Have you brought your dog to the dog park for hours, only to have his energy surge back after a short nap? If yes, you’re not alone. Many large breed owners struggle with tiring out their dog on a daily basis.
Back in ancient times, dogs and their humans we’re with each other every moment of every day. Canine companions would walk hundreds of miles alongside their owner during travels, and would also spend much of the time hunting for food.
All of this daily physical exercise would make a dog sleep whenever their owners were sitting idle around the fire.
Fast forward to today, and life for dogs is extremely different.
Instead of hunting and running all day, most dogs are locked inside all day while their owners are stuck at work. And by the time those owners get home, they usually don’t want to do much exercise.
This creates boredom for the dog and the dog will have no choice but to burn their energy some other way.
Consequences of Dog Boredom
Much like teenagers, if you don’t give your dog something to do, they are likely to find trouble.
Though your dog probably won’t shoplift or loiter by a storefront, they will do other unruly things like dig through the garbage, tear apart your couch, and even eat the walls!
I once knew someone who had two very energetic pitbulls that never went outside. When I walked into his house the bottom half of the drywall was eaten away to the studs by the dogs.
Though most people would blame the dog for this behavior, it’s the owner’s fault for getting a dog they are incompatible with.
If you don’t have an active lifestyle, don’t get an active dog!
If you want a big dog to cuddle with on the couch all day, consider rescuing a senior citizen or handicapped dog. They will love you just as much if not more because these kinds of dogs are always looked over at the shelter.
Why not let them live the rest of their life with you snuggling up in bed?
Physical Exercise Vs. Mental Exercise
Even with thousands of years of evolution and domestication, it is nearly impossible to tire out your dog physically on a daily basis.
Unless you’re a marathon runner who runs with their dog every day, you are probably not going to be able to get your dog all the physical exercise they need.
Fortunately, physical exercise isn’t the only way to tire out your dog.
While dogs can spend hours running around and still have energy, making them think for 10-15 minutes is exhausting, and will burn out their energy much faster.
Think about it, as a human when you work out, you feel more energized after. Your blood starts flowing and more oxygen is pumped into your system, giving your cells more energy.
The same thing happens with your dog!
Throw in a dog park with new smells and dogs, and your dog will be more hyped up leaving the park than when he walked in!
Now, think back to when you would study for a test or learn a new subject for the first time. Remember how tiring it was?
Your dog feels the same when their brain is put to work and they’re forced to think instead of reacting to their own impulses.
Benefits of Mental Exercise
While it is still critical that your dog get’s physical exercise to keep their strong health and muscles, mental exercise also has many benefits for your dog.
First, mental exercise prevents boredom in dogs. Keeping them mentally busy can also potentially save you a good chunk of change and home renovations depending on how destructive your dog’s boredom is.
In addition, mental stimulation creates a happier, smarter dog. Mental work creates new connections in your dog’s brain, resulting in sharper responses, more confidence, and less anxiety in new situations.
Mental stimulation is also critical for senior dogs. As dog’s age their cognitive abilities start to fade, which can bring on a lack of awareness and confusion.
By doing mental work, you can keep your dog’s brain sharper for longer, and can even extend their time here on earth with you.
How to Mentally Exercise Your Dog
Training sessions are one of the best ways to tire out your dog mentally.
Just 15 mins of learning a new command, or 30 mins of reinforcing commands can be equivalent to 2 hours of play.
Make sure your dog is perfect with the basics like not jumping on people first. Then you can move onto more fun tricks like putting their toys away or grabbing you a beer from the fridge!
I use this powerful exercise with Archie to tire him out, who has been a nightmare on the leash from day one.
Now that he’s 65 lbs., it’s critical for him to learn to walk next to me on the leash, otherwise he’ll be taking me for the walk.
Using a corrective collar, I first started on a leash in front of the house.
I may have looked crazy to the neighbors, but I walked back and forth in front of the house with Archie teaching the “heel” command.
Once it clicked and he started walking next to me in order to get his reward, I began walking a little further than my property line.
Doing this introduces new smells and distractions to your dog. This means they’ll have to work extra hard to focus on you and your commands in order to get their reward.
I do this once every day for about 20 mins and Archie is a pile of mush for the rest of the day.
Dog puzzles, or “snuffle mats”, are great ways for your dog to practice their nosework skills.
In nature, wolves use their nose to sniff scents of prey that are miles away. This instinct is still very well alive in your dog, but they usually have no way of showing it (unless they hunt down a bird or a squirrel).
Fortunately, I’ve personally made a solution to this problem! I actually made a HUGE snuffle mat called Alpha IQ that is made to look like grass (but is actually felt) for your pup to sniff through.
Just throw their usual kibble into the felt grass and let their nose find their dinner. In addition, my puzzle has 5 additional mini puzzles for the smarter hunting breeds out there.
This is great for dogs who are bored while their owners are at work all day, rainy days, and dogs who love to beg at dinner!
I like to give Archie the puzzle during lunch while I’m writing so he stops staring at me out of boredom. It keeps him busy for hours, tires him out, and keeps my anxiety down!
Take a few seconds to think about how bored we’ve all been stuck at home during COVID. That boredom is the reality for millions of dogs across America.
That’s not just the dogs in shelters. Many house dogs never actually leave their house and yard.
Don’t forget that dogs can get depressed too and need to experience new things in order to stay stimulated and happy!
Experiencing new sights and smells makes your dog feel safer and confident. So take them on a quick car ride, a trip to the park, a hike through nature, or even just a different block around your neighborhood to tire them out.
For most large breed dog owners, tiring out your dog can seem impossible.
But by mentally stimulating your dog, you will not only be able to tire them out without tiring out yourself.
You will also be preventing doggy boredom, making them happy, and keeping their brain healthier for longer. Sounds like a good deal to me!
What is your favorite way to mentally exercise your dog? Let me know in the comments!
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