hands with Scott!
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