Some years ago, when I was new to owning dogs and just starting out as a trainer, I read some very sage advice from a book authored by a well-known trainer. It said that exercise was perhaps one of the most important things that could help a dog with behavioral issues.
Yesterday Gretchen turned over her aluminum water bucket, flooded out the living room in the process, and proceeded to chew the bucket. Dogs don’t like metal of any kind in their mouths, and that’s why it’s so hard to teach a dog to retrieve with a metal object. The fact that Gretchen was chewing her bucket, told me that something was wrong.
Then this morning she barked non-stop while in her crate for no reason, and when I let her out, she ran around the house, jumped on people, crashed into furniture and knocked over the other dogs. It was as if the neurons in the dog’s brain were firing randomly and in quick succession.
“That dog is possessed!” Someone commented to me in a tone of disgust.
No, Gretchen wasn’t possessed, nor was she a bad dog. She was bored, plain and simple.
I took her out for a one-hour walk this evening, and from she enthusiastically jumped out of the car, I could tell that she was so happy to be out of the house. She sniffed around, then was happy to walk close to me, not exactly loose-leash walking, but not exactly pulling, either. I didn’t mind; I just wanted this dog to get exercise and have fun in the process.
I brought along a bag of treats and a clicker just in case I decided to do a bit of training with her. In the past she has not functioned very well in public because she gets so overwhelmed with stimuli. Tonight she kept checking in with me, and interacting with me, springing into the air with glee when I praised her. I figured that I’d be able to do training.
Gretchen gobbled up a tasty bit of treat which I offered, so I asked for a sit. She complied. We walked a bit, and a man came walking in our direction. Gretchen reacts to people and other animals, but I kept walking briskly with her, and switched directions with her so that she wouldn’t be walking head on towards the man. She didn’t even bark.
We ran for a bit, then we walked, then we did a series of sits and downs, but no stays. We did a bit of heeling. The little dog just exuded sheer joy.
Many times boredom in dogs manifests itself as digging in the garden, chewing furniture/shoes, dragging clothes off the line, or excessive barking (for no apparent reason). The dog is not a bad dog. It needs behavior modification, but it also needs exercise. Sometimes just exercising the dog until it’s really tired and often will work wonders for the animal.
Now we’re home, and Gretchen’s zonked out in her crate.
A tired dog is a well-behaved dog, indeed.