While humans are on stay-at-home orders throughout the United States, you may have noticed an increase of dogs going out for walks in your neighborhoods and parks. Suddenly, dogs who rarely set paw on the paths, are freed from their homes for the exercise that they have longed for. The quarantine and stay-at-home orders seem to have worked in the opposite direction for dogs throughout the United States — including Michigan. There is no doubt that this is due to the incredible work ethic of Michiganders. Michiganders are part of the "midwest work ethic" where you certainly don't have time for much outside of work obligations. If you are a pet owner who is seeing the benefits of this increase in activity for your dog(s), I thought it would be helpful to share a guide of signals your dog(s) might use to show you that they need more exercise when life returns to "normal" for us humans.
Some signals that our dogs give us are easier to read than others. When my oldest dog carries her food bowl in her mouth and brings it to me, I know she is telling me that she wants more food. She has also given us some signals over the years that she needed more exercise, and those signals aren’t nearly as adorable as a dog carrying a bowl in her mouth. In fact, some of those signals that your dog is giving you is most likely driving you crazy. Here are some common signals that your dog is telling you: "Ma/Pa, I am going crazy in here and need some running/walking/hiking/ball catching/fresh air/a job to do!"
1. Destructive behavior:
Have you ever walked into your home and found your trash can knocked over and trash all over your kitchen? We have. Our dog had so much pent up energy because we didn’t provide her with a proper outlet. For our oldest dog, running every few days is her outlet and if we provide her with that outlet, we will not find any products of destructive behavior when we come home. For other dogs, you might find chewed up shoes, torn carpet, urination in your home, etc.
For our oldest Australian Shepherd, we have found that establishing a routine of getting her out the door for a 4-6 mile run every 2-3 days has been essential to her overall well-being. We know she loves running because of the signals she gives us when she sees us grab our running shoes and her body harness, and of course, she would also let us know if we weren’t satisfying her exercise needs.
All dogs have different needs and require different levels of exercise. Years ago when I first became an owner of an Australian Shepherd, there was a learning curve for me in understanding her needs. We lived in a condo without a backyard. How could we possibly provide enough exercise for our Australian Shepherd in this living situation? We found that providing her with a consistent running routine was not only the outlet that she was seeking, but it turned into one of her jobs. Working dogs need a job to do. If you don't provide them with one, they will find one on their own — which is not as good as it sounds. This is where the destructive behavior comes in.
It is important to note that there are other potential reasons that your dog could be showing signs of destructive behavior. It is always best to discuss behavioral concerns with your veterinarian.
2. Barking, Whining, and Hyperactivity:
Excessive leash pulling, barking, and whining prior to leaving out the door with your pup can be a sign that your dog is telling you “Finally! It has been too long since I went outside for a walk/run/hike!” This is a sign that your dog absolutely loves getting outside for his/her run/walk/jog.
You may also find that your dog signals you with barking. whining, or hyperactivity that he/she needs exercise or mental stimulation when you are trying to get work done at home. Establishing an exercise routine with your dog could decrease these unwanted behaviors and ultimately make your work life, or relaxation, at home more productive.
3. Withdrawn behavior:
In some cases, your dog may decrease his/her engagement with you. If your dog isn’t receiving enough physical or mental stimulation this increases the likelihood of depression or anxiety. Exercise extends mental health benefits to our dogs just as it does for humans. Establishing an exercise routine with your dog can provide mental & physical benefits to both of you — which will ultimately strengthen your bond.
Just as with destructive behavior, withdrawn behavior can be a sign of other potential complications so it is always best to consult with your veterinarian if your dog suddenly becomes withdrawn.
4. Weight gain
While weight gain can be an indication of lack of exercise, proper diet should be identified by talking with your veterinarian to be sure you are feeding your dog proper portion sizes. You can be providing your dog enough exercise, but if you are over feeding your dog, your dog will gain weight which can cause other significant health implications.
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How does your dog signal to you that he/she needs more exercise?
Dog Jog Blog Author
Jen, Owner of Dogs Who Jog LLC