Chapter 2: The Remedy
We’ve established that, for whatever reasons, your dog isn’t receiving the exercise he or she needs via on-lead walks or trips to the park - and it shows in your dog's behaviour.
To improve your dog’s behaviour, I prescribe:
In more detail:
Exercise daily. Use the techniques on this website to gradually build up to a mixture of thirty minutes and one hour of exercise per day (more if you wish!), with (possibly) one day off per week.
Do regular obedience training. Take a course or do private classes to learn some basic skills, then make five to ten minutes of practice part of your daily routine.
Read about dog psychology and behaviour to clue in on how to put yourself firmly in the position of leader. This is not about domination, it's about being a strong leader who your dog can look to for guidance in a world that he or she doesn't really understand. This is of utmost importance in a dangerous situation (and as a city/suburbs dweller surrounded by cars, deadly danger is always just around the corner).
Never skimp on cuddles - they're an extremely important part of your relationship with your dog. The bond with your dog will strengthen, and that in turn will bolster the results of the other three techniques you're implementing.
From A Purely Physical Point Of View
So why is exercise so important? The simple fact is that all animals (including human animals) need exercise. A dog must stay active in order to be a physically healthy dog.
Being overweight can create medical conditions in your dog such as diabetes and heart problems. And being overweight is not only unhealthy, it’s uncomfortable too. This goes double for dogs with conditions such as arthritis and hip dysplasia: they’ll suffer tenfold if overweight, so keeping a dog with such conditions trim is extra-important.
Then there’s obesity. Overweight might be unhealthy and uncomfortable, but obesity can kill your dog, and it’s an ever-increasing problem in Western countries for many dogs.
Where Does Exercise Come Into The Picture In The Quest For Behaviour Improvement?
But how in the world can exercise be so important when it comes to improving a dog’s behaviour? Shouldn't behavioural problems be fixed with behavioural techniques and obedience training? Well, yes, they should, but a dog bursting with energy simply won’t be able concentrate enough for you to put those techniques and that training into practice.
In certain cases, upping the dog’s exercise will automatically improve or even eradicate the unwanted behaviour. For other cases, it will take a mixture of exercise, obedience training, leadership, and affection.
But I Already Walk My Dog For Hours Every Day!
Are you thinking that your dog already exercises plenty every day and he or she is still overly-energetic? Well, believe me when I say: I hear you!
Before exploring the techniques I've detailed on this website, I was convinced that my dog Jasmin would (with short breaks for toilet, food, and drink) easily on-lead walk for eight hours a day if she could.
I had two choices. One: quit my job and spend most of my waking hours walking Jasmin. Or two: find ways of exercising her intensely enough to drain her energy within the same amount of time I was already exercising her. Clearly choice number one is insane, so I did the latter (and hence, this website).
Going from what you’re doing now to using the techniques on this website, you’ll be dramatically increasing the intensity of your dog’s activity. And because of the heightened intensity, you’ll find that your dog will suddenly be getting the amount of exercise he or she needs within the same amount of time that was previously not enough.
Make It A Priority
“I try to exercise my dog,” I hear people say, “But I just don’t find the time.”
Try? Did I hear the word try? Don’t try: DO! The word ‘try’ only tells me one thing: that there’s a lot of ‘trying’ going on and not much actual doing. ‘Try’ gives you a ready-made excuse when you fail (“Oh well, I tried.”). Schedule your dog’s exercise into your day and MAKE IT HAPPEN.
As I’m a fitness instructor, people often remark that it must be easy for me to exercise my dogs because I’m already fit. Well, these people are dead wrong: sure I’m fit, but I’m also often exhausted from all the classes I’ve been teaching. In other words, as a fitness instructor it’s often harder to exercise your dogs because you’re so damn tired all the time. If in doubt, you try doing anywhere between two and six fitness classes a day and still find the energy to exercise your dogs. So, now you’ve got no excuses: if I can find the energy to do it, you can too!
SAY NO TO PUPPY MILLS! SAY NO TO ANIMALS IN PETSHOPS! SAY NO TO BREEDERS!
Adopt a homeless animal instead - they all deserve a second chance
It's estimated that 130,000 dogs and 60,000 cats are killed every year in Australia because there are not enough homes for them all. And the global numbers amount to millions upon millions every single year.
Puppy mills are a major contributor to the terrible problem of overpopulation. Puppy mills are essentially 'dog factories' where dogs are forced to churn out litter after litter, with no thought for the welfare of the dogs and all thought for profit. The dogs live in appallingly dirty, cramped conditions all their lives, and when they no longer serve their purpose they're killed, dumped or sold to vivisection laboratories.
Petshops fit into the picture because puppy mills are generally where petshops get their animals from. Furthermore, having animals in shop windows encourages impulse purchases, and adding an animal to your family should be a conscious, careful decision - NOT one to be made while shoe shopping.
Breeders contribute enormously to the tragic statistics above too. And it doesn't matter whether they're professional breeders or backyard breeders, and whether they breed for profit or not, because while there are homeless animals sitting on death row in shelters, any and all animal breeding is utterly irresponsible.
Now, here's where you come in. You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. You can either buy animals from puppy mills, petshops or breeders and be part of the problem. Or you can adopt from a shelter or rescue organisation and be part of the solution.
If I haven't convinced you, visit your local shelter to see the homeless animals. Let their innocent faces convince you that adopting is the only responsible choice to make.
All information and photos are copyright © Despina Rosales.