You may have heard this… a tired dog is a good dog. Whenever a puppy parent talks about the challenges they are having with their puppy, often the first piece of advice offered is to provide their puppy with even more exercise to “stop” problem behaviors. And when they respond by saying they already take their puppy out for play sessions, they are told it’s not enough and their puppy should go out more frequently or to run them around even more.
On the surface, this sounds like good advice. It makes sense, right? If my puppy is tired, then she will sleep. When she is sleeping, she can’t cause chaos.
I like to say, “An enriched puppy is a better-behaved puppy”. What does that mean? Let’s break down the good and the bad when it comes to providing your puppy the right amount of exercise.
How much exercise should a puppy get?
It’s not a good idea to over exercise your puppy for the sake of trying to solve behavior problems. Let’s throw out the saying, “a tired dog is a good dog”- and here’s why.
Let’s say you take your puppy out 3 or 4 times each day and run them around by playing fetch and catch for at least 10 minutes, each time. Your puppy is tired and takes a nap when you come back inside.
Fast forward a week or so and now you need to take your puppy out 3 or 4 times each day, but now they need about 20 minutes of running around to tire them out. Fast forward another week, or so, and you are now trying to run your puppy around for 30 minutes to tire them out.
See where I am going with this? You are conditioning an athlete. You are basically preparing your puppy to run marathons by slowing building up her endurance. If you like to run as a hobby, you are likely not going to be impacted by this. BUT, if you are like me. If you are like the majority of the puppy parents I have known- you do not want to start taking up running as a hobby to tire your dog out. Stop preparing your puppy for the Olympics. You’re only going to be frustrated a couple months from now and wondering what is wrong with your puppy.
Another problem with running your puppy to tire them out is you are likely to see an increase in puppy jumping and biting (even humping). When puppies are over stimulated or over tired they become mouthier. The biting intensifies. You already have enough puppy biting going on as they go through their biting and chewing phase. All the extra exercise that is supposed to help tire them out will end up creating other problems for you. Again, leaving you frustrated and wondering what is wrong with your puppy.
A big concern with over exercising our puppies is the damage it can do to them, internally. Your puppy is growing and too much running and jumping can damage their growth plates. Continuing vigorous exercise to tire out dogs out over the years can damage their joints and arthritis will start to set in.
Have fun playing games while outside with your puppy. It will help develop a stronger and deeper bond between you and your puppy. Physical exercise should be part of a way to enhance your puppy’s well-being, not as a solution to try to stop unwanted behaviors.
How to Stop Bad Behaviors in Puppies
All behavior serves a function. What we see as “Bad behavior” is our puppies trying to communicate there is an underlying need which isn’t being met. Most of the time our puppies are displaying normal puppy behavior. More on this in an upcoming blog.
Manage the environment- if your puppy is chewing things you don’t deem puppy approved, provide them with appropriate chews. If your puppy is stealing things you don’t want them to have, puppy proof your house. Puppy trying to grab food off the table while your eating? Use a gate to keep them from coming into the dining area. Whatever “bad behavior” your puppy is doing can be prevented with management.
Management is essential to keep your puppy from rehearsing unwanted behaviors while you work on teaching your puppy more desired behaviors. Eventually you can reduce or get rid of the management strategy when you’ve taught your more skills.
Mental exercise– this is often overlooked or dismissed as not being an effective way to burn off puppy energy when in fact, it is an excellent way to help reduce puppy shenanigans. Mental enrichment helps your puppy with problem solving skills. Training is mental exercise. Not only is your puppy acquiring more skills which will make you a happy puppy parent, but training helps burn off puppy energy.
Appropriate chewing– Not only is appropriate chewing a great way to save your prized possessions and your personal possessions from being damaged, it’s also a calming activity. Providing a wide range of long-lasting edible chews and nonedible chews will provide puppies with a low impact, long lasting type of exercise. You’re getting all the benefits of what physical exercise can do without the added arousal, unwanted jumping, and you’re not conditioning an athlete.
Mental exercise and appropriate chewing activities have been shown to be more effective than the same boring walk that most puppies receive each day.
A (physically) tired dog is just, that… a tired (exhausted) dog. Running a puppy to the point of being so tired where all they want to do is take a nap doesn’t teach our puppies anything and it isn’t healthy for them. You might see short term results but won’t be serving long term behavior challenges.
Have a jumpy, biting puppy full of energy and behavior challenges? Need some help? Yes, save my sanity!