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Why Walking Your Dog Doesn’t Count as Exercise

Why Walking Your Dog Doesn’t Count as Exercise — No Matter How Much You Walk!

One of the first questions I ask prospective clients is, “How much exercise does your dog get and in what form?” I start with this because dogs that don’t get enough physical and mental stimulation often have behavioral issues.Without daily exercise, all that canine energy doesn’t go away, it just builds up over time and then it comes out in stressful situations. That pent-up energy can find its way out in many different ways! It can come out as:

  • Barking at anything
  • Digging up your yard
  • Chewing up your house
  • Escaping from the back yard
  • Fear or aggression toward people or dogs
  • Pulling on the leash
  • Chasing cats, birds, squirrels, etc.
  • Marking in your house
  • Jumping on your guests
  • Separation Anxiety
This list is by no means complete. Pent-up energy will find a way out! This applies to all dogs, lap dogs included. It’s especially true for hunting dogs, herding breeds, working breeds of all types, and intact male dogs. If you have a hunting dog that doesn’t get to hunt — a few times a week, not three or four
times a year — you can expect behavior problems. Your dog needs an outlet for that hunting energy (or herding energy or intact male energy, etc.).The problem in these cases is not a training issue, but rather an energy management issue! When your dog has pent-up energy and is in a stressful situation, that energy simply pours out of him. It’s not a matter of getting your dog to calm down when he sees a squirrel on your walk or when guests come into your house. You’re likely asking your dog to do something he’s not capable of doing under the circumstances. It’s a matter of giving your dog other outlets for the energy he’s putting into these destructive behaviors. When your dog isn’t getting adequate physical and mental stimulation it’s probably not a reasonable expectation for him to walk behind you on a loose leash or to change any behavior.
I’m not saying there’s nothing you can do to change the behavior, quite the opposite. There are all kinds of things you can do to change any dog behavior. What I’m suggesting here is that you wouldn’t want to change the behavior even if you could! Let’s just say for the sake of argument, that you put a shock collar on your dog and you get her to stop chasing squirrels and jumping on your house guests. When you do this you’re treating the symptom and not the underlying problem! She still has all the pent-up energy, you’ve just taken away the only outlets she had for it. You’re basically trying to train your dog not be a dog! You will not end up with a well-adjusted dog if you take this approach and treat the symptom rather than address the real issue.
What does all this have to do with walking your dog? The typical response I get to the question, “How much exercise does your dog get and in what form?” is something like, “I walk him most days and sometimes we play fetch in the backyard.”  Unfortunately, neither of those count! You could take your dog for 20 walks a day and it wouldn’t tire him out one bit. The walks are not for exercise, they’re for structure! How you put on the leash, how you walk through the door, whether your dog is walking in front of you or behind you, whether you let your dog sniff and pee on the walks, how you deal with distractions on the walk like cats, pigeons, squirrels, people, other dogs, skateboards, garbage trucks, every one of these things sends the message to your dog that you are in control or he is in control. That’s the purpose of the walk. So a five minute daily walk, even if you don’t make it out of your driveway, is important if you want to get the message across to your dog that you’re the one calling the shots and when you tell him to do something you expect him to do it. Even if you go for an hour bike ride or run with your dog he might plop down for 20 minutes afterward or even an hour, but then he’d be right back to bouncing off the walls (never run or ride with a puppy under 18 months, it can be very hard on their bones and joints). Even if you had two dogs and a 10 acre backyard where they ran all day long, it wouldn’t make much difference. Two dogs that live together quickly figure out how each other plays and before long they don’t challenge each other in the way they need to be challenged.
To be challenged both physically and mentally at the same time your dog needs to run full speed and chase other dogs and be chased by other dogs, and it needs to be dogs he doesn’t know! This isn’t the only way to challenge a dog, but it’s definitely one of the most effective. Other dogs can challenge your dog in ways that you can’t! When your dog is around dogs he doesn’t know, he has to learn how to read and respond to their social cues. Some of those dogs don’t know how to play, so your dog has to figure out if they’re playing or being aggressive, and that uses a lot of brain power!

If you go to the off-leash dog park or daycare for an hour, once your dog is comfortable enough to run and chase and play with the other dogs, I guarantee your dog is going to come home and plop down for three hours and won’t move! That’s because it’s not just physical like running or riding a bike, it’s both physical and mental at the same time and that’s ten times more effective!  It’s like playing a long game of chess — while running up a hill! Playing with dogs he doesn’t know challenges him in ways more like he would be challenged if he were hunting or herding. Have you ever seen a herding breed dog herd sheep or cattle? Those dogs are bred to run 20 miles a day and be fully engaged mentally the entire time they are doing it! I often tell clients it’s impossible to get a herding breed dog enough exercise if you don’t own a sheep ranch! The best you can do is go to the dog park or dog daycare at least once a day.

Keep in mind the dog park can be an extremely dangerous place! I urge lots of caution at the dog park. See my dog park guidelines for more on this topic. Dog daycare is generally a much safer option. When I tell dog owners this their first response is often, “Are you kidding me? There’s no way I’m I’m going to pay someone $30 a day to babysit my dog!” To me, it’s a bargain. You’d spend more in gas alone driving to the dog-park ten times than you would for one day at daycare! And it really is the equivalent of ten trips to the dog park. Your dog will be tired for three days afterward (unless you have a herding breed dog)! Daycare is typically a lot safer than the dog park, it’s a lot better use of your time, and you’re not going to be getting into it with dog owners. It’s the best way to go. Keep in mind, not all daycare places are good! We have one locally that is a tiny little room with a concrete pad out back where they jam 25 dogs into that little space. It is more stress-producing than stress-relieving. Under conditions like those a friendly dog can easily become dog aggressive!
Some dog owners don’t buy into my energy management perspective. They cite examples of dogs they had growing up or previously that never went to the dog park or daycare and never had problems. Dogs are amazingly adaptable and many owners that have hunting dogs that don’t hunt get lucky. Read my blog article titled “Dog Trainer, Not Dog Owner” for more about why the way we own dogs in the US is hard on dogs. We expect a phenomenal amount from our dogs, in most cases way more than they can deliver. Try taking a look at your dog’s life from your dog’s point of view! Imagine if you were left alone in your house with nothing to do for 10 hours a day, and of the remaining 14 hours every day the only time you got out was for a 30 minute walk around the block, and on some (or most) days you didn’t even get that! You would always have “cabin fever” and you would go crazy within a week. And most dogs don’t even get a 30 minute walk every day! Yet we expect our dogs to be well-behaved during the 10 hours they are home alone, the 13.5 hours they are sitting around the house with us, and the 30 minutes we are walking them! Does that even seem reasonable?
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Jodi Jones

Hi Jaimie,
Thank you for this blog post. When we first met for a dog training session the first thing you told me was my dog needed more play exercise. Based on you recommendation we take our dog to daycare 2-3 days per week. He is a totally different dog. Walking is something we do just to spend time together and is a lot more fun when Max has had enough playtime with other dogs.
Thank you so much for the excellent advice.

jscott

Hi Jodi! Thank you for reading the article, I’m glad you enjoyed it and that my recommendation worked well for you. Keep up the good work!

Cheree Peterson

Jodi Jones, what is the name of the daycare you use and would you recommend them? Thank you

Belinda Rivera

What about a dog…herding dog…that isn’t safe around loose dogs!!? And or being loose. He is a rescue and is agressive around other dogs and other dogs come to him and get agressive…..not sure of the messages they are sending to each other…?

jscott

Hi Belinda. You have two options. You can buy a sheep ranch and let him herd, or you can get him over his dog aggression and teach him to like playing with other dogs. I’d recommend the latter, but then I don’t change my behavior to accommodate dog behavior I don’t like. If you are near Sacramento I’d be happy to help you with option #2. Good luck!

Brooke W

I don’t disagree with you… however, my shibas (12 yrs & 6 mo) aren’t really interested in playing with other dogs. 😂 I still take them to doggy day care, and we go to dog parks, but they’re more interested in playing ball with me (or another human) usually. They play more with each other at home than at a park. I have seen them play with other dogs, but it’s not a given. Oh, my little weirdos! ❤️

jscott

Thanks for your comment. You can make your dogs like anything. If you play with the other dogs at the dog park and encourage your dogs to do the same and get excited and praise them when they do, they will learn to love playing with the other dogs. That is if they take their lead from you. With Shiba’s that’s usually the challenge. They are extremely independent and aloof! If you play ball at the dog park it makes them not seek out interactions with other dogs, but focus on playing ball instead. I recommend NEVER playing ball at the dog park, but rather teaching them that ALL balls are off limits there. Once they learn that then they will start looking for other things to do and if you encourage interaction with other dogs they will do that. You will likely have to take them separately if they only play with each other there. Good luck!

Rebecca

I completely disagree with this article. My dog is a yorkie poodle mix, so he is very miniscule, and when I walk at a moderate pace, my dog is clearly jogging to keep up with me. By the end of the mile-long walk, he is panting and clearly tired, and he’s in good shape, he is 4 years old and goes on walks every day. When he gets home, he does lay down for hours on end. Please stop spreading false information.

jscott

I welcome your opinion and thanks for your comment. There are any number of reasons that could explain your dog’s situation. He could have a health issue such as a diminished lung capacity or something musculoskeletal that you are unaware of, he might not be in as good a shape as you think, or he could just be the exception to the rule. While poodles are a working breed dog, any time you breed working breed dogs down to tiny or miniature sizes the breed changes a lot. Yorkie’s are terriers, but again they haven’t been bred as rat hunters, but rather as lap dogs. So the information I am “spreading” may not apply to your particular situation to the same degree that it would to a Standard Poodle or a Weimaraner, but I can assure you I am not spreading false information. I am merely sharing my viewpoint. If you can benefit from it, great. If not, that’s fine too. Just because you don’t agree with my opinion doesn’t mean it is not true. I have thousands of satisfied clients that have implemented my views regarding this energy management concept in particular and had it make all the difference in their dog’s behavior. Half my clients follow ONLY the recommendations of this blog article and it is enough to change the behaviors they want to change well enough so that they don’t require any additional training. And many of those clients had been to multiple trainers without getting results before coming to me. That’s because many trainers try to change dog behavior in situations where it is not a behavioral issue, but rather an energy management issue. I wish you and your dog the best! — Jaimie

Jeremy L

Great read thank you for your insight.

jscott

My pleasure Jeremy. Thanks for reading and for the feedback. I’m glad you enjoyed it. — Jaimie

Melissa

Awesome article! We have two huskies and just bought a bike attachment for them to “urban mush”, it’s amazing to see them go full speed and be in their element. I agree, that we expect a lot from our dogs! We may look into doggy daycare as well. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and expertise!

jscott

Hi Melissa! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the article and am very happy for you and your Huskies that you found it and were open to my ideas! Be well and stay safe and keep up the good work!

Karin

Hi, thanks for this interesting perspective. I think I have pretty much abided by letting my dogs loose to run and play to get their yayas out, but I still think a walk on leash gives mental stimulation. I figure since a dog’s brain is mostly all about smell, a walk with snuffling each blade of grass and fence post provides a story to the dog. I like stories. I bet dogs do too. Meanwhile I am struggling with the wild behavior with an 8 month old rough collie who never tires and is becoming food aggressive with my little oil dogs. I no longer live near the great 5 to 55 acre dog parks of my previous location. Daycare is way too expensive. I am going to take him to a behavior trainer, and if this doesn’t work, idk what I’ll do.

jscott

Hi Karin. Thanks for your comment. Yes, daycare can be spendy. That’s one reason I don’t have a dog. To send one to daycare every day could run in excess of $350/month. But I still believe it’s a bargain and relatively cheap. Even at $30/day, one day a week would run about $135/month. If you factor in the cost of your time and gas and wear on your car to drive to the dog park and don’t even get me started on the hassle of the dog park and the safety issues there, the $135 per month is well worth it and downright cheap. It’s difficult to put a price on the safety of a well-run daycare and peace of mind of being around friendly, well-screened dogs and not having to get into with dog owners (if you are doing the dog park correctly you are going to make enemies). Even at one day a week your dog will be a different dog! So while I agree at first glance daycare seems expensive, I am of the opinion that if you have a dog and want the dog to be well-adjusted it is a bargain and you can’t afford NOT to go every week. Be well and stay safe.

Julie

We adopted a hound mix Dec. 2019 and, as soon as he hit 5 months, we enrolled in a second obedience class with daycare and boarding. The training was thorough and he now attends daycare there twice a week. He generally goes two full days unless the weather or air quality is rough (we’re in Cali as well). On the other days, he gets a morning walk that’s about two hours (lots of sniffing, training and social interaction from a distance), he gets an afternoon sniffer walk in the woods where we practice agility and do some hard sprints in an open field, and in the evening he gets a third 90 minute walk that’s straight exercise. Between all those outings are scent games, find it games, training and tug of war (and the occasional drive to dog friendly stores). But by the time daycare days roll around, he’s ready to go go go! He’s only one, so daycare has been a lifesaver especially since it frees me up to focus more on my three younger children. His daycare has five outdoor areas to separate the dogs into smaller groups especially on the days when they have little ones. Our pup gets to hang out with the little’s after he gets his energy down in the morning, so he learns to be careful with smaller pups. He’s still an adolescent punk, but we’re doing all we can to make his life as full and enriching as it can be. When I was growing up, no one would have thought a dog needed daycare. But especially younger dogs are like toddlers that need fulfillment in a variety of ways. I would be lost without his daycare to help give him the best life possible.

jscott

Hi Julie. Thanks for sharing your experience! It sounds like you are doing an outstanding job with your hound. He is a lucky dog to have you as an owner. Very few dog owners “get” why social and mental stimulation are so important for dogs’ physical and mental well-being. Maybe with the pandemic / lockdown and more people getting “cabin fever” more dog owners will see how harmful leaving a puppy home alone all day while they are at work and then expecting her to behave the rest of the time is such a big problem. Good job and keep up the good work!

Elijah

I actually work at a dog daycare–I know from experience that it really does work to truly tire a dog out…all of them but my own, it seems. I have a husky who is currently seven months old, and he’s been coming to work with me for awhile now so that he can be socialized. He doesn’t come every time I work, and sometimes, he’s only there to work on being calm around other dogs and in high-energy environments. But, even on the days that I do bring him with me and he’s in a yard playing with every dog in there (and trust me, he plays–he loves to rough and tumble and will go at it for hours), we get home after my eight hour shift and he’s back up and ready for another playtime. He walks at least three miles on the days he does come to work with me, and on the days he doesn’t, it’s six or seven miles with heavy mental stimulation in between walks (an hour of the snuffle mat does nothing for him, but he enjoys it). I am unsure of how to mitigate all of this energy. I, obviously, knew going into getting a husky that he was going to be incredibly high-maintenance, but even when I’m doing all of the things recommended to me, he’s still up and ready to go no matter what time it is. He’s too young for agility, already passed his CGC, and I can’t teach him to mush yet because of his age. What would you recommend for us to do to get the stinker to take a good nap every once in awhile?

jscott

Hi Elijah. Thanks for your question. Is he a Siberian or Alaskan? Unless you are training for the Iditarod, it is unlikely you will tire this dog out. For Huskies and Herding breed dogs a few days a week around other dogs is not nearly enough. It takes at LEAST seven days a week and sometimes more (as in twice a day). Best you can do at this age is get him up to a 12″ bull stick a day (gradually and safely — see my free video on the right chew toys), and start taking him to work or daycare (for 10 hours a day while you are at work) every day. Good luck! Be well and stay safe. — Jaimie

Joana Hetchman

Very impressed with your overview on this topic! Thanks for your advice!

jscott

My pleasure Joana. Be well and stay safe.

Zach

I think this is very dangerous advice personally. Dogs are bred to work first and foremost with people, and “the work” doesn’t need to be taken quite as literally as the breeds namesake. The work is anything that is physically and mentally engaging for the dog. The most important thing you can teach your dog to do is that he gets rewarded by *you*, not other dogs, which is what will happen if you’re taking an over-socialized dog to the dog park everyday. The second most important thing is to teach your dog how to settle. No dog, especially not a working one, should be “on” all the time. Do you think working border collies are physically moving sheep all day? Definitely not. There’s more watching and waiting than physical exertion in that job. All good working dogs—police dogs, hunting dogs, you name— it know how to turn “off” on a dime. They wouldn’t be good working dogs if they couldn’t. To the person with the husky who cannot settle, that dog does NOT need 7 days a week of day care. He needs to learn how to relax.
I myself own a 11 month old intact male Australian Shepherd, who goes to daycare 2-3 days a week and never dog parks. He has plenty of energy but will lie down for 2 hours fully awake on a dime if I need him to. He gets off-leash hikes some non-daycare days, frisbee, or sometimes just 2 hour-long walks and some fetch. He’ always works for his meals and gets 15 mins of training with me and then puzzle games for any treats or bully sticks or yak chews. Could he take more? Absolutely, but in the house he knows it’s time to relax unless I’m directly engaging with him.
It’s unlikely someone with a dog going to daycare everyday has the time to have their dog getting most of their rewards from the owner rather than other dogs. I want my dog to play with *me*, want to listen to *me*, get rewarded by *me*. Hell, that’s why I got a dog in the first place—to do stuff with him. I’ve had TOO MANY 7-day a week daycare/dog park dogs, completely ignoring their owners recall and running up on me and my dog on hiking trails. He really loves playing with other dogs (due to daycare) and I love that about him, but he also needs to learn how to listen. He can’t do that in a dog park and I can’t have him ignoring me either, so one of those things have to give and it’s not going to be our recall. He can go to a dog park or daycare 5 days a week once he can show me he’s ready to listen under high distraction. And I know for a fact from doing training outside of dog parks that 95% of dog owners have zero control over their dogs in that setting. It’s very difficult to train for social dogs and the work requires time (that 7 days a week at daycare wouldn’t allow), and not going to dog parks where your dog can 1. Actively ignore you, and 2. Get rewarded by other dogs for ignoring you. Just my four cents. And I personally don’t trust dog trainers who don’t own personal dogs. But that’s just me.

jscott

Thanks for your comments. You raise some excellent points. Nobody should be taking their dog to the dog park at all if they don’t have complete control over their dog. The dog park can be an extremely dangerous place and I discuss this a fair amount on my website. I also agree with you that dogs need to learn to relax and simply keeping them tired is not a good long term approach and will likely not lead to you or your dog living your bliss. I probably should have been more specific — I would not recommend seven full days a week at daycare. But in my opinion herding breed dogs do need to be challenged physically and mentally daily and that was the point I was trying to make. If you are doing everything right, and it sounds like you are, three days a week is likely enough for an Aussie pup. I do not agree with your statements about getting rewards from other dogs rather than the owner. Both can happen and as I said nobody should be going to the dog park if they don’t have excellent control over their dog. Having control over your dog doesn’t happen if your dog doesn’t look to you for direction in all situations. Yes, dog parks are typically terrible places, but they can be done relatively safely but that means you aren’t allowing your dog to ignore you. If you want a dog to take you seriously your dog can never ignore you. I’m okay with you not trusting me. I wouldn’t trust a marriage counselor that had never been married. But I have had many dogs over the years and I am very good at what I do. For what it’s worth nobody taught me how to train dogs. The only way I can describe my ability is that it is innate. I can feel a dog’s energy and respond to it in a way that will get the result I want. If someone told me that, I probably wouldn’t trust them either. Be well and stay safe! — Jaimie Scott

Belinda Rivera

What about a dog…herding dog…that isn’t safe around loose dogs!!? And or being loose. He is a rescue and is agressive around other dogs and other dogs come to him and get agressive…..not sure of the messages they are sending to each other…?

jscott

Hi Belinda. You have two options. You can buy a sheep ranch and let him herd, or you can get him over his dog aggression and teach him to like playing with other dogs. I’d recommend the latter, but then I don’t change my behavior to accommodate dog behavior I don’t like. If you are near Sacramento I’d be happy to help you with option #2. Good luck!

Brooke W

I don’t disagree with you… however, my shibas (12 yrs & 6 mo) aren’t really interested in playing with other dogs. 😂 I still take them to doggy day care, and we go to dog parks, but they’re more interested in playing ball with me (or another human) usually. They play more with each other at home than at a park. I have seen them play with other dogs, but it’s not a given. Oh, my little weirdos! ❤️

jscott

Thanks for your comment. You can make your dogs like anything. If you play with the other dogs at the dog park and encourage your dogs to do the same and get excited and praise them when they do, they will learn to love playing with the other dogs. That is if they take their lead from you. With Shiba’s that’s usually the challenge. They are extremely independent and aloof! If you play ball at the dog park it makes them not seek out interactions with other dogs, but focus on playing ball instead. I recommend NEVER playing ball at the dog park, but rather teaching them that ALL balls are off limits there. Once they learn that then they will start looking for other things to do and if you encourage interaction with other dogs they will do that. You will likely have to take them separately if they only play with each other there. Good luck!

Rebecca

I completely disagree with this article. My dog is a yorkie poodle mix, so he is very miniscule, and when I walk at a moderate pace, my dog is clearly jogging to keep up with me. By the end of the mile-long walk, he is panting and clearly tired, and he’s in good shape, he is 4 years old and goes on walks every day. When he gets home, he does lay down for hours on end. Please stop spreading false information.

jscott

I welcome your opinion and thanks for your comment. There are any number of reasons that could explain your dog’s situation. He could have a health issue such as a diminished lung capacity or something musculoskeletal that you are unaware of, he might not be in as good a shape as you think, or he could just be the exception to the rule. While poodles are a working breed dog, any time you breed working breed dogs down to tiny or miniature sizes the breed changes a lot. Yorkie’s are terriers, but again they haven’t been bred as rat hunters, but rather as lap dogs. So the information I am “spreading” may not apply to your particular situation to the same degree that it would to a Standard Poodle or a Weimaraner, but I can assure you I am not spreading false information. I am merely sharing my viewpoint. If you can benefit from it, great. If not, that’s fine too. Just because you don’t agree with my opinion doesn’t mean it is not true. I have thousands of satisfied clients that have implemented my views regarding this energy management concept in particular and had it make all the difference in their dog’s behavior. Half my clients follow ONLY the recommendations of this blog article and it is enough to change the behaviors they want to change well enough so that they don’t require any additional training. And many of those clients had been to multiple trainers without getting results before coming to me. That’s because many trainers try to change dog behavior in situations where it is not a behavioral issue, but rather an energy management issue. I wish you and your dog the best! — Jaimie

Jeremy L

Great read thank you for your insight.

jscott

My pleasure Jeremy. Thanks for reading and for the feedback. I’m glad you enjoyed it. — Jaimie

Melissa

Awesome article! We have two huskies and just bought a bike attachment for them to “urban mush”, it’s amazing to see them go full speed and be in their element. I agree, that we expect a lot from our dogs! We may look into doggy daycare as well. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and expertise!

jscott

Hi Melissa! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the article and am very happy for you and your Huskies that you found it and were open to my ideas! Be well and stay safe and keep up the good work!

Karin

Hi, thanks for this interesting perspective. I think I have pretty much abided by letting my dogs loose to run and play to get their yayas out, but I still think a walk on leash gives mental stimulation. I figure since a dog’s brain is mostly all about smell, a walk with snuffling each blade of grass and fence post provides a story to the dog. I like stories. I bet dogs do too. Meanwhile I am struggling with the wild behavior with an 8 month old rough collie who never tires and is becoming food aggressive with my little oil dogs. I no longer live near the great 5 to 55 acre dog parks of my previous location. Daycare is way too expensive. I am going to take him to a behavior trainer, and if this doesn’t work, idk what I’ll do.

jscott

Hi Karin. Thanks for your comment. Yes, daycare can be spendy. That’s one reason I don’t have a dog. To send one to daycare every day could run in excess of $350/month. But I still believe it’s a bargain and relatively cheap. Even at $30/day, one day a week would run about $135/month. If you factor in the cost of your time and gas and wear on your car to drive to the dog park and don’t even get me started on the hassle of the dog park and the safety issues there, the $135 per month is well worth it and downright cheap. It’s difficult to put a price on the safety of a well-run daycare and peace of mind of being around friendly, well-screened dogs and not having to get into with dog owners (if you are doing the dog park correctly you are going to make enemies). Even at one day a week your dog will be a different dog! So while I agree at first glance daycare seems expensive, I am of the opinion that if you have a dog and want the dog to be well-adjusted it is a bargain and you can’t afford NOT to go every week. Be well and stay safe.

Julie

We adopted a hound mix Dec. 2019 and, as soon as he hit 5 months, we enrolled in a second obedience class with daycare and boarding. The training was thorough and he now attends daycare there twice a week. He generally goes two full days unless the weather or air quality is rough (we’re in Cali as well). On the other days, he gets a morning walk that’s about two hours (lots of sniffing, training and social interaction from a distance), he gets an afternoon sniffer walk in the woods where we practice agility and do some hard sprints in an open field, and in the evening he gets a third 90 minute walk that’s straight exercise. Between all those outings are scent games, find it games, training and tug of war (and the occasional drive to dog friendly stores). But by the time daycare days roll around, he’s ready to go go go! He’s only one, so daycare has been a lifesaver especially since it frees me up to focus more on my three younger children. His daycare has five outdoor areas to separate the dogs into smaller groups especially on the days when they have little ones. Our pup gets to hang out with the little’s after he gets his energy down in the morning, so he learns to be careful with smaller pups. He’s still an adolescent punk, but we’re doing all we can to make his life as full and enriching as it can be. When I was growing up, no one would have thought a dog needed daycare. But especially younger dogs are like toddlers that need fulfillment in a variety of ways. I would be lost without his daycare to help give him the best life possible.

jscott

Hi Julie. Thanks for sharing your experience! It sounds like you are doing an outstanding job with your hound. He is a lucky dog to have you as an owner. Very few dog owners “get” why social and mental stimulation are so important for dogs’ physical and mental well-being. Maybe with the pandemic / lockdown and more people getting “cabin fever” more dog owners will see how harmful leaving a puppy home alone all day while they are at work and then expecting her to behave the rest of the time is such a big problem. Good job and keep up the good work!

Elijah

I actually work at a dog daycare–I know from experience that it really does work to truly tire a dog out…all of them but my own, it seems. I have a husky who is currently seven months old, and he’s been coming to work with me for awhile now so that he can be socialized. He doesn’t come every time I work, and sometimes, he’s only there to work on being calm around other dogs and in high-energy environments. But, even on the days that I do bring him with me and he’s in a yard playing with every dog in there (and trust me, he plays–he loves to rough and tumble and will go at it for hours), we get home after my eight hour shift and he’s back up and ready for another playtime. He walks at least three miles on the days he does come to work with me, and on the days he doesn’t, it’s six or seven miles with heavy mental stimulation in between walks (an hour of the snuffle mat does nothing for him, but he enjoys it). I am unsure of how to mitigate all of this energy. I, obviously, knew going into getting a husky that he was going to be incredibly high-maintenance, but even when I’m doing all of the things recommended to me, he’s still up and ready to go no matter what time it is. He’s too young for agility, already passed his CGC, and I can’t teach him to mush yet because of his age. What would you recommend for us to do to get the stinker to take a good nap every once in awhile?

jscott

Hi Elijah. Thanks for your question. Is he a Siberian or Alaskan? Unless you are training for the Iditarod, it is unlikely you will tire this dog out. For Huskies and Herding breed dogs a few days a week around other dogs is not nearly enough. It takes at LEAST seven days a week and sometimes more (as in twice a day). Best you can do at this age is get him up to a 12″ bull stick a day (gradually and safely — see my free video on the right chew toys), and start taking him to work or daycare (for 10 hours a day while you are at work) every day. Good luck! Be well and stay safe. — Jaimie

Joana Hetchman

Very impressed with your overview on this topic! Thanks for your advice!

jscott

My pleasure Joana. Be well and stay safe.

Zach

I think this is very dangerous advice personally. Dogs are bred to work first and foremost with people, and “the work” doesn’t need to be taken quite as literally as the breeds namesake. The work is anything that is physically and mentally engaging for the dog. The most important thing you can teach your dog to do is that he gets rewarded by *you*, not other dogs, which is what will happen if you’re taking an over-socialized dog to the dog park everyday. The second most important thing is to teach your dog how to settle. No dog, especially not a working one, should be “on” all the time. Do you think working border collies are physically moving sheep all day? Definitely not. There’s more watching and waiting than physical exertion in that job. All good working dogs—police dogs, hunting dogs, you name— it know how to turn “off” on a dime. They wouldn’t be good working dogs if they couldn’t. To the person with the husky who cannot settle, that dog does NOT need 7 days a week of day care. He needs to learn how to relax.
I myself own a 11 month old intact male Australian Shepherd, who goes to daycare 2-3 days a week and never dog parks. He has plenty of energy but will lie down for 2 hours fully awake on a dime if I need him to. He gets off-leash hikes some non-daycare days, frisbee, or sometimes just 2 hour-long walks and some fetch. He’ always works for his meals and gets 15 mins of training with me and then puzzle games for any treats or bully sticks or yak chews. Could he take more? Absolutely, but in the house he knows it’s time to relax unless I’m directly engaging with him.
It’s unlikely someone with a dog going to daycare everyday has the time to have their dog getting most of their rewards from the owner rather than other dogs. I want my dog to play with *me*, want to listen to *me*, get rewarded by *me*. Hell, that’s why I got a dog in the first place—to do stuff with him. I’ve had TOO MANY 7-day a week daycare/dog park dogs, completely ignoring their owners recall and running up on me and my dog on hiking trails. He really loves playing with other dogs (due to daycare) and I love that about him, but he also needs to learn how to listen. He can’t do that in a dog park and I can’t have him ignoring me either, so one of those things have to give and it’s not going to be our recall. He can go to a dog park or daycare 5 days a week once he can show me he’s ready to listen under high distraction. And I know for a fact from doing training outside of dog parks that 95% of dog owners have zero control over their dogs in that setting. It’s very difficult to train for social dogs and the work requires time (that 7 days a week at daycare wouldn’t allow), and not going to dog parks where your dog can 1. Actively ignore you, and 2. Get rewarded by other dogs for ignoring you. Just my four cents. And I personally don’t trust dog trainers who don’t own personal dogs. But that’s just me.

jscott

Thanks for your comments. You raise some excellent points. Nobody should be taking their dog to the dog park at all if they don’t have complete control over their dog. The dog park can be an extremely dangerous place and I discuss this a fair amount on my website. I also agree with you that dogs need to learn to relax and simply keeping them tired is not a good long term approach and will likely not lead to you or your dog living your bliss. I probably should have been more specific — I would not recommend seven full days a week at daycare. But in my opinion herding breed dogs do need to be challenged physically and mentally daily and that was the point I was trying to make. If you are doing everything right, and it sounds like you are, three days a week is likely enough for an Aussie pup. I do not agree with your statements about getting rewards from other dogs rather than the owner. Both can happen and as I said nobody should be going to the dog park if they don’t have excellent control over their dog. Having control over your dog doesn’t happen if your dog doesn’t look to you for direction in all situations. Yes, dog parks are typically terrible places, but they can be done relatively safely but that means you aren’t allowing your dog to ignore you. If you want a dog to take you seriously your dog can never ignore you. I’m okay with you not trusting me. I wouldn’t trust a marriage counselor that had never been married. But I have had many dogs over the years and I am very good at what I do. For what it’s worth nobody taught me how to train dogs. The only way I can describe my ability is that it is innate. I can feel a dog’s energy and respond to it in a way that will get the result I want. If someone told me that, I probably wouldn’t trust them either. Be well and stay safe! — Jaimie Scott

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