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Is a tired dog a good dog? Should you over exercise your dog?

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

two doodles sleeping on a bed.
A exhausted dog is not well trained or well balanced dog.

Stop over-exercising your dog to manage anxiety and behaviour!

Exhausting a dog physically to manage their behaviour may seem like a tempting approach to address behavioural issues, but it can have negative consequences for the dog's physical and mental well-being. Let's explore why a tired dog is not a happy or healthy dog and the poor effects of solely relying on physical exhaustion as a behaviour management strategy:

Physical Strain and Injury: Constant strenuous exercise can put excessive strain on a dog's muscles, joints, and bones. This can lead to injuries such as sprains, strains, or even more severe orthopedic problems. An exhausted dog may not have the energy to communicate discomfort or pain until it becomes a serious issue. Your dog may have arthritis and injuries that impact them poorly later in life. If your dog is injured and you can no longer exhaust it by exercise… All of the behaviours masked with physical exhaustion will erupt.

Negative Associations: If a dog associates exercise solely with exhaustion, it may develop negative feelings towards physical activity. This can lead to reluctance or even fear of going for walks or engaging in playtime, undermining their overall quality of life. Your dog may protest or become snappy and intolerant of other dogs and people.

Mental Exhaustion: While physical exhaustion is one aspect, mental stimulation is equally important for a dog's well-being. Mental exercise, such as puzzle toys, obedience training, and problem-solving games, is crucial for mental health. Neglecting mental stimulation can lead to boredom, anxiety, and destructive behaviours.

Increased Stress Levels: Overly tiring a dog physically can elevate stress levels. Stress can lead to increased cortisol production, which, as previously discussed, has a range of negative effects on a dog's health and behaviour, including anxiety and aggression. Please read more about the cortisol effect here.

Behavioural Issues Persist: Exhausting a dog physically may temporarily mask some behavioural problems, but what happens when they wake up? it often does not address the root causes of those issues. Once the dog has rested and recovered, behavioural problems may resurface, requiring a more comprehensive approach to behaviour modification.

Lack of Bonding and Training: Exhausting a dog physically does not provide opportunities for bonding or effective training. Positive reinforcement-based training methods and building a strong bond with your dog are essential for long-term behaviour improvement.

Weight and Nutrition: Constant intense exercise without proper rest and nutrition can lead to weight loss, nutritional deficiencies, and an overall imbalance in the dog's health.

Inadequate Rest and Recovery: Dogs need adequate rest to recharge and recover, just like humans. Exhausting them physically without providing sufficient rest can lead to chronic fatigue and its associated health issues.

Reduced Enjoyment of Life: Dogs should enjoy their lives, and constantly pushing them to the point of exhaustion can lead to a decreased quality of life. Dogs need opportunities to play, explore, and engage with their environment at a comfortable pace.

Potential for Behavioral Regression: When dogs are tired, they may not exhibit certain behaviours simply because they lack the energy to do so. This can give a false sense of behavioural improvement and may lead to a regression in behaviour when the dog is rested.

While regular exercise is essential for a dog's physical and mental health, relying solely on exhausting them physically to manage their behaviour is not a balanced or effective approach. A holistic approach to behaviour modification, including positive reinforcement-based training, mental stimulation, and proper rest, is crucial for a happy and well-adjusted dog. It's important to work with a professional dog trainer or behaviourist to develop a comprehensive and tailored behaviour management plan that addresses the root causes of behavioural issues and promotes the overall well-being of your furry companion.

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