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Exercise is Essential

There's an old but wise expression, "A tired dog is a good dog." Dogs need exercise for mental stimulation as well as health reasons. Today's topic is playing, and the information below is drawn from an article sent in by volunteer Brian Daugherty entitled, "Why It's Important for Dogs to Play" by Eamonn Lynch.

Many behavioral problems are rooted in lack of exercise. Such problems include chewing up furnishings to digging up the yard to non-stop barking or jumping on everyone. If the owner isn't taking time to play ball, walk the dog and provide appropriate and appealing toys to occupy the dog, the dog will seek other outlets for pent-up energy. Providing more exercise, mental enrichment and attention can help you avoid or resolve behavioral problems. For many dogs, even a 15-minute play session each day does a world of good.

New Hampshire Dog trainer Gail Fisher recommends retrieving as a good play activity, especially if it involves rewards for the dog as a positive reinforcement. Retrieving is not that time-consuming - few dogs last more than 15 minutes strenuously chasing a tennis ball or Frisbee.

Fisher and other trainers suggest that the person set ground rules and control the start and finish of games played with their dogs. For example, tug of war can be a fun and tiring game, but problems arise when dogs get too excited and bite the person, or if an already confident or dominant dog wins the contest. Dogs use play to determine individuals' places in the pack hierarchy; the human needs to stay (or rise to) the higher level. If the dog wins the tug of war, he or she may interpret that as assuming the alpha position in the family.

Better choices include agility training, which involves an obstacle course that requires the dog to navigate through a course of barriers, tubes and other items. Agility classes are fun for dogs and people alike.

Other pointers:

* Size of a dog is not a major factor in the amount of exercise needed. For example, Jack Russell terriers need more exercise than Newfoundlands.

* Dogs thrive on routine, so try to pick a regular time for play.

* Most canine specialists recommend against owners wrestling with their dogs.

* Diet and health contribute to activity needs and hyperactivity. A healthy diet is essential. Many canine behavior specialists recommend reducing the amount of protein in the diet of dogs who seem hyperactive.

Last Updated: April 26, 2018 (LET) PawSupport