You probably need a chiller dog than you think.
Most dogs need more/better exercise and enrichment than they are currently getting. The vast majority of dog breeds can and will go for your daily runs with you, or enjoy hiking and camping on the weekends. Even little dogs like yorkies can be conditioned to do quite extensive exercise!
But while it can be easy to “upgrade” a dog’s exercise level, it is extremely difficult to downgrade. And the dogs we think of as “active” are designed to go way harder than most humans. Working herding dogs can sprint long distances over rough terrain and can work for hours. Our retrieving breeds can swim in freezing water and retrieve an angry and injured canada goose, then turn around and do it again and again.
Some people love the intensity and high exercise needs of an Ibizan Hound or a Vizsla, but many people purchase a dog they think will be a great fit only to be outgunned and overwhelmed.
When deciding on a breed, be honest. How active are you, really? Do you want a pet to go along with your life, or a new hobby that might reshape it? As I frequently tell people there is no right answer, just the honest one.
I also really recommend spending time with multiple dogs of the breeds you are considering, from different life stages. A teenage Great Dane is a very different dog than one that is 5 or 6 years old! Spend time talking to their owners and interacting with them to really learn what living with one would be like!
Take as much time as you need to find the perfect breed or mix for you!
Modern, science based training uses things that the dog likes to build associations and help shape behaviour via positive consequences.
Often times, we will hear that some dogs “just aren’t motivated” or a certain dog doesn’t like treats.
All behaviour is driven by a history of reinforcement, and if a dog is alive they are food driven.
But let’s look at why a dog might be hard to motivate with food!
Did you have the bad puppy at class?
I’ve been there! Lots of people have been there! Puppy class is hard!
It can be so stressful and embarrassing to have a dog who can’t handle a class environment.
So let’s talk about it!
The first thing I want to say is that it is not uncommon for baby puppies to struggle in a class environment. Ideally, a class should be designed for you to learn how to teach your dog, not your dog to learn new skills. Puppy class is one of the hardest environments for dogs to learn in! And when we have two new learners together (you and your puppy), it’s even harder.
Some puppies struggle in a group class scenario, be it because they are frightened, overwhelmed or just plain too excited!
(and sometimes we human learners struggle in a really busy puppy class too! I know I do!)
If your puppy is not taking treats, flailing on the end of the leash, cowering under a chair or barking incessantly, they cannot be expected to learn! Remember, they are babies and they need us to step in when they are overwhelmed. If your instructor doesn’t step in to help you, ask them. “I think my puppy is really struggling right now, are there ways we can make this easier for her?”
If your concerns are simply dismissed, or if the instructor suggests using corrections or punishment with your puppy, get you things and leave.
Puppies are impressionable, and one bad experience can be impactful.
There are lots of ways we can make puppy class easier, but also some puppies thrive better with private training and more mindful socialization outside of a group class setting! There is no one size fit’s all.
Above all, do not feel discouraged if your puppy is “the bad puppy”. I have seen so many problem puppies turn into wonderful adults with patience and good training.
If someone is making you feel less than because your puppy is struggling, ignore them, find someone who will help without judgement. Your puppy is not bad. You are not bad. You have not failed.
Ask for help when you need it, and keep supporting your puppy!