5 Exercise Tips for Your Dog's Body, Brain, and Behavior

You come home after a long day at work and find out that your four-footed angel has shredded your favorite throw pillow and tipped over the garbage, strewing it across the house. Your frustration is second only to your desire to find out how to stop your dog from behaving this way.

This scenario is more common than you think and has a simple explanation. We tend to think of dogs as being completely domesticated and an extension of our human world, when, in fact, they have more in common with their wild ancestors that you might realize. 

Dogs make great human companions. Unfortunately, what we neglect to remember is that dogs are relatives of wolves, and once you look at their habits, it is easy to see why they might be acting up. Old habits die hard – dogs were never meant to be cooped up with little activity, and if your dog is a working breed this might exacerbate the problem even more. So, if your dog is chewing or destroying things in your home, it is likely because they are bored. 

With no outlet for that boredom, many dogs will engage in undesirable activities, and even worse, they may become anxious and depressed.  Check out these exercise tips for your dog's body, brain, and behavior.

1. Exercise can reduce your dog’s anxiety

Think about the days when you are so restless you just have to get out of the house and do something. Dogs are no different. They were never meant to be couch potatoes while you go off to work and go about your day. That anxiety starts as pent up energy and the need for stimulation of any sort. Find games that challenge your pet such as hide and seek or letting your dog determine your walking route. If you have a working breed, consider teaching them a sport such as frisbee or agility. Not only will it be a good mental and physical outlet for them, but it will be good for you as well!

2. Walks provide mental stimulation

You might think walking is boring, but it is for certain that your dog will not agree with you. Your pup's super-sensitive nose will engage, and your dog will probably spend more time sniffing around at the world than they will walk. All this amounts to stimulation as your dog explores the environment. Add in a few new people and other dogs to meet, and your beloved pet will be much happier. Keep in mind that your dog is a social animal – the more comfortable they are with their surroundings and the more friends they make, the happier they will be.

3. Challenges to master are beneficial

Training your dogs to do tricks has more benefits than just showing off to your friends. Teaching your dog a new trick gives them brain-benefits. Play games with verbal cues to hone your companion's listening skills. Show your dog how to scent track using treats or a favorite toy as a way to combine the body and the brain. Challenge your dog by teaching them to walk a balance beam or jump through a hoop. Not only does your social dog get time bonding with you, but you are also expanding their horizons.

4. Your dog welcomes a job

Dogs love to work and many of them are not happy if they do not get a chance. Retrievers love to retrieve and many of them will do so even if you do not give them a job. Herding dogs loved to herd and pulling dogs are happiest when they are at work. While you might not have a spare flock of sheep for your dog to round up, you can find exercises to engage their natural instincts. Nearly every city offers agility classes for dogs and this is a great way to get working canines moving and burning off energy.

5. Puzzles serve a purpose

If the weather is inclement, or time prohibits a play or exercise session, there are a number of puzzle toys on the market that provide your dog with something fun to do when they are stuck inside or you cannot be home. Most of them involve the use of treats and make your dog work in order to get to them. This simulates wild behavior where dogs must hunt for their food. Making your curious pup work for a treat will help to eliminate chewing and scavenging behavior.

Playing and Exercise are Good for More than Just Your Dog

There are many benefits to engaging in play and exercise for you as well. Having a pet can reduce stress levels, and going for walks is excellent exercise. While you are trying to improve your dog’s body, brain, and behavior, you might just improve yours as well.

A final word of caution, if your dog appears depressed or anxious, it is important to have them checked by a vet. While most behavior problems can be solved by healthy activity, sometimes these symptoms can indicate a physical problem as well. A vet check can ensure your dog is healthy and ready to hit the agility course!

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