by Amy Robinson
Sniff & Barkens’ Dog Behavior Expert
For those of you with a supersonic dog with bottomless reserves of energy to run laps around other, lesser beasts, I feel your pain. Your days are likely spent shuttling to the dog park, beach, or trail – or seeking out a day care facility willing to take on the challenge. Your goal: a calm canine in the evening hours, so you can unwind and put your feet up.
Take heart, your goal of mutual relaxation is attainable! Before heading out on another endless trudge down the sidewalk, check out these 6 ways to exercise both the brain and body of your hyperactive dog.
1. Sprint vs. Marathon
Skip the leash walk and grab a long training line instead. I prefer the cotton web variety about 20 feet in length. Take your dog to the front yard or to a local park where there is some grass. Allow your dog to wander to the end of the leash, then yell, “Come!” and run a few steps away. I guarantee the dog will be hot on your heels in seconds. Have great treats or a favorite toy ready so your dog doesn’t run right past you. Allow your dog to wander off again and repeat. Soon, you will have a tired dog that is rocking the Come command like nobody’s business.
2. Go Shopping
Nothing tires a dog out like a field trip to a pet supply store, home improvement center, or outdoor garden center. Being away from the same-old sights and sounds for a chance to process all-new stimulating information is an intoxicating treat for your dog. (Do not under any circumstances leave your dog in the car while you run in somewhere. This is dangerous for your dog, illegal in most states, and could earn you a large fine.)
3. Brain Food
Play some mind games with your dog, especially this one getting him to use his nose, his favorite tool! Tie a string around a bone or large biscuit. Dip it briefly in chicken broth or swipe a very small amount of cream cheese on it. Now go outside and drag it behind you in the grass, making a large “L” shaped track, but don’t let your dog see you do this. At the end of your track, untie the biscuit and leave it there. Then, leash your dog, point to the beginning of your track, and say, “Find it!” Let your dog’s nose do the work. If he really gets stumped, you can help by pointing the way, but allow him to work the problem. When he finds the prize, praise him.
4. Ball Down the Hall
Close all the doors along a hallway in your home. Grab a brand new tennis ball or squeaky Kong ball. Toss the ball to yourself in the air a few times to get your dog amped. Then, holding his harness tightly or wrapping your arm around his chest, slowly roll the ball away from him and down the hall. Say, “Take it!” and get out of the way. The anticipation builds up desire so your dog will expend more energy to get to the prize. Block his exit from the hallway, reclaim the ball and do it again. With practice, you can teach your dog to “Stay” as you roll it, and then release him with “Take it!”
5. The Chew
Dogs work important muscles and relieve stress when they chew. Offer stuffed bones or long-lasting chews that hold up to active teeth, like elk antlers. Ask your dog to lie down on his bed or crate him with this tasty treat so he doesn’t wander around with it. Rotate the types of chews to keep your dog interested. If necessary, dress the chew up with a swipe of cream cheese or peanut butter – or dip it in chicken broth.
6. Hands On
Sometimes you’d like your dog to just lie down and relax. You can help your manic mutt mellow out after a short period of exercise by employing some basic massage techniques. Think of it as petting with a purpose. Face your dog and slowly move the heels of both hands down each side of the dog’s long neck muscles, starting right under the ears down to the shoulders. Then lightly manipulate the shoulder muscles in smooth, circular moves. Do the same with just your fingertips in the area at the back of your dog’s head where the skull meets the neck. Like us, dogs carry tension in their necks at the base of the skull. Their jaw muscles need relaxing as well, so make two loose fists and press gently into the dog’s cheeks below the ear as you make slow circles. You may even see your dog’s eyes drooping a bit. Success! Now you can both take a nap.