By Mila Sanchez
Sometimes it seems like dogs have endless energy. If not channeled properly, that energy can turn into obnoxious and destructive behavior.
Depending on the breed, some dogs may require more exercise than others, and sometimes it’s really hard to fulfill their needs. But there are certain classics that are sure to use up some of your dog’s pent up energy.
There are certain games and healthy canine exercises that are synonymous with dogs, like fetch and swimming.
Being so associated with dogs, you would think those activities would come as naturally to them as breathing.
Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Some breeds are more inclined to get the concepts on their own, such as Labrador retrievers, who were bred specifically for those two activities.
Other dogs, though, may take a little training.
Fetch is a classic because it’s a great and simple way to exercise your dog without having to exert too much of your own energy.
There are three typical ways that dogs react to fetch. Some dogs get the game right away, and they will fetch and bring it back until they are crawling on the ground towards you with the toy in their mouth, too exhausted to stand.
Other dogs are so excited by the toy, they won’t let it go and just run around with it with no rhyme or reason.
Then there is the dog who just sits and stares at you and the toy once you’ve thrown it, perhaps scandalized that you threw their toy away from them.
If you’ve got a toy crazy dog, there are a few steps you can take to get your dog to fetch reliably. The most vital step is have two toys the dog loves equally (perhaps the two of the same toy). Having one in your hand when your dogs has the other, you can easily convince him to drop the toy he has in exchange for the other toy. This will help you teach the command “drop it,” and give them a reason to come back to you. If you are consistent in training with this method, the dog will learn over time to naturally come back to you and drop the ball.
If you’ve got a sit-and-stare dog, this is a great video addressing that. It starts getting your dog interested in the toys by marking any interaction with the toy.
Once you get the dog understanding the toy is fun to play with, start teaching him to pick it up and hold it, and then to drop it. Then, teach him to bring the toy to you by walking away from them with increasing distance over time.
Swimming is such a great form of exercise for dogs (and humans!).
It expels a lot of energy in a shorter amount of time, while still being low-impact on joints. It’s also a huge life saver in the summer, as it’s too hot for dogs to do many other forms of exercise for too long, like walking or running.
Not all dogs are natural swimmers, though, and some breeds actually don’t have the ability to swim at all.
It’s pretty simple to train a dog to swim, but it does take some preparation and supervision.
First you want to get your dog comfortable in water. Start with shallow amounts, and encourage your dog to paw around in it. The rate at which you gradually make the water deeper will depend on your dog – some will love it and you can do it at a faster speed, and some will be cautious of it and require it over a longer period of time.
Once they are comfortable in a decent standing depth, encourage them to go deeper with a toy. You will want to watch them very closely to see how they handle it, and be ready to get in the water with them and help if they need it.
Soon, though, they will figure out the “doggy paddle.”
We should never forget that mental exercise for a dog is just as important as physical exercise. If your dog tends to get into and destroy things when you’re not around, or even when you are, perhaps they aren’t getting enough mental stimulation.
Training sessions every day are the best kind of mental exercise that also help build a strong bond between you and your dog.
But, for those times when you’re not home or need to get something done, food toys are a great way to mentally occupy your pup. Probably the most well known food toy for dogs is the Kong. They are easy to fill with so many different things that create different difficulty levels.
In order for your dog to keep interest with a difficult Kong, it’s important that you introduce them to it the right way. Start out simple, just dry kibble and small yummy treats, so the dog gets the yummy stuff that comes out of the toy. Slowly increasing the difficult from here will ensure that your dog will stay interested even when they have to try harder.
Since dogs can smell up to 100,000 times better than humans, another great game to give them some mental exercise is a food search game. Hiding treats under different doggy-safe objects throughout your house or yard will keep your dog busy and entertained.
Like with the Kong, increasing the difficulty with this essential for keeping your dog interested, so be sure to start simple by having it all in the same room or small area before you spread the treats out farther.
Hopefully these tips help you train your dog to understand these basic exercises. The more energy your dog uses, the happier you both will be. What exercises have you taught your dog?
Mila Sanchez is a writer with a BA in English Linguistics living in beautiful Boise, Idaho. Her ambitions include traveling the world, studying languages, and taking pictures of her dog, Baymax. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram!