Trainers have a saying, “A tired dog is a good dog.” I like to add “and a happy dog!” Between our busy schedules, the weather and our own tiredness, it’s often hard to tire out our puppies!
Take today, for instance. I think the temp has finally creeped up to about 14 degrees, with the wind-chill it’s only about 6 degrees. Not the kind of day I really want to take Kita for a walk. SHE loves this weather, and gets positively puppy-fied and eager to play when she feels the frost. I, on the other hand, get cold even thinking out going out in this weather. However, that’s another part of the pact we make when bringing a dog into our homes — to give them what they need including exercise.
I’ve heard a lot of clients say their dog gets lots of exercise because they have a fenced-in yard. Unfortunately, dogs are just as unmotivated as we humans when it comes to exercising themselves. Unless they have a playmate — another dog to wrestle and chase, or a human to throw a ball — they pretty much just meander around, sniff a bit, eliminate as needed and call it done.
If the dog is a small one, playing fetch and tug or having two people alternately call her from opposite sides of the house can give a pretty good workout on yucky-weather days. However, this would only be a drop in the bucket for a 90-lb GSD.
Oddly enough, the exercise might not have to be physical. Dr. Patricia McConnell (who I think lives in Minnesota, or some other truly frigid state) finds that 20 minutes of obedience/trick training provides a good alternative to working the sheep for her Border Collies. She says they’ll happily curl up and take a nap afterwards. Exercising those mental muscles tires them out just fine.
This really seems to work. Kita and the dogs who board and come here for daycare seem happy with a few mental challenges on truly awful days. Now, that wouldn’t be a good idea to try everyday. Our dogs need that cardio-vascular workout! And so do their humans! That’s why I made myself bundle up like Charlie Brown in his Christmas special and head out into the face of the wind with Kita today. OK, so it was a slightly shorter walk than usual, and Kita could have gone on a lot longer, but I didn’t get frostbite and Kita curled right up and took a nap afterwards. A tired dog is a happy dog!