Solving Behavioral Problems with Exercise

dreamstime_s_1353286Sadly, many great dogs are abandoned every year for a number of reasons that are entirely fixable. Most commonly, behavioral issues such as separation anxiety, hyperactivity, excessive barking, and destructive tendencies are to blame. In many instances, these behavioral problems are not only able to be managed with proper training, but they are also entirely preventable with appropriate exercise.

Why do Dogs Need Exercise?
Even though dogs have evolved to share many similarities with humans, being a couch potato is not one of them (for most breeds). Many dogs still have the innate drives of their closest ancestors, wolves, which is to live a nomadic lifestyle in search of food and shelter. Additionally, dogs that are from the working or sporting groups (i.e. Siberian Huskies, German Shepherds, German Shorthaired Pointers) have been specifically bred to thrive on strenuous activity. For these dogs, the urge to exercise is as deeply ingrained as the urge for beagles to chase rabbits.

Why Does Lack of Exercise Make Dogs Behave Poorly?
A common mistake that humans make when sharing their home with pets is expecting the animals to have the same needs as humans. Dogs have natural instincts to hunt, play, exercise, chew, and dig because those are activities that will help them survive. Dogs need an outlet for these behaviors – often in the form of a job – or else they can become bored and restless. In this way, dogs can be compared to children. Would you expect a child to behave well at school if not given an opportunity to go outside and play at recess? Instead, you likely understand that a lack of exercise in children leads to fidgeting, which leads to lashing out behaviorally. The same is true for our canine friends.

Do Certain Breeds Need Exercise More than Others?
Thanks to the diversification of dog breeds over the past 200 – 300 years, the answer is a resounding yes. If you are a runner and are looking for a dog that will make a great exercise partner, a Bulldog or Great Dane is not the pet for you. While every dog is ultimately an individual, dogs from the working and sporting groups generally need more exercise than dogs from other groups. This is especially true for northern breeds, such as Siberian Huskies, as they are prone to destructive tendencies when adequate exercise is not provided.

How Can I Exercise my Dogs?
There are numerous ways to exercise a high-energy dog. If you are an athlete, such as a runner, consider bringing your dog along for some canine-assisted mileage. If you prefer to ride a bicycle, look for an attachment that will allow your dog to safely run alongside you. If your dog is a breed that has a history of pulling, looking into urban mushing activities such as carting, sledding, bikejoring, or weight pulling. If you simply are not able to exercise your dogs adequately yourself, you should also consider teaching your dogs to run on a treadmill or hiring a dog walker or local runner to help your pet receive the exercise he or she deserves.