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Improving Dog Behaviour: The Secret of Exercise

Updated on May 15, 2011


I'd like to share the secret of improving dog behaviour that we've learned during our experience dog-sitting and dog-fostering:  exercise.

Unlike many dog owners, we have the perspective of multiple dog personalities, backgrounds, training regimens, and a common theme that exists for all dogs.  Almost every dog gets less exercise than they need to keep their nerves calm.  Simply put - they have too much energy and get way too excited about the smallest things, which makes them difficult to control and much less receptive to training.

Generally, dogs are eager to please, especially if they get treats, petting and consistency.  However, most dogs are also at home for 10-12 hours a day, during which time they get a lot of sleep, and end up with boundless energy for when their tired owners get home.  As a dog owner, if you want a well-behaved dog, you have to put aside that tiredness, which might be mental and not physical anyway, and get your dog the exercise it needs.

Okay, enough lecturing.  Here's some examples of what we've experienced.

Freddie the Rottie

Freddie the Rottie / Austrialian Shepherd
Freddie the Rottie / Austrialian Shepherd

Before and After Exercise

Freddie is a dog we dog-sit frequently, and comes from a house where the owners lead extremely busy lives, and the dog's master finds it painful to walk long distances due to bad knees.  As a consequence, the very active Freddie is often very hyper when he comes to our house.  However, after a few days, with at least an hour worth of walking per day, we noted the following changes:


  • Charges at people he sees on the street, overexcited about people-contact
  • Strains on the leash when he sees other animals (dogs, cats, squirrels, hares)
  • Pulls on the lead rather than keeping pace
  • Constantly wants attention at home - brings toys, lots of licking, puts his face/head in your lap, etc.


  • Less interested in people - goes for a quick pat and moves on
  • Can be told "no" when he takes interest in another animal, and he will watch it for a moment and then go on his way
  • Keeps pace and walks more often behind or next to his human companion
  • Sleeps a lot at home - leaves you alone when you want to read or work on the computer

Ally the foster dog
Ally the foster dog

The Demanding Dog

This dog's name is Ally.  She is, by nature, an attention-hog.  She was nearly always in our laps, and with a big dog, this sometimes became inconvenient.

Enter exercise.


  • Constantly seeking pets from anyone nearby
  • Very eager to chase wild animals (squirrels and rabbits) - strained on leash and could barely be restrained


  • Content to lie nearby or at your feet
  • Manageable pulling on lead when animals nearby
  • Friendly but not overeager with strangers

Puppy Training Video

Dog Stars: Puppy Training

One of our good friends is a professional dog trainer and has worked on such films as 101 Dalmatians and other high-profile movies.  However, she also stays true to her dog-owner roots and offers training classes in the basics.

Enough Exercise?

How much out-of-the-house exercise does your dog get per day?

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Dog Book Recommendations

Before and After Getting Your Puppy: The Positive Approach to Raising a Happy, Healthy, and Well-Behaved Dog
Before and After Getting Your Puppy: The Positive Approach to Raising a Happy, Healthy, and Well-Behaved Dog

A great first-timer's guide to puppies. This book is one of the leading authorities on the topic.

Click for Joy! Questions and Answers from Clicker Trainers and Their Dogs (Karen Pryor Clicker Books)
Click for Joy! Questions and Answers from Clicker Trainers and Their Dogs (Karen Pryor Clicker Books)

Clicker training is a new way to get your dog to repeat what you want him to do by using a click-sound, which you associate with a reward. You cannot always reward a dog the instant he does a behaviour, but you CAN make a click-sound, and you CAN get a dog to realize that the click-sound means "good job"!

Urban Dog: The Ultimate Street Smarts Training Manual
Urban Dog: The Ultimate Street Smarts Training Manual

More and more dog owners inhabit a heavy urban environment. This books talks about how to integrate a dog into the city and your city life.



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