Obedience or Exercise…What To Choose In A Crunch?

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Obedience or Exercise…What To Choose In A Crunch?

Here is one of the early videos (but keep in mind this is about 45 minutes into the session) of Darla (white terrier) and Jjacki (Malinois) starting to be ok playing with each other. These are two very assertive females who are almost 3 years-old and have no history together. I was pleasantly surprised that the two play together and are respecting each other. That doesn’t mean that I am ready to leave the two together unsupervised and that may never happen. Only time will tell.

I just want to point out at 35 seconds Darla rolls over onto her back and takes a great deal of pressure from Jjacki all while remaining relaxed. This is huge for those of you who know Darla. That is usually where she will have an issue with another dog and it then goes beyond play. There are a bunch of other signs and body language someone can pick up on if they watch the video, but the contrast really comes from knowing the dogs you are working with. At the end of the video you hear that things escalate some, but the two work it out themselves and nothing really becomes of it. All of these things are very promising for me to allow these two more time together because these are two very high energy dogs that need exercise, exercise, and exercise!!!!!!

Restless Spirit is a huge need that has to be fulfilled in any dog, but is especially important in working dogs. Many people would be much happier in their relationship with their dogs if they took care of the Restless Spirit. If someone had to choose between obedience, quiet time on the couch, or exercise because of time restraints, I tell them 90% of the time to do structured exercise. Why? Because a lot of behavioral issues and disobedience stem from a lack of structured exercise, not a lack of obedience training. This means you have to work with your dog and engage with them, not just let them out the back door and bring them back in however long it is. This does not deplete dogs on a meaningful level. Neither does using the excuse that your dog has another dog in the household to play with and they would if the wanted to. It doesn’t work like that.

I compare this idea to a marathon runner. A marathon runner is conditioned to run 26 miles in races. During their training time they are probably running at least 10-15 miles a day. If you or I did this, we probably would have to work very hard at it and not have much mental capacity to do much else except think about putting one foot in front of the other. But the marathon runner’s mind wanders and they start to think about what’s for dinner,what time to pick up the kids, things like that. This is because running 10 miles is like us walking to the mailbox, no big deal. Our dogs are like marathon runners. They genetically have been built to run all day long. So when you think your dog is burning off energy running around in the back yard they are thinking about the cat next door or what time you are going to feed them. You need to spend time challenging your dog during exercise in a structured manner. This can be play with another dog if done properly, this could be playing ball or frisbee. There are many thing you can do that can be tailored to your individual dog.

Another huge byproduct of structured exercise is the bonding that takes place with your dog. Even without any added obedience, I can almost guarantee that your dog will be more compliant because of exercise after you bring them down to a base line and consistently fulfill this need. This is why working dogs on farms seem like such well trained dogs. They get their needed exercise on a daily basis and they have an incredible bond with their owners. If you asked any of these people who obedience trained their dogs they would look at you like you had ten heads because most likely the dog never had any formal obedience in terms of how we think of it. The dog is doing what the owner wants out of the relationship they have built. Yes, they train dogs to do special job related tasks, but probably not the “normal” obedience items our society worries about.

Exercise is vastly under estimated on the impact it can have on helping to create that happy relationship owners want to experience with their dogs.

On a personal note, I am very fulfilled when I see these two standing there at the end of the video relaxed, tired and content…well, for about 5 minutes.