Meet My Dog: Twirling Dervish
by Barbara De Groodt
So, now you’ve done it! You adopted a great little dog that seemed to have nice energy at the shelter. You, however, now live with Larry Labrador, who just needs a job, but you don’t have any idea how to get him one. Where does one go for a job for a dog? Unemployment office?
Maybe you bought a breed that is known for its working ability. You thought “I’ll get a dog with some energy that will make me take him for walks and get outside to enjoy our beautiful area.” Now reality has set in and time is a luxury you don’t have, but you have fallen in love with a very active dog. What to do? First you need to identify if your dog is really active, just bored or hyper-vigilant. Dogs we classify as hyper-vigilant are dogs that always seem to be on alert, always scanning the horizon on walks, doing sentry duty in the house or yard, dogs that seem to take a bit of time to settle down after they are startled or just don’t seem to know how to settle down. These dogs have issues that are not activity based and the protocols for them are completely different from those for busy dogs; please seek professional assistance for those bored/vigilant dogs.
Good portions of my practice are active dogs; the average walk around the block barely scratches the surface of their energy levels. I have always believed that part of a good dog is a balanced dog. If I teach one behavior, I also want to teach the counter to that behavior. If I want my dog to give me a hug when I come home, I also want to teach him to sit when I don’t ask for a hug. I want him to think as well as do. You need to provide physical as well as mental stimulation for your busy dog. So instead of just a walk, how about every third house you have him “sit,” every yellow house he does a “down,” every house with blooming flowers he does a 3-minute “stay.” Make your walk an exercise for body and mind.
If you have time and want other things to do, try agility, tracking, herding, rally-o, drafting, lure coursing, backpacking, swimming, or treadmills. You should be able to find a local group of enthusiasts for each of these forms of exercise through a quick internet search. We do a “fun-gility” class that really is for dogs to burn off some of that excess energy and to have fun with other dogs. Personally, I think tracking is one of the best for taxing the mind and body, for both of you.
As with people, be sure to check with your veterinarian before beginning a new exercise regime, and build up slowly. Several small sessions are better than one long one. We are fortunate to have several good doggie daycares in our area: check some out. If you don’t have extra time, do some of these simple exercises at home: feeding your dog out of a Buster Cube™ instead of a bowl makes him have to use a bit of grey matter to figure out how to get his food; a stuffed Kong™ can do the same but is a bit easier to figure out; try hiding his food in little food caches around the yard or house. Be creative, have fun, make your dog work and think! Hug them closely; they don’t stay with us long enough.
Barbara De Groodt is the owner of From the Heart Animal Behavior Counseling and Dog Training in Salinas, CA and has been an animal behavior counselor for over 30 years. Barbara was one of the original founders of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, APDT (under the guidance of Dr. Ian Dunbar); she’s a professional member of International Association Canine Professionals and several behavior organizations, as well as a certified animal trainer. She is a regular speaker at Western Career College’s Animal Health department and lectures around the world to veterinary groups, law enforcement agencies, trainers and pet owners. From the Heart is located in Salinas, CA. She can be reached at (831) 783-0818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.