Offering sufficient physical and mental stimulation for dogs on a regular, daily basis to help them burn off pent up mental and physical energy is extremely important if you want them to be mentally and physically fulfilled. Fulfilling a dog both mentally and physically in turn is imperative for his overall health and happiness, as well as helping to adjust his behaviour.
Fulfilling a Dog Both Mentally and Physically
Essentially, anything that happens fast or obsessive burns physical energy, while slower things based in concentrating, waiting and working burn mental energy. Combining the two by offering plenty of physical exercise and establishing a structured routine allows you to fulfil your dog’s need for mental and physical fulfilment and can help in getting even the most difficult of dogs to ‘change his ways’ for the better. There are many ways to mentally and physically challenge and subsequently fulfil your dog – and here are some of them…
Mentally Fulfilling Your Dog
Ways to offer mental stimulation for dogs and fulfil your dog mentally include, for example:
- Walking, preferably with your dog at our side, with a loose lead/leash
- Walking your dog with a backpack on him. Place two to 10 pounds of rice or sand into the backpack or begin with an empty pack, stop somewhere along the way and slowly add weight to the pack while having your dog wait for you to finish. This helps dogs to concentrate.
- Long downs and sits. Get your pooch to lay down/sit and stay in the down/sit position until he is completely relaxed and calm before releasing him. Begin with a down/sit for 1 minute and gradually work up to downs/sits of 30 minutes.
- Obedience work. Getting your dog to concentrate & perform tasks is a great mental workout and a wonderful way to bond/strengthen your relationship with him.
- Visit social places (i.e. a Farmers’ or other market, Home Depot, a car boot sale, etc.) and practise long downs until he is calm and relaxed, then reward him. For many dogs, having to be calm when there are other, excited dogs around can be a real mental challenge.
Search games and sheep herding are also fantastic ways of providing your dog with mental fulfilment.
Physically Fulfilling Your Dog
Ways to fulfil your dog physically include, for instance:
- Playing fetch games
- Biking (biketowleash.com)
- Running on a treadmill (until he gets used to it, this is also a mental challenge)
- Agility training (until he learns it, this is also a mental challenge)
Visiting dog parks to play with other dogs is another great way to physically fulfil your best friend – as, of course, is sheep herding.
Combining Exercise and Structure into a Daily Routine
There is no ideal, ‘one-fits-all’ routine, so establish a daily routine that:
- Provides your dog with everything he needs to be mentally and physical fulfilled
- Fits into your daily life/work schedule
All dogs require physical and mental exercise, and, in many cases, that is all it takes to “fix” a dog’s issues. If your dog has more serious or intense issues, adding more structure may be necessary before changes can happen. But what exactly is “structure”?
To a dog, structure is order – and as far as he is concerned, order brings peace. To you, structure is being pro-active and having & executing a regular (daily) plan of what it is you want from your dog. The more serious your dog’s issues are, the more structured you will need to be.
A good example of structure is to put your dog into a specific “place” while you and your family eat dinner and making him stay there throughout the whole process (to help some dogs understand the concept, they may have to be anchored to “that place” with a leash). Have a designated “place” in every area of your house where your dog goes whenever you are within that area.
The daily routine shown below has been very useful for owners who seriously need help with their dogs’ behaviour. You can adjust this routine & exercises to best fit your own schedule and requirements:
- Make a long mental walk the first thing you do with your dog in the morning.
- Give your dog some ‘free time’ in the house or garden/yard to relax.
- Feed your dog.
- Next, your dog must be in a designated “place” while you get on with your morning routine. He must stay put there during the entire time it takes for you to complete your routine.
- Following this, work with him on basic commands (down, place & come are especially useful) for 5 to 10 minutes.
- After this obedience practise, we suggest playing with your dog, doing something he enjoys.
- After waiting for him to calm, bring him inside and let him relax for 10 minutes or so, then crate him. He has been exercised, played and worked with; he has eaten – and now it is natural for him to rest. As long as he is fulfilled, you should be able to leave him crated for several hours without any problems.
- When you are ready, let him out of his crate (making sure not to let him out until he is completely calm) and out to do ‘his business’ in his ‘bathroom spot’. This also a good time to have another play with him.
- Finish playing, get him to calm down and bring him back indoors.
- Dinner is another excellent opportunity to “place” him. Again, he must stay put for the entire duration of you finishing your dinner.
- Feed him and then take him for his evening walk.
- Repeat this routine (or your adjusted version of it) daily.
Sometimes underlying stress/anxiety issues mean even fulfilling a dog both mentally and physically by bringing plenty of exercise and structure into his life fail to change behaviours. If you are struggling to adjust your dog’s behaviour due to such issues, it may become necessary to get professional help.
Our behaviourists have years of experience in helping dogs of all types and ages to overcome anxiety/stress-related issues and change their behaviour. Get their help & advice and/or make an appointment by calling us on 07776761289 or contacting us online today.