We all know that dogs and people need exercise, and if they don’t get enough you can see problems develop. Kids stuck in the house may well begin to scream and run and beat up their siblings – they’re not getting their need for physical exercise met so they’re finding outlets that you don’t like very much.
On the other hand, if you (or your kids) get a ton of exercise, rather than “meeting a need”, what you may be doing is building your endurance, so now you have a cycle – exercise to clear your head, develop your endurance, need more exercise, etc.
I see “breed appropriate” outlets the same way. Some dogs really do appear to need outlets for their needs, needs such as high levels of desire to bite or hunt, desire to chase, etc, and their own choices might no be so great from your point of view. A dog who wants to chase might chase…cars, people, bikes, etc.
So an outlet might be….frisbee, ball play, playing with other dogs, chasing squirrels at the park, etc. All good options!
But we also need to remember that we are creating both stamina and desire for those outlets because the drives/outlets that you use are the ones you build.
So how does one handle this? If the dog needs an outlet to be satisfied, you don’t have access to the root interest (such as sheep for a border collie), but too much makes the interest stronger?
Don’t allow inappropriate outlets. The more your dog chases cars or bikes or whatever, the stronger the development of that outlet will become.
Select outlets that you can maintain and that work for you. Playing ball, frisbee, or chase with the neighbor’s dog or the squirrels in the park are great options but with two caveats: be aware that you are also building up that endurance, and keep an eye on your future interests with that dog – might you encounter conflict?
For example, if your prey outlet is playing with dogs and you plan to compete in agility, that’s fine BUT be aware that the sight of dogs running agility may cause you some issues. This doesn’t mean it WILL cause you issues but you will need to pay attention and head off problems at the pass if you see them developing.
The other area to keep an eye on is your dog’s behavior after engaging in your chosen activity. After a short period to calm down, your dog should look relaxed and satisfied – at least for a good while. If your dog appears more agitated as a result of the activity, something isn’t working there. Head in a new direction. As with all things, the behavior of the dog should drive your choices for that dog.
The more you do of an activity that the dog enjoys, the more the dog will want to do it, so pick wisely.
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This post rings true! Not long ago, I began a simple ball game with my border collie. I nudge the ball with my foot and she circles around it, switching direction on cue. It looks totally bland and boring, but she loves it. I think of it as an ideal “drive tapper” because she always wants to do it, but when we stop the game, she’ll rest. It doesn’t amp her up. By contrast, chasing a ball (which she also loves) will sometimes make her a bit restless.
In regards to your dog feeling satisfied and relaxed after engaging in the activity, ideally that could be achieved in the presence of opportunity for continued activity? If agitation continues in the presence, but decreases away from the presence, could it be a training/clarity issue or would you recommend changing activities? Thanks for always making me think!
I’m okay with the dog remaining somewhat agitated in the presence of the stimulus, as long as if I move away the dog can settle. If the sport requires otherwise, a dog that can be calm in spite of agitation, then I would approach that somewhat differently, largely dependent on the dog and the needs of the sport.
What do you think about those plush animal toys with the squeakers. Is that just building the puppies desire to chase, catch, and destroy the little real life creatures or is it no big deal?
I think it’s no big deal. They know what it is.