Is your dog getting the proper outlets they need to be successful?
Often we train high drive and working line dogs that thrive during their training programs, but then some return home only to slowly creep back into old behaviors. They are still fluent in their obedience commands, and the owners are reinforcing boundaries and corrections, but something is still missing in their communication. If this is how you feel, we need to step back and see if we are trying to make the dog something they are not or not meeting their genetic needs.
Dogs need purpose and outlets that suit their genetic needs and desires. They are not robots or projections of humans without a will or intrinsic needs. Understanding your dog for who they are will deepen your relationship and bond with them, creating mutual respect.
How do you know if your dog is getting what they need to thrive?
First, we have to separate mental vs. physical stimulation.
Mental stimulation is anything that activates, challenges or enriches your dog’s mind. Examples can include:
*Integrating basic obedience into your day.
*Interactive toys such as stuffed Kongs and Treat Puzzles
*Impulse control exercises such as a dog holding a place command when guests enter your home or remaining in a heel position around squirrels or other dogs at a park.
*Maintaining healthy routines and boundaries in the home environment, such as not bolting out of doors, waiting to be released for feedings, and restricting rooms.
*Tracking or hunting games.
Physical stimulation ensures your dog gets the correct amount of exercise and activities. Examples can include:
*Running or biking
*Playing with other dog friends
*Flyball, agility, or other focused dog sports
I did not include doggie daycare or dog parks in my physical or mental stimulation list. Because of the unpredictable nature of these parks, we have no way to ensure healthy interactions, play, and constructive learning occur. Allowing your dog in an area with 15 plus dogs and thinking they are burning the correct outlets, whether in their mind or physically, is naive and risky.
Regarding dog daycares, you could be creating more anxious energy and physical endurance than you are trying to relieve. Dogs at daycares are highly aroused and stimulated for 4-8 hours a day, sometimes multiple times a week. Imagine taking a toddler to Disney World that much. You would create a little monster!
Meeting your dog where they are mentally, physically, and maturity-wise will allow for a better relationship for the both of you. If you need help knowing the correct ratio for your dog, reach out to our trainers at The Doghouse.