Finding the right dog breed for your lifestyle and family is an incredibly important decision.
And there are some lesser known gems that can be truly amazing pets! Some are rare, some are just underappreciated. Being a pet is a big job, and these breeds are up to the task!
I can’t stress enough the importance of buying a dog only from either a responsible breeder or ethical rescue organization. You can find our guide for finding a responsible dog breeder here!
Before I became a pet dog trainer, I would never have guessed how often I would end up telling people they can exercise their dog less.
As a trainer, I specialize in hyperactivity and high drive dogs in pet homes, and it is not uncommon for my clients to drastically reduce the amount of time they spend exercising their dog. Usually the first part of our training journey together is spent getting the dog’s needs met more effectively and eliminating activities that increase stress and hyperactivity.
We’ve all heard the adage “a tired dog is a happy dog”, but it is simply untrue. A fulfilled dog is a happy dog, and physical exercise is only one part of fulfillment. Research is showing us that decreasing exercise in dogs experiencing hyperactivity and reactivity can improve their welfare. Increased stress hormones in the body can make undesirable behaviours more likely to occur.
The secret of exercise is that quality is vastly more important than quantity. Fewer walks that are of higher quality will serve your dog better than daily walks that make them feel worse over time.
Common types of exercise in pet dogs are either ineffective at meeting their needs (traditional leash walks) or increase stress and hyperactivity (dog parks, fetch, daycare*). Without mental exercise and decompression, dogs can easily adjust to more and more exercise, resulting in athletes who can’t settle.
So let’s look at how we can use our time and resources to get the best results!
Dogs need mental and physical exercise. If we want to target specific fitness goals, like weight loss, muscle building or cardio health, we can do that with exercise and training plans. For example, I build cardio into my dog’s weeks by practicing their recall!
The gold standard of exercise is on a long line or off leash (with a well trained recall) in nature, away from human and dog distractions. This is not always possible for everyone, but when it is we should avail ourselves of it. A leash that is 15-20 feet can turn even a small local park into a much more rewarding experience for our dogs.
If your dog is struggling with their behaviour, and you regularly visit daycare or the dog park, play fetch regularly or primarily take leash walks, changing up your routine can help set you up for success with training!
*There are some dog daycares that are working to create enriching, calm experiences for pet dogs. We recommend Aquapaws in Vancouver and North Van and Mindful Mutts in New Westminster
Have you heard the phrase “off switch”?
Maybe someone has told you that your dog needs one, or commented on how a breed is known for theirs.
“Off switch” is a term we use to casually describe a dog’s ability to relax. A dog with a great off switch might be a high energy working breed, but they know when the job is done and can hang out and nap when need be.
A lot of the time, people seem to think that off switches are innate. Either dogs have that ability, or they don’t.
And while some dogs do excel at relaxing and other struggle with it, there is no reason why the ability to relax and settle can’t be taught and cultivated.
Behaviour is driven by reinforcement history. So what is reinforcing settling, and what is reinforcing the behaviours that we don’t call settling? Often times, we throw more and more activities and exercise at dogs in order to tire them out so they can settle. Or we micromanage, punish or complain at dogs who won’t settle. None of these things are teaching the behaviour of settling.
So what else can we do?
First we have to make sure the dog’s needs are being met in a way that is mentally healthy. Our dogs can’t learn to settle and relax if they’re in a deprivation state.
After that we have a few options. We can capture settling, marking and rewarding every time our dog offers a behaviour we might label as “calm” (laying down, watching something calmly, sighing)
We can teach our dogs to lay on their mat, and use pattern feeding games to help them process their environment without reacting.
And we can use clear cues to help them learn when play, training and work are happening and when they are not! Being clear and consistent makes these games very predictable, and dogs learn that, for example, after the handler says “all done” the treat bag is closed for business.
Off switches are a product of genetics, but they are also a product of clear and consistent training.
If your dog is struggling to settle, we can help! Reach out today to book your consultation!