I was reading a post on a social media forum yesterday. A person was asking for help as his dog was suffering what appeared to be a pretty severe case of separation anxiety. These forums drive me a bit crazy because more often than not the people needing assistance should be hiring a trainer or behaviourist to come in and work with them personally. There’s no way a professional can (or should) help you on a social media forum. The other issue is that people offer a litany of bad advice! One of the responses to this person was that he should exercise his dog more.
If the cure to separation anxiety or aggression or reactivity or almost any other canine behaviour issue could be resolved by exercise then my dogs would be perfect. This is such a common misnomer and it does prevent people from seeking the help they need.
Now all that being said exercise is extremely important to dogs. I live with two “working” breeds aka they are high energy as they were bred to do jobs. They both need regular, daily exercise but not everything we do has the same result and it’s important to provide your dog with a variety of activities.
Exercise that calms your dog down:
- Hiking in natural areas
- Walks in urban areas that aren’t busy with other people and dogs
- Nosework and Tracking games
- Practicing Obedience or Rally Obedience
Exercise that increases your dog’s arousal level (and could result in higher levels of stress, anxiety and aggression) but can be good in short doses with a cool down:
- Dog sports like Agility, Flyball and Disc
- Games of Fetch
- Dog Parks
- Biking or ATVing with your dog
- Dog Daycare
The very best thing you can do for your dog is to provide them with daily, calming exercise. An ideal would be a hike in a natural area where your dog can do lots of smelling. Incorporate some obedience exercises like heeling, focus and recall while you’re out.
Dog sports are great (and I training and compete in a variety of them) however they are physically hard on your dog and geared to get their blood pumping. Three times a week is plenty and you might want to keep practice sessions short. Add a nice long walk in afterward as a cool down.