Eureka! Dog Blog

Dog Training and Behavior weblog

Mens Sana in Cane Sano (exercise and socialize)

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Dogs at Play

Dogs at Play at Eureka! Canine Behavior Specialists

Recently, we have seen a lot of dogs who suffer from severe problems stemming from lack of one or both of exercise and socialization.  Let’s be very clear about this – dogs need exercise, and they need to meet other people and dogs.

Left alone in their own house or back yard, dogs do not develop an aerobic exercise program.  They spend their time either resting, or getting bored and destructive, or on high alert, threatening anyone who comes too close to their house or yard.  Dogs that very rarely meet other dogs become over-excited when another dog appears – that may translate into excited barking, pulling and lunging, or fearful cowering away.  Typically, the person with them attempts to control this behavior, with the result that it is even worse on the next occasion.

Dog parks are a great way for well-exercised, well-socialized dogs to meet each other.  Unfortunately, some people take their dogs to dog parks instead of exercising or socializing them.  When you take your dog to a dog park, make sure you keep a careful eye out for any out-of-control dogs that you want your dog to avoid.  A healthy dog will run, bark, and want to play (although not necessarily with every other dog) – none of these by itself means the dog is out of control.

Taking your dog for a walk every day, or participating in an energetic activity like agility, will make a huge difference to your dog’s mental and physical health.  Apart from the pure physical exercise, and the bonding between dog and human, a dog who has had the chance to go and sniff and explore outside his own back yard is stimulated and content.  A dog who has not had that opportunity becomes bored, destructive, and difficult to control.

Try to include your dog in your life.  You probably go out to work or to meet people almost every day.  If your dog stays at home, and only ever sees you, she may become fearful or over-excited when she meets someone else.  Again, this behavior makes it less likely that you will include her at the next opportunity.  The more you can introduce your dog to other dogs and people, the more comfortable she will become in those situations, and the more welcome she will be the next time.  There are sometimes public events where dogs are welcome, like parades.  On shopping trips, dogs are often allowed into pet food stores, and to sit outside at coffee shops.  Keep these expeditions fun and brief, and be ready to leave if your dog starts to show signs of stress – the point is to let your dog enjoy the interactions, and learn to be calm when meeting strangers.  Your dog would much rather be with you than home alone!

A dog who gets plenty of exercise and frequent opportunities to meet other dogs and people is usually a dog who is a pleasure to be around.  It is not natural to deny your dog these things, and it often results in behavior problems.  If your dog has severe socialization problems, contact a trainer or behaviorist to assist you in fixing these problems – for your sake as well as your dog’s.

Written by eurekapaws

February 16, 2009 at 10:20 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Great article! It make so much sense. It looks obvious seen on the written page but the obvious is sometimes the hardest thing to see. Our busy lives add to our disconnect on so many levels, we need to make more time to see, feel and connect again. Our dogs, like ourselves, don’t thrive with out “caring”. The difference is we have a voice but the sadness of neglect seen in their eyes is very real and profoundly heartbreaking.


    March 10, 2009 at 3:04 pm

  2. Thanks, Tish! You’re right, it is obvious if you look at it through the dog’s eyes. Unfortunately, most people expect their dog to see the world through their eyes.


    March 10, 2009 at 10:30 pm

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