Exercise Balance: Physical/Mental

All dogs need exercise in various forms.  Most owners think of physical activities when providing exercise to their dogs.  Striking a balance of physical activities and mental stimulation is the optimal plan.  Different breeds and individual animals require routines that work for them.  It can be the mental exercise component that is lacking or missing. 

Physical Exercise

The most significant advantages to inter-dog play are acquiring social skills and providing aerobic exercise.  Dogs can play hard and expand lots of physical energy.  Running with a family member is a great way to exercise a young canine athlete.  An “OK” from your vet is a good idea to avoid injury.  Running after a ball or frisbee is doable in either a fenced yard, contained public area where dogs are allowed, or even a long leash.  Brisk walks help, too. 

Your dog will adapt to the exercise routine that you set out for him.  That could be a long morning or after work hike or short, but frequent active play sessions throughout the day.  Either way, the dog happily anticipates the time and activity with you!

Mental Stimulation

Physical exercise is only part of the story.  To achieve a proper balance, mental exercise must also be part of the plan.  We know when dogs are getting inadequate mental stimulation:  they are making lots of incorrect activity choices.  Dogs love to problem solve, and if we don’t provide appropriate avenues, they will find their own. 

Training is teaching, so the dog must switch strategies to figure out what we are asking of him.  This expands copious amounts of energy.  Mental exercise fatigues an animal faster than physical exercise.  (Driving down I-81 for two hours is far more exhausting than playing tennis for two hours.) 

Cognitive play and games as well as delivering meals in food foraging toys are fun, effective ways to add mental exercise to the dog’s daily routine.  This is especially useful during certain months where outdoor time may be limited. 

All dogs need training and exercise – physical and mental.  It’s part of a whole dog approach to wellness which reaches beyond a trip once or twice a year to your veterinarian.

Copyright © Kimberly B. Mandel  CPDT-KA, 2020 all rights reserved

Kimberly Mandel Canine Behavior and Training LLC