A new client brings her dog into my center and begins describing her dog’s problem behavior.
“He is constantly getting into things,” she says. “He sits at the window, waiting for any movement outside and then he’ll bark like crazy. When he goes into that mode, he doesn’t even hear me calling his name”
I nod in acknowledgment of her frustration.
“If he wants my attention, he’ll just start barking at me, and when I tell him ‘NO!’, he just barks more.”
“I see,” I reply. “How much exercise does he get regularly?”
“Well he spends time out in our yard every day.”
“What about walks?” I ask, “Do you ever engage with him in exercise so you can challenge him mentally and physically?”
“Well, we probably don’t walk him as much as we should”. . . . . . .
Which means “No.”
Believe it or not this is a very common scenario at our center. The dog in question was a young, healthy hound mix, with a med-high level of energy. The woman was looking for a training method to eliminate these behaviors. “Just do this, and he’ll never act that way again.”
I had to inform her that what she was dealing with was not a training issue, it was a fulfillment issue. Ask any high energy level human how they would feel if they were forced to sit still for a couple days, with no physical activity, and without being able to leave the house. Most would tell you that they would become very agitated. In fact, they would probably become physically uncomfortable as their energy became more and more pent-up, and their body began looking for ways to release it. It is not a good feeling, and would not be a happy individual.
Now imagine how your high-energy dog feels when he’s been stuck in the house all week. I’ll bet he’s literally crawling in his own skin, and its no wonder he’s getting into trouble as he desperately looks for ways to release his energy.
I have three dogs, but the one who is most often in the public eye is Lobo, my 2 1/2 year old Belgian Malinois (belgian shepherd). He is not a German Shepherd, although he looks similar. Most Malinois have significantly higher levels of energy than the average German Shepherd. Lobo is a very high-energy dog. People meet him and are always impressed. He has a great energy, he is stable and balanced. He holds down positions while I wrangle with aggressive dogs and doesn’t bat an eye. However, I’m always amazed at one thing: Many people see his behavior and say “Well, that’s just because he is shepherd.”
Anyone who knows me and Lobo, also knows the amount of work that I do with him every day. Sometimes I’m tired, but I know that I am his steward, and he is my best friend. He does so much for me, the least I can do is keep him fulfilled. . . .
It’s Wednesday, April 18th, 7:00am
While I make coffee and eat breakfast, Lobo is on the treadmill. He does a steady 5 mph with no leash. He completes about 2 miles in just under a half hour. Then he gets a chance to go outside and slow his breathing before he eats his breakfast. Then we get ready to head down to the center.
We stop at a park that’s right around the corner from the training center. The treadmill is a good start, but Lobo doesn’t get to really run full boar on the treadmill. Lobo needs a chance at least once a day to really let loose!
The ‘Chuckit’ ball tosser provides the perfect solution. Lobo has a very intense ball drive. This is also why off-leash training is so valuable. Here we are, just outside of downtown Buffalo, and right next to the I190, but I can trust my dogs 100% off leash. After about 20 min of intense running, mingled with obedience exercises, we pack up and head to the center to check in on my staff, and get organized for the day.
Lobo and I meet one of my clients at the waterfront to help her learn how to walk her troublesome Olde English Bulldog past other dogs. Here Lobo did a lot of walking, and a lot of holding down positions while I gave instruction.
Lobo and I are back at the center working with the pack. Lobo is great at helping dogs become social. He’ll spend a good hour out here in the yard interacting with dogs.
And that’s just what happens before noon!
As the day wears on, Lobo helps me with various other appointments, and does a lot of pack work. Later in the evening, we do some more play and training with just the two of us.
Lobo is able to settle down and chew a bone at home. He’s not exhausted, but he’s content. Believe it or not, without that much exercise, he would still be very antsy, pacing around the house and over all being kinda annoying. It’s not his fault, without exercise it is obvious that he is physically and mentally uncomfortable.
In short, Lobo is not balanced and well-behaved because he is ‘a Shepherd’. He is balanced and well-behaved because he is fulfilled. His life is enriched through exercise, discipline, structure, and fun. He has a job, and his life has purpose.
This is what it takes to own a high-energy dog. For some it is a dream come true, for others, a nightmare.
Before you bring a dog home, consider that dog’s needs. Pay close attention to their energy level. What will it take to keep that dog balanced. Many of the behavior problems that I see are simply the result of the dog being higher energy than the owner.
If your dog is displaying problem behavior around the house, ask yourself: Have I fulfilled my dog’s needs today?