A tired dog is a good dog. You've most likely heard that before, but that's not entirely true. What matters is not just the amount of exercise your dog is getting or the amount of energy you are burning. What really matters most is finding the ideal combination of ways to burn energy for your particular dog.
Most people think of burning energy as physical exercise. Walks. Playing fetch. Playing at the dog park or at day care. Going for a hike. While it is important to get plenty of physical exercise, keep in mind that the more you burn, the more stamina you build! Some people simply end up building a super-athlete who needs more and more exercise to wear them out.
Dogs really need a combination of physical activity and mental stimulation – ways to use their brains. Some dogs don't get enough of either. Some dogs get one but not the other. Each dog's needs will vary. The smarter your dog, the more mental stimulation they will need. The more physically energetic your dog is, the more physical activity they will need. The most challenging dogs are high energy and smart!
So what does mental stimulation mean? Here are some examples of ways to burn mental energy:
- Training for “obedience” cues or manners. These are the “traditional” cues we think of like sit, down, stay, come, heel, etc.
- Training for “tricks” such as shake, spin, roll over, and others.
- Training using luring, capturing, shaping, targeting, social learning or any combination of these to teach the above-listed items or others.
- Nosework. Utilizing the nose also helps burn energy. The sport of K9 Nosework, Tracking or other activities that get a dog using the nose apply in this category.
- Dog sports typically involve physical activity but can also provide a great mix of mental stimulation too. Think of things like agility or freestyle.
- Games and puzzles. Interactive food puzzle toys are one example. Playing find it or hide-and-seek games (finding treats, toys or people depending on what the dog likes).
- See the video below of me demonstrating some of the tricks and activities I have taught Romeo that give him both physical and mental exercise.