Editor’s Note: The Local Woof is a column that’s sponsored and written by the staff of Woofs! Dog Training Center. Woofs! has full-service dog training, boarding, and daycare facilities, near Shirlington and Ballston.
I had an interesting thing happen to me this weekend. My new cat has been attacking and biting me, “for no reason” and “out of the blue.” These are two statements that I always hear from dog training clients and I always insist that nothing is out of the blue or for no reason. Yet I could not apply the same reasoning to my cat. The recommendation: my cat needs more exercise. He’s bored. Of course he does!
How many times have I told a dog training client that an increase in exercise will solve a myriad of behavior problems. Probably hundreds of times. And it’s true. Is your dog waking you up at night? Chewing inappropriately? Excessive barking? Pulling on leash? Biting at you to get your attention? Exercise may not solve these problems but it can certainly be a part of the solution.
The first thing you need to know is that for most young dogs, walking on a leash does not even come close to meeting their exercise needs. Walks are a great way to maintain your dogs socialization and keep them acclimated to their environment but they do very little to dent their energy levels. Young, in-shape dogs will usually require at least two hours of exercise a day.
To truly exercise a dog, the dog needs to be trotting or running. The best ways to accomplish this is with off-leash excursions that involve hiking, running and swimming. Unfortunately for most urban dog owners, an off-leash hike before work is out of the question. The best we can hope for is a weekend adventure.
So here are some ideas for getting in some real exercise during the week. Of course, with the weather in the nineties every day, these are mostly indoor activities until the fall.
Fetching: This is the best way to get your dog running. A 15 minute session of fetch is probably equivalent to a 60 minute walk. To increase the cardio aspect see if your dog will run up and down stairs to retrieve the ball or toy.
Tugging: The idea that tugging will make your dog aggressive is an old wives tale. Tug away! Not only is it a great outlet for puppies who are still in their mouthing and chewing stage, it is a great outlet for older dogs as well. Not to mention the benefits of an upper body workout for the human. If you occasionally win, start the game up again with a toss to sneak in a fetch.
Interactive food toys: These are awesome. Not only will they get your dog moving a bit, they are great mental stimulation which will also tire out your dog. You can feed your dogs entire daily ration of food in interactive toys and you can even give them to the dog to keep them engaged while you are out of the house. Why feed your dog in a bowl when you can get more bang for your buck with a food toy?
Training: Teach your dog some tricks. Tricks are a great way to exercise parts of the body that the dog may not always use. Sit up and beg works the abs and core, spin to the right and left provides stretching, as does a nice stretch into a bow. Tricks also give you the same double benefit of physical movement and mental stimulation. Fifteen minutes of trick work a day would really help.
Bottom line: Get your dog training and moving and most of all have fun!
The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.