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Exercising a Dog

If you follow the Core Rule: Energy Spectrum - Hyper vs Tired it can be helpful to exercise a dog first depending on what you are training.

The more calm and quiet or stationary you need your dog to be for training, the more you will want to exercise or tire the dog out first.

If you read the article on Socialization or maybe from your own experience you may find that some dog parks cause a lot of problems.

Dog parks are an excellent place to let a dog run and burn off energy. If you are concerned about some of the problems dog parks can cause then these are some alternatives for exercising your dog.

1. Dog Park – You can still go to a dog park, we just recommend going at a quiet time where you can see dogs from a long ways off and choose which dogs, if any, you are going to bring your dog around. Some parks are also secluded to just the people in that neighbourhood. You get to know all of the other dogs and if you trust them all that can be fine.

2. Pulling – Use a pulling harness and hook your dog up to a sled, bike, scooter, etc. and have them pull that weight. This tires out a dog faster than almost any other form of exercise. If you are handy at sewing you can make a pulling harness yourself. You can also find them online and have them custom made for your dog.

3. Treadmill

4. Large Backyard – Run around in a backyard.

5. Run with another dog – Let two dogs run around and spar together in an enclosed area.

6. Swimming – River, Lake or Dedicated Swimming Pools in many cities just for Dogs.

7. Long Line Recall – See article on Recall for this. Excellent way to train Recall, Exercise a dog, and establish Pack Structure.

8. Fetch – See article on Fetch.

9. Tug of War – See article on Tug.

10. Quad Run (ATV) – We have an arm we built that extends off the right side of the ATV and has a rope going down that hooks into the top side of the Aspen Pet Harness. We run dogs up and down our Gravel Road at a fast jog. This works fantastic for exercising high energy dogs. We would sometimes have to run some dogs 10-12 miles per day to make a dent in their energy. This isn’t an option in the city but if you have access to an ATV somewhere this can work great.

11. Car Run – This can be very dangerous so you have to be very careful. It requires a quiet road and excellent recall. If we go to visit family and we need to exercise the dogs quickly we find a quiet road and let the dogs out of the vehicle. When we can see them off to the side we start driving and tell them to follow. We maintain enough speed to always stay in front of the dogs. They jog along behind. It is a super fast way to tire a dog out.

12. Thinking – Just by making a dog think really hard to earn their food, you can tire them out very quickly. This can include Distance Commands or fine tuning hand signals or working in Distractions or teaching a brand new command.

13. Work for Their Food – Put their food in a Kong with some Peanut Butter and have them work to get it out. Using a Tricky Treats Ball also works. Many pet stores have Interactive Games that you can place their food into to have them work to get it out.

14. Bike Ride – This is dangerous until you have Off-Leash Heel trained. You also want to ensure you have Recall in place first as well. They do make attachments for your bike to hook a dog up to. If your dog is likely to chase a rabbit or any other distraction you should be careful. We know a lot of people who have hurt themselves badly by taking a spill off of their bike when the dog ran in front or off to the side. If you have a small enough dog you can kill them by running them over so be very careful.

15. Hiking – Go for a hike up a mountain and many dogs will be quite tired after that. Put them on a pulling harness and have them pull you up the mountain.

16. Hunting – Gopher hunting was a favourite of our one dog. We would go to places where there were Gopher Holes and he would go to one and I would run to another and say “What’s this!” and he would come running over to check that one out and start digging. Then I would run to another and say “What’s this!” and he would run to that one to start digging. He would get so tired that he would lay down to dig as he didn’t want to give up. Keep in mind that if they find digging rewarding they may do it in other places like your nicely kept yard.

If you have snowbank, you can convince some dogs to dig in the snow.

17. Doggy Daycare – After a full day of supervised sparring a dog can be ready to go for training.

18. Stress – Some dogs will stress out from situations such as thunderstorms. They may get a terrible sleep and be quite tired after something stressful. You can take advantage of this situation and begin training. It will help take their mind off the stressful situation and allow them to focus better on the task at hand.

19. Obedience – Have them practice any obedience that they do know. This is a great way to tire the dog out. You can do what is called “puppy pushups”. This is where you have the dog sit, then down, then sit, down, sit, down, etc.

20. Tracking – This is one of our favourite things to do with our shepherd. Hiding a toy or a person and have your dog find that toy or person. This is a great way to put their nose to work and tire them out mentally and physically.

How Much Exercise?

You don’t want to over-exercise your dog. If the dog really wants to stop, don’t push them passed that point especially if they are under a year of age. Many breeders don’t want dogs doing stairs or going for runs until over a year or even older.

A veterinarian we talked to that specialized in police dogs said it was ok to exercise the dogs, just not passed the point of them wanting to stop.

Note: When doing something high energy like fetch it is always good to warm the dog up first. Call them from a stay or have someone hold onto them. Try and get them to jog over to you, stay and walk away and call them again. Do whatever you can to warm up the muscles first. Then begin into more intense exercise.

Also watch for a dog that puts torque on their joints when playing a game like fetch. For some dogs it is better to have them come over and sit next to you. You throw the ball and it is a straight run from there for them to chase the ball.

Caution: Never feed a dog a meal and then exercise them heavily. This is especially important for larger barrel chested dogs. The dog can get bloat where their stomach twists. We have heard you have on average of 30 minutes to get the dog in for surgery otherwise they would usually die.

Cold water in a hot climate can also cause bloat.

It is good to wait a full hour before any heavy exercise much like you shouldn’t swim for 45-60 min after a big meal.