MAYbe my dog needs more exercise before he can be calm? MAYbe NOT!
It's often said amongst dog owners that a tired dog is a happy dog. This has been repeated over and over again for decades! While dogs do need exercise, just like people, it is possible to over-exercise your dog. This tends to start with young puppies! We know young puppies have a whole bunch of behaviors that drive owners crazy; biting people when playing, jumping, chewing on people things, etc. We also know that if we take the puppy out for some fresh air and exercise or arrange a puppy playdate, they will likely sleep for a few hours and let us get some much needed work done. I'm not saying those are bad things to do as puppies do need exercise, fresh air, and puppy playtime. But puppies also need a whole ton of sleep!
Different breeds and sizes of dogs have different requirements for exercise just like they would food. A Great Dane surely needs more food then a Pomeranian. But exercise is not solely determined by size so it's a bit harder to figure out. Guardian breeds are often very large, but were bred to do a lot of chilling out in the same area, watching the herd where other dogs were bred for active working of a herd such as a border collie. Great Pyrenees are much larger then Border Collies, but Border Collies often need more exercise. This means there is not one size fits all when it comes to exercise requirements.
Another common thing that we as owners, often struggle with is thinking that my puppy will go to sleep when they get tired. We don't expect human toddlers to decide on their own that they want to curl up and take a nap, yet we expect our very young puppies to have learned that lesson early in life. This is just one of the many things that we as dog owners expect too much too soon from our pets. Just like children, the adult or pet owner often has to teach a puppy how to relax and rest especially when they live in a very active household. Many puppies turn into adolescent dogs without learning this life skill. Then we as pet owners tend to get caught up the struggle to constantly provide more and more exercise for our growing dogs as we try to prevent those pesky behaviors we don't like. And yes, I've fallen into this trap before too! When our dogs seem to have an endless supply of energy it's easy for us to think, oh lets make our walk even longer or throw the tennis ball a few more times. Then before we know it, our dogs need to walk 10 miles a day and play ball for 2-3 hours. This is what happens when we continue to add just a bit more, then a bit more, then a bit more to our exercise routine.
It's important that we teach our dogs how to relax and be calm during day to day life as an important life skill. We can do this much easier with puppies, but it can be added into your dog's life no matter what their age is. I often help people to figure out a Relaxation Routine that helps take their dog from the Go-Go-Go mind frame into the Slow-Slow-Slow mind frame. The first step is to make sure you are meeting your dog's needs beyond food, water, and shelter and including exercise, mental stimulation, enrichment, and social activities. Since exercise helps to amp up our dog, I typically suggest people start practicing their Relaxation Routine immediately following some exercise. You can set the stage before you go out on a walk so when you come back you follow a routine that helps lower your dog's excitement. This might involve spending a few minutes hanging out in the backyard watching the world go by, going in the house for drink or treat, having a few minutes of cuddle time or gentle massage or maybe a stuffed kong to enjoy while settling on a mat. The choices are pretty much endless, but the goal is to provide predictability that then tells the dog that it's time to chill and hang out a bit.
Once you have a basic Relaxation Routine developed, you can then branch out to additional routines for anything that happens on a regular basis; family members coming home, dinner time, bedtime, etc. If you are struggling to get your dog to calm down after some hyper activity, I'm happy to help you develop a Relaxation Routine that can fit into your daily schedule.
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