It happens to all of us: inclement weather, you just had a baby, or you've managed to catch Covid... again. You've got a young dog you're still leash training. Maybe your dog has a bad habit of going Putin on other dogs they meet on the walk (check out this link on how to deal with a reactive dog). Or maybe Fido still lunges at unsuspecting people they randomly target (read this). Perhaps you're working on these issues, but haven't gotten to the point where you can exercise your dog enough through leash walking (#BorderCollieLife). But your dog needs some activity. So now what?
What are you supposed to do when you literally can't walk your dog before you're dog has had their walk?
Dog Behavior and Activity
Most of us have goals when it comes to dog training: no more jumping, maybe separation anxiety issues, or even just leash training your new rescue dog. The problem arises when we separate a dog's behavior from their needs. In other words, you will never get the behavior you wish from your dog until they get the Piloting, Activity and Work they need, and sometimes that can be extremely difficult. Do you really think that 6 month old rescue doodle who has no impulse control (Piloting), is hyper as a toddler with a Redbull (Activity) and has a penchant for destruction when bored (Work) is going to be ready to calmly sit and learn how to walk politely on the leash?
Initially, polite leash walking is a behavior that is taught, and needs to be learned by your dog, and unless your dog is set up to learn by having their energy slackened first, you will fail.
Some dogs can't even begin learn how to leash walk without skimming at least some of the energy off the top first, and for that, you need a plan.
The Natural Order of Things
Most people make confuse walking their dog with exercising their dog. Unless you're going more than a 1.5 miles on each walk for a healthy dog young to middle aged dog, you're not really exercising your dog. However, you're doing something so much more important: you're Piloting them, and getting money out of their Piloting Piggy Bank. That's why the very first thing I do during one of my dog training sessions is to take my client's dog for a brief walk. That gives me a chance to answer quite a few of the dog's questions, and help them understand that while I give quite a few negative answers, I'm never going to hurt them or scare them. And while I firmly believe that for every negative, there needs to be 9 positives, I'm also not going to bribe your dog with constant treats. I'm there to communicate, and the best way to start is the walk. But again, that walk is not exercise. It's Piloting.
But you can't always manage a walk with a dog who is hyper because they haven't had their walk yet, so you need to walk them, but they're too hyper to walk because they haven't had their walk yet....
Learning in Tandem with Activity
Before you take your dog for a walk, or start training them to walk on a leash, or any other behavior, for that matter, get rid of some of that extra energy. And the benefits of exercise go far beyond the physical. Dr. Ratey, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School writes on exercise and the effect on learning:
"First, it optimizes your mind-set to improve alertness, attention, and motivation; second, it prepares and encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, which is the cellular basis for logging in new information; and third, it spurs the development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus."
In other words, exercise not only preps the brain not only for learning, but encourages retention of what's been taught.
Bridging the Gap Between Learning and Exercise
Exercise is integral to learning. Whether you're teaching your dog a new trick, or just getting money out of their Piloting Piggy Bank, exercise is the place to start. And while a walk is nice, it's not always enough.
Check out the link below to get your started on easier ways to wear out your dog beyond the walk, and get started towards the behavior and bond you've always wanted with your dog.
What types of exercise does your dog enjoy? Let me know some unique ways you wear out your dog in the comments below.
And remember, Keep Calm and Pilot On
Darwin Dogs Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio