The Importance of Adding Mental Exercise to Your Dogs Routine
Have you seen those people that walk their dogs by letting them run alongside their car? In my neighborhood there’s a few people that do that, and although I admire their commitment to give their dog physical exercise, but they’re missing out on so much. Their dogs don’t get to stop & explore the neighborhood or meet new people, and not to mention it just looks weird & dangerous. But at least they’re getting out with their dogs, right?
Maybe, maybe not. Yes – it’s good physical exercise, but it’s not necessarily fulfilling their dogs mental or social needs. Keeping most dogs happy is about more than just physical exercise – it’s about adding mental exercise to your dogs routine. By letting your dog sniff around on walks or meet a few new people they’re getting more out of that walk than just a decent workout – they’re getting a chance to use their brains & explore.
For many dogs it’s the one time a day they get that “yipee! I’m free” moment – give them a chance to enjoy it and sniff around a bit. Walking alone isn’t why the daily dog walk is so important, it’s the chance for your dog to get out and see & smell what’s going on in your neighborhood.
Dogs have been bred for thousands of years to work alongside us, and it’s our job to find new and creative ways to keep that role satisfied. A quick jog alongside your car is great cardio, but it’s not giving their brain much of a workout. Like us our dogs thrive with “jobs” to do, things that keep their minds occupied.
Not all dogs need hours of mental exercise each day, but you’d be amazed at how much of a difference 5 minutes can make.
A Tired Dog is a Good Dog, But It’s More Than Just Physical
We’ve all heard that a tired dog is a good dog, but there’s more a well behaved dog than just wearing them out physically. A dog that’s put on a treadmill isn’t getting the same sort of mental stimulation or social interaction that a dog on a long hike is.
But that’s the problem with most advice – it doesn’t give you the whole story. Yes physical exercise is necessary and good for your dog, but it’s far from the only daily routine they need to be happy. And while giving your dog more physical exercise is a great idea considering half of our pets are overweight it’s not a substitute for training if your dog is exhibiting behavior problems.
Come Up With a Routine That Works for Your Dog
While many behavioral problems stem from boredom the answer isn’t always add more exercise. Many times just adding in 5 minutes of training or interactive play each day can help alleviate those issues.
Keeping your dog busy, happy and healthy is a balancing act. You need to find the right combination of activities that help keep your dog busy & entertained, not ones that just wear him out physically.
We all know that a tired dog is a good dog, but when your dog has ran 5 miles & still acts a fool it’s a little discouraging to say the least. And from what I understand that’s not uncommon at all for athletic breeds like Huskies. If your dog is still amped up after a nice jog you’re not alone – not all dogs get worn out from physical activity alone, and in some cases it just gives them more energy.
Give Your Dog Some Physical & Mental Exercise Each Day
The theory that a tired dog is a good dog isn’t exactly bad – but it doesn’t account for all dogs. I’m not saying to do less exercise with your dog – I’m saying that many dogs need mental exercise added in as well.
My dog is more relaxed after a quick walk & game of tug than she is after a long hike. Each dog has their own mental & physical demands, but luckily it’s not hard to find out what makes them happy – dog are pretty open when it comes to showing appreciation.
Add in just 5 extra minutes of interactive play or training each day and go from there. Some dogs will thrive with more – but it’s up to you to create that routine that works for your dog – the one that keeps them happy.
So rather than just saying a tired dog is a good dog I like to say a happy dog is a good dog. And that happiness comes from keeping your dog busy with multiple activities – not just physical ones.
Physical Exercise Makes Some Dogs More Active
There are some dogs – my Laika included – that get more revved up the more exercise she gets. We can’t jog 5 miles a day even if she was game – she has arthtiris and although she’s always ready for exercise she’ll be feeling it alter.
The physical activity we do does keep her in shape, but it does nothing to calm her mind. That’s when I have to get creative and start giving her a job to do in our down time.
One of the simplest ways to tire Laika out is to take her for a walk & then play a quick game of find the treats afterward. If I skip that second game she’ll lay down for 10 minutes & be right back up & ready to go. That added mental activity is what really tires her out.
You don’t have to get anything fancy to tire out your dog mentally. Play a game of tug, practice some nose work games or work on a new trick. 5 minutes of anything along those lines wears out my dog more than a 4 mile hike.
Don’t Underestimate The Importance of Interactive Play
A game of tug might seem like a silly game, but for your dog they’re working on impulse control the whole time – and that can be mentally exhausting. Don’t under estimate the importance of adding in some play, there’s growing evidence that interactive play might be the best indicator of a dog’s quality of life:
There is a growing acceptance among scientists that play is very, very important and the type and frequency of play are a really good indicator of a dog’s quality of life. – Mark Evans former RSPCA chief vet
It goes back to a dogs natural work ethic. They’ve been bred to work alongside us, and part of that is keeping up. So while those physical demands like a long job might come naturally to many dogs that job part – well that’s where the real work comes in.
Add a Little Training or Interactive Play to Your Dogs Routine
5 minutes of interactive play goes a long way when it comes to keeping your dog happy & healthy. After your daily walk add in a quick game of tug or ‘hide the treats.’ There’s a lot of simple indoor games you can play, choose a few that your dog enjoys and add them into your daily routine.
Those 5 minutes are so important for your dog, but something that’s often overlooked. Like us they love a routine, and once you add in a little “work” for them you they’ll be more relaxed and calm.Whether that work is getting their meals out of a food puzzle, stuffing a Kong or helping you with your laundry is up to you.
Your Dogs Job Doesn’t Have to be Complex
Not all of us have access to a flock of sheep for our dogs to herd, and not all of us with dogs that love to use their nose is part of a search & rescue team. But what we can do is provide our dogs with simple activities to do at home – and it’s worth every single minute.
We can’t all provide our dogs with those jobs they were originally intended for – but we can improvise and still meet those natural instincts they have. They want to work with us, they want to please us, and they want us to give them something meaningful to do.
So yes a tired dog is a good dog, but there’s a lot more to it than a 5 mile jog. Adding more physical exercise is fine, but it won’t solve all of your dogs behavioral problems.
You can keep your dog entertained just by adding in 5 minutes of extra play each day. A happy dog is a good dog, and that happiness comes from creating a routine that works for your dog – one that includes physical & mental exercise.
How Do You Keep Your Dog Happy & Entertained?
Is a nice long walk or job good enough for your dog each day? Do you mix it up with some games & training exercises? Does your dog get even more amped up after a long walk like Laika? How do you find the right balance?