True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise of the body; the two are ever united.
- Wilhelm von Humboldt
This page contains affiliate links and recommendations, which are 100% based upon my experience with these products. If you choose to purchase after clicking a link, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.
The premise of the PAW Method of dog (un)training is Piloting, Activity and Work. Simply utilizing these three components will create the bond of communication you are working towards with your dog. And the communication is key to alleviating some of those unsavory behaviors, such as jumping, barking, and even reactive dogs. In previous posts, I've covered the basics of Piloting and Work, but let's not skip over the big issue: exercise/activity.
Let's just be blunt: most likely your dog is not getting nearly enough activity. I know, I know...you're not a stay-at-home dog parent, and you can't spend 2 hours every day hiking your dog. But just because you're stretched for time doesn't mean your dog can just suddenly not have energy.
At least 70% of my client's issues with their dog's behavior stems from lack of exercise and and abundance of energy.
The problem is everyone thinks that the only way to exercise a dog is by walking them, but that's just not plausible for most dog owners. I would have to take my Border Collie, Arwen, on at least an 8 mile hike everyday to wear her out.
So while yes, I do enjoy hiking, I don't think it's sustainable as an every day adventure. So let's come up with some better ways to wear out your dog.
The walk is still mandatory to prevent Rapunzel Syndrome.
Okay, I made Rapunzel Syndrome up, but run with me on this. What happens after you let Rapunzel out of the tower?
She's either imploded
In other words, there's too much stimuli happening, and she can't process it. Same thing with your dog. Unless you have them acclimated to the outside world, they will be complete twerps when it is time for the sporadic walk.
So walks are imperative, but don't have to be the way you wear your dog out. There are plenty of other ways to wear your dog out.
Aim for a 10 minute daily walk at the minimum.
You can do 10 minutes. And it doesn't even have to be very far; remember to never go farther than your patience level allows. For some of my clients, that's around their block. For others, it's merely up and down their driveways as they and their dog learn the basics of leash walking, as I outline in this video. Some need to start even smaller: walking around in house with their leashed dog.
Wherever you are in your journey to walking your dog without drama, remember to start small. You can always build up.
The collar you choose is important. If you've done a training session with me, you'll see I choose a slip/show collar. This is mainly because it's exceptionally difficult for a dog to wiggle out of (looking at you, harness users), as well as providing a better communication method with your dog. Learn more about leash walking here. And my favorite leashes/collars? Check out below.
All in One Leash/Collar by MayPaw.
Pros: Thin enough to be comfortable, yet durable. All in one design works for people and dogs of all heights. This is my go-to leash, and what Arwen and Ellis walk with. Wonderful for smaller dogs who are hard to fit.
Cons: Can be a bit chafing on your hands until you get used to how to properly hold a leash.
Ruffwear Just-a-Cinch Dog Leash
Pros: A bit more comfortable in hand than MayPaw. Slips easily through ring to ensure a safe walk.
Cons: A bit too thick for smaller dogs.
MayPaw Slip Collar
Pros: Use your favorite leash with this collar for a good hand-feel while walking. Durable, and lightweight.
Cons: Can be a struggle if you have a large dog, especially for smaller people, so be sure to size properly.
So enough about collars and walking. Let's get on to the good stuff: How to wear out your dog effectively, without you needed to be involved every step of the way.
The single most useful thing I've ever purchased out of all the 1am Amazon/Chewy dog supply splurges ever: a dog back pack/day pack.
*Note: I only use these on dogs who are 6 months or older. Talk to your vet before using otherwise.*
All of my dogs have worn them in some fashion. A tiny amount of weight in the pack (more on that below), and you've got a pooped pooch. They wear it all day, as long as you are supervising them (i.e., don't leave them home alone with it on, don't crate them with it, don't go to bed if they're still wearing it). This is the single most effective way to wear out your dog. Learn about how I used it with Ellis here.
As far as what you put in it: rice, dried beans, unpopped popcorn. As far as how much weight? Always err on the side of caution. My 10 month old Border Collie, Arwen, is about 30 lbs, and she only has 3/4 cup of rice on each side. Seriously, take it easy. It's also advisable to call your vet to get their blessing, especially with dogs who are prone to hip dysplasia, floating patella, etc.
Here are some of my choices of backpacks that I've used throughout the years.
Pros: Hands down my favorite. This is the pack that Arwen currently uses. I love the velcro fasteners, the ease of putting it on, and especially how most of the weight is carried closer to the shoulders, rather than in the center of the backpack. It's also durable enough for my Arwen-geddon, who hasn't been able to destroy it yet.
Cons: Honestly, I haven't found any yet. Although I do wish it came in other more visible colors.
Pros: This is the one Ellis wore (nonstop) when I first got him, and it was very durable. It's definitely more...rugged, and more suitable for longer hiking excursions. I like the material, which seems breathable and dries faster.
Cons: More expensive. While more secure on the dog, it's a bit more effort to put on.
Pros: Budget friendly, nice, visible colors, and fast drying. I've been using this one since my own dog Darwin had his, almost 20 years ago.
Cons: A bit more fussy to get on. Not as rugged as other choices, so don't go hiking Appalachia with this one.
As I mentioned, a back pack is the easiest way to wear out your dog, provided you use it judiciously and don't overload it. I personally don't go more than 5% of my dog's body weight at maximum, and I have 2 young, healthy, energetic dogs. You can always add weight, you can never un-damage your dog. When in doubt, consult with your vet.
There are other ways to wear your dog out.
A hard sell, sure, but definitely worth it. I bought my first treadmill for Sparta about 14 years ago off of Craigslist for $100. It provided an easy way for me to exercise her and Orion for years.
I finally bought a brand new one from Walmart for $300 simply because it folds up and fits under my daybed in my office.
Sparta would wear her backpack and keep a normal walking pace on the treadmill. Orion would forgo the backpack, but could run for a full 15 minutes on it at a pretty decent clip. Perfect for snowy days, rainy days, or days where I just can't work in the exercise they need.
Check out the (older) video below about how to treadmill train a dog. Full disclosure: the video is at least 10 years old, so don't judge the haircut. I thought I wanted bangs. Turns out I wanted a therapist. But shoutout to Geronimo the Jack Russell Terrier in the video, who learns the basics in under 10 minutes.
Flirt Pole/Teaser Stick
Yeah...do yourself a favor and don't Google this one. You will come up with exactly what you think you'll come up with .
However, it is one of Arwen's favorite things in the world, and one of the few ways I was able to wear her out before she was old enough to wear a backpack. You use it the same way you'd use a a fishing pole style toy with a cat (no backpack on your dog when playing with this we don't need any torn ACLs).
Don't buy anything, and don't take any classes. Keep it simple, using a broom stick or yard stick propped up between two soup cans as a jump. It's a simple behavior to learn, dogs love it, and it also counts as mental work.
Check out the video below as I teach my pitbull, Ellis, how to start agility during a Facebook live video.
The more efficient you become with helping your dog with their need to exercise, the more you can start doing what you want with your bond with your dog. Maybe you want a dog who will calmly hike with you for 2 hours every day (it actually helps to eliminate some energy before you hike, especially with younger dogs). Maybe you just want a dog who is content to hang out with you on the couch while you binge Stranger Things.
Regardless of what you want out of your relationship with your dog, it's imperative you give them what they need: Piloting, Activity and Work.