By Terry Jester
High energy and anxiety are two leading causes of problem behavior in dogs.
Barking, destructive chewing, digging and some forms of aggression can be linked to a dog being too wound up. With this in mind it makes a lot of sense to make sure our dogs get adequate exercise.
But what if you don’t have time to take your dog for a walk? Or what if the weather is too nasty outside? During the winter, owners and their dogs face slick sidewalks, snowmelt chemicals and sub zero temperatures to deal with. How do we get our family dogs out to exercise without putting them in danger of frostbite, toxic chemicals, and slipping on ice?
One of my dog training assistants, Sami, purchased a cheap working treadmill for her high energy Australian kelpie, Dinga.
Dinga loves her treadmill and trots for hours on it, untethered, all by herself. Treadmills are a great way to give your dog the necessary daily exercise to keep him out of trouble, but most dogs will need some training before they will voluntarily take themselves for a stationary run.
First get your dog used to getting on and off the treadmill while it is off. Use treats if necessary.
Then start slowly with the dog leashed and held in position. Once your dog is comfortable with the motion you can tether him to the treadmill for his walk, but never leave the room with your dog tied to the device. If your dog falls in love with the treadmill and can be on it without being tied, fine, but if tied, do not leave him alone.
Always make sure that you are right there in case of a problem. Do not over do it. Most dogs are good for only a 20- or 30-minute session and only if they are already in pretty good shape. If you’re having difficulty with getting your dog to accept or stay on the treadmill, one session with an experienced dog trainer is usually all it takes.
No room for a treadmill? Then use stairs to your advantage. Slick wood or metal stairs may be too slippery but carpeted stairs can be a great way to exercise a dog that likes to fetch. Simply throw his toy down the stairs and make him climb the stairs for you to throw it again. It won’t be long before his tongue is hanging.
No stairs? Try doggie daycare a few times a week. Dog-friendly dogs can get plenty of exercise playing with other friendly dogs.
The key to a happy, nondestructive dog is keeping him tired. Especially if you have a young dog and you are gone many hours a day.
Use your imagination to get his heart rate up and his paws moving.
Tired dogs rarely get in trouble. By giving your dog plenty of exercise, it won’t be long before both of you are happier.
Terry Jester is a nationally recognized expert on companion animal behavior. She is regarded by The Humane Society of the United States as being, “Humane and effective in dealing with problem pets and their owners.” Connect with Terry on her website.