Does your adult dog destructively chew on things, is he hyperactive, constantly trying to get your attention or paces, can't settle, nervous or anxious? Are you trying to physically wear them out so they don't have pent up energy? Well there is a chance that your dog may actually need more mental stimulation and learn how to relax and not actually more exercise.
Did you know that providing excessive physical exercise will only increase your dog’s stamina and in return make him need more and more exercise? It's true - I have many customers who start with one walk and by the month's end the dog needs two. What most people are missing is the key factor dog's need which is MENTAL exercice! In addition to your dog's normal daily exercise you also need to provide daily mental stimulation & enrichment so that your dog’s BRAIN can do some work too. If your dog is under 2 years old and/or you have a nervous dog, or super intense breed such as a hunting, herding or terrier – then this is an EVERY DAY MUST!
Try these fun mental & training exercises to help create Doggie Zen in your home!!
• Feed your dog his ENTIRE meal out of a food dispensing toy. Such as the Kong Wobbler or this ball that is great for beginners. This encourages slow eating which will keep your dog from getting an upset tummy. But more importantly it is very mentally stimulating for your dog as he tries to get the food out of the toy, chase it, use his nose & brain to figure it out.
• Practice Sit/Stays and Down/Stays all over the house as often as you can – leading up to being able to leave the dog’s sight. This can be done while you sit on the couch during commercials. Training is a big mental game for your dog and will really wear him/her out! Plus STAY works on impulse control... hold on a minute little doggie!
• Don’t allow your dog to practice behaviors that make him anxious. Be sure to not let your dog watch out your front windows or street facing fences. Running this fence or barking out the window will make your dog anxious and stress your dog all day long. Is not good entertainment for a dog and will create more problems such as territorial aggression and more anxiety.
• When you aren’t feeding your dog from the mentally stimulating food-dispensing toy - use individual pieces as rewards for oodles of five-second training sessions throughout the day or evening. These preservative free Beef Lung treats are amazing.
• Play mental games like: Search (hide treats and toys), Skill-Chaining (sit-down-sit), Teach a trick (go through your legs, spin, shut the door, play dead, crawl or shake) or get one of the genius games found online and at many pet stores. (Check out these Trixie Puzzles)
• Be sure not to let your dog be destructive with his/her toys. This promotes nervous destruction since it is so fun for your dog to pull fluff and tear fabric. As soon as a toy is ripped – it goes in the trash. You may need to only let your dog play with certain toys at certain times when you play along and supervise.
• Teach your dog to ‘Go to your bed” or crate and give him a filled KONG toy or bully stick to work on while he’s there every day. Down time where the dog can completely settle is important for growth and relaxation. Also make sure you are making confinement fun and keep the dog safe if destructive when unattended.
• Teach your dog to self settle when you are done playing. Say "Ok that's all" and ignore your dog for a bit. You want your dog to realize that you are done playing and he/she should move on and go lay down. Try to not let playtime get too rough. Know your dog’s limit and play games that are more structured like fetch rather than chase and wrestle.
• Look at the food you are feeding. If any of the ingredients are Corn, Whole Grain Corn or Rice or Barley then your dog’s food is heavy in carbs. Carbs metabolize as sugar and this can make a dog hyper. Also – if your dog does not like his food and leaves food in the bowl he may be anxious out of hunger.
• Recent studies are finding that dogs that lick obsessively, destructive or try to “eat everything" may actually have tummy or gut issues. It is recommended to use a grain free food in this case and give the dog a probiotic to help balance out the gut floura. I use www.NWCNaturals.com Pet Biotics.