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The Many Exercise Benefits for Dogs with Behavioral Problems
What Does Exercise do to Dogs?
How does regular exercise benefit dogs with behavioral problems? If you ever exercised at the gym or went for a nice, long jog you may have noticed how good you felt afterwards. Apparently, a wide range of neurobiological rewards take place after engaging in moderate to intense aerobic exercise, a sensation of well-being often referred to as "runners high." The trigger for this sensation seems to stem from the release of endorphins and endocannabinoids (eCBs), basically, the body's own marijuana-like neurotransmitters that activate cannabinoid receptors in the brain's reward region both during and after moderate to intense aerobic exercise.
According to a recent study, it appears that dogs get a form of runner's high as well. After being exercised for 30 minutes, an analysis of blood samples revealed that the levels of encocannabinoids increased in both dogs and people. But what could have been a good reason in evolutionary times for such chemical changes to occur?
Evolutionary biologist Dan Lieberman suggests that in humans runner's high may have been a way to make ancient hunters more alert. Indeed, everything becomes more intense, colors appear more vibrant, and there's a heightened level of awareness. Humans were made to be athletes walking 5 to 9 miles a day, and what about dogs? Wild canines were also walking several miles a day prior to being domesticated. However, it appears that runner's high, just as in people, requires running at a moderate pace.What do dogs feel during runner's high? We may never know, but it sure looks like they get a boost in pain killing chemicals as well. The dog trainer's saying "a tired dog is a good dog" is there for many good reasons!
The dog in the picture on the bottom, always refused food upon being boarded in a kennel .You can't blame him, who would feel comfortable staying in a kennel all day? After boarding with me in my cage-less boarding and training center, which is a sort of doggie resort, he ate straight from his food bowl with no problems the very first day. What did we do to make him feel less stressed? We simply played in the fresh air in our half-acre yard, we took two walks of half-hour each and we allowed him to play fetch and romp with our other dogs! Exercise and fresh air seemed to do the trick! I was thrilled to see him eagerly eat his meal and happily sent pictures to the owner!
A Hungry, Happy Dog
Which Dogs Benefit the Most from Regular Exercise?
Of course, all dogs benefit from regular exercise, but some really need it as part of therapy for behavioral problems. Following are dogs who benefit from exercise the most:
- Anxious Dogs: the endorprhins released when exercising helps these dogs calm down.
- Adolescent dogs: these testing fellows may be much more manageable when a good exercise program is followed.
- Dogs affected by compulsive disorders: a dog who chase his tail or licks his paws non-stop may need medications but, a good exercise regimen along with behavior modification can work wonders.
- Hyperactive, high-strung dogs: these dogs often a erroneously diagnosed as hyperkinetic when in reality, they just are under-exercised dogs.
- Of course, exercise alone may not suffix for moderate to severe behavior problems; however it can be a great addition to behavior modification and medications.
Precautions Before Starting Your Dog on an Exercise Regimen
If your dog was never exercised before, it's a good idea to always see your vet prior to starting any exercise regimen. Large breed dogs are prone to cruciate ligament injuries, arthritis and hip dysplasia. These dogs should be gradually conditioned prior to starting jogging or biking with them. Keep in mind that young dogs are developing their growth plates and shouldn't undergo sustained running, jogging or jumping especially on hard surfaces. Also, brachycephalic breeds ( such as pugs, bulldogs and boxers) don't do well when they're exercised vigorously, especially on warm days.
Why Exercise is so Important for Dogs
Most dogs were selectively bred to work. Whether your dog was herding, pointing, flushing, guarding or retrieving, most likely he spent a good chunk of the day engaged in some form of activity. Even the small lap dogs had a job: warming up the feet and laps of many aristocratic ladies! In the wild, canines used to spend tons of energy in hunting, raising pups and defending their territory. Today, for a good part dogs are left indoors, often alone for hours at a time, and with little to do.
Left unemployed, many dogs will find their own forms of entertainment, which often end up being labeled as "behavior problems." Scruffy may decide to rip the couch to pieces just for fun (a replacement behavior for de-gutting the entrails of an animal), chase his tail (a good way to keep the mind occupied, so occupied that it sometimes develops into a compulsive disorder) and bark all day (a great self-reinforcing way to release pent-up frustration). It's unfortunate that when these under- stimulated and under-exercised dogs express their boredom and frustration in such a way, they're often reprimanded on top of that adding up stress and more frustration which bottles up over time.
Now, forget about leaving a dog in the yard all day while you're at work. This is not exercise! It's a place where dogs "exercise," and thus rehearse, many unwanted behaviors such as barking at passerbyers, digging holes, marking, nervously pacing and waiting for you all day! If you leave your dog in the yard all day, you'll still need to walk him, play with him and spend some time in training!
A Tired Dog is a Good Dog!
Benefits of Regular Exercise in Dogs
If you help your dog stay exercised, you'll be blessed with a healthier, happier dog that will have fewer behavioral problems such as excessive barking, chewing, digging, hyperactivity. A good exercise program will also help your dog gain more confidence. And of course, as mentioned, when your dog is exercised well, he'll also be more likely to snooze, rather than pace relentlessly around the home looking for something to do.
Best of all, exercise is good for you too! Ever wondered why many dog owners are much more healthy and fit? Of course, dogs will always be more agile than humans, so you'll need to find a way to allow your dog to engage in aerobic exercise that makes your breath fast dog pant.
Great Ways to Increase Exercise in Dogs
Fetching, tugging, running and swimming are great choices in addition to a good half-hour walk, according to the ASPCA. There are some toys that can make your dog exercise as well such as the Bubble Buddy or Fetchtastic/Go Dog Go Fetch Machine. Have your dog find you in a game of hide-and-go-seek or do several rounds of round-robin recalls. Of course, play dates with other dogs are another great way to exercise if your dog is a social butterfly.
However, don't forget about mental stimulation! Let your dog hunt for his dinner, stuff a Kong toy, enroll him in nosework, spend time training your dog during TV commercials, invest in puzzle toys! And if your dog enjoys it, enroll him in doggie sports such as flyball, rally obedience, musical canine freestyle,tracking, Treibball and agility.
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