I’ve assessed hundreds of dogs up to this point in my career as a dog trainer. The biggest constant I see as the underlying cause of the behaviour problems presented to me is quite simple, the dog’s needs are not being met. Most of the dogs I’ve met are being cared for from a health and wellness standpoint, although a lot of people are feeding very poor quality food to their dogs but that is another topic for another time. What I’m referring to is proper physical and mental exercise and stimulation. Some are guilty of providing neither and many will provide some level of physical exercise but what is drastically in short supply is mental stimulation.
Frankly, some people shouldn’t have a dog while some have a breed that does not meet their lifestyle. Others are just not aware what their dog requires. For some time now I’ve seen many sedentary people with Huskies, Border Collies, German Shorthaired Pointers, German Shepherds, and even Belgian Malinois – among other high drive, high energy breeds. People need to research breeds before acquiring a dog. Considering a mixed breed? Spend some time with the dog to determine the temperament, energy level, and what traits the known breeds in the mix may be most prevalent. There isn’t much a trainer can do to help you with the resulting behaviour issues if you are not willing to step up. For those of you that are or were just not aware, there are limitless options are your disposal.
Physical exercise is a very key component to your dog’s well being but alone it will not suffice. If your job is physical labour and doesn’t require a whole lot of thought, you will most likely end your work day physically drained but with a mind that is racing. Conversely, if you have a job where you sit at a desk all day problem solving and concentrating at the tasks at hand, you will most likely end your work day mentally drained but with a restless body. Physical and mental exercise and stimulation are both required and it is not any different with dogs. Some breeds more than others.
If you have a particular breed it is always best to play into the purpose of the breed. If you can have a herding dog herd, a hunting dog hunt, a retriever retrieve, a protection dog protect, etc., than that is satisfying their needs at their very core. However, that is not always possible and there are alternatives.
Whether you have a purebred dog or a mixed breed, there are so many outlets for you and your dog you would never run out of possibilities in their lifetime. Obedience training, agility, scent detection, tracking, trick training, the list goes on. Providing a dog physical exercise while making them think will wash away the bulk of behaviour issues. Not all of course, but the vast majority will be or severely diminished.
My personal choices for my dogs are obedience, rally obedience, and tracking. I also love to hike with my dogs so they get plenty of freedom, exercise, and social time on top of the mental stimulation.
I have six dogs but my main dog that I use for work and is my constant companion is River, a Belgian Malinois / German Shepherd Mix. She is pictured left.
I wanted to highlight her in this article for a number of reasons. The first is that she is extremely driven with a ton of energy. So I wanted you to know that I understand and live the extreme end of the spectrum. I work River all day with a combination of obedience training, tracking exercises, and she helps me assess, socialize, and rehab all the dogs in my training programs. And, she still has energy at the end of the day.
At the time of this writing, River is one month short of being two years old and holds 3 titles. One each in obedience, rally and tracking. She has two legs of the three required for the next levels in obedience and rally and is preparing for the next level in tracking at a trial in a couple of months. She has achieved four high in class, one second place, and two third place finishes. She also recently acquired a high in trial. Not bad for a mutt, eh? Most people don’t realize that this is an option for their mixed breed or unregistered dogs. The CKC has a Canine Companion Number (CCN) program that allows these dogs to compete along with the purebred dogs.
Why am I bragging up my dog? To encourage you. It isn’t hard to achieve, it just takes commitment and you most likely need an outlet for your dog anyway. Competition can be fun and it is easier than you think. If you need help, I teach competitive obedience and rally obedience classes that start from the ground up. Contact me to book your consult today!