A vast amount of behavioral problems in dogs can be traced back to one common enemy: boredom. Dogs that have to spend a lot of time in a crate and don’t get enough exercise or stimulation are often the dogs that end up needing expensive, time consuming sessions at a trainer. Sadly, many dogs in this situation may find themselves in a shelter or rescue. Remember, though they are domesticated, our four-legged friends are still animals. Even dogs of the companion variety were not meant to sit in a crate or on a couch all day long. Although some breeds are more apt to want to work than other, more sedentary breeds (bulldogs, we’re looking at you), all canines need some level of mental and physical activity.
Before you decide to add a new pet to your home, researching them and their breed is essential. Decide what type of dog will best fit the size of your home; if you will need a fenced backyard to handle the dog’s activity level or if walks will be enough; if the breed is compatible with your family’s activity level; and of course, the most important factors like if they’re good with kids and other pets you may have in the home. If you’re rescuing an animal, be sure to thoroughly question the rescue or foster parents to see if there are underlying issues that will make the animal incompatible with your family or living situation. This pre-research will save you a lot of headache and heartache and potentially, money. Working and sporting breeds are often the culprits of destruction in a home if they’re not properly stimulated to get their innate mental and physical energy out.
If you’re already dealing with problems in the home, the first thing to do is to understand the history of your dog’s breed(s). That will help you to determine what kind of activity will best satisfy their needs. If you’re not sure of your dog’s breed, a veterinarian or the rescue or shelter you adopted them from can help identify the most likely breed(s). There are even doggie DNA kits available these days to help you solve the mystery of Fido’s lineage.
The American Kennel Club recognizes these categories of dog breeds: herding, hound, sporting, non-sporting, terrier, toy, and working breeds. Each group of dog breeds has a different task they were meant to do through many generations of training and selective breeding. For example, most sporting dogs were, naturally, bred to hunt in the field with their human companions. While sporting dog events like field trials will mimic that original task, even a rousing game of fetch will wear them out and help satisfy the need to retrieve. If you’re really into the idea of your furry friend having a structured activity, there are actual leagues of sports like flyball (a ball-fetching relay race), dock diving (jumping into the water after a toy), and agility (an obstacle course just for dogs). Go to akc.org/events to view a listing of the wide variety of sports that are available for dogs.
It’s important to note that dogs that were meant specifically to be companions still require a daily walk for exercise and mental stimulation. These breeds, such as Boston Terriers (a misnomer; they’re not true terriers!), Chihuahuas, and Shiba Inus, are most commonly found in the non-sporting and toy categories. Consider hiring a dog walker if your pet is acting out when you’re not home or if you work long hours. Neighborhood teens can be especially eager to take on this task and are also full of energy to help your pet enjoy a daily activity. Remember, a tired dog is generally a good dog!
At times when you’re not able to interact with your pet, provide them some entertainment so they’re not laying around the house all day, or, worse, looking for ways to entertain themselves (hide your new Louboutins!) If your pet is being destructive during the day, there’s a reason: they’re most likely bored! They need a “job,” even if that job is just to find treats inside a toy. It’s up to you to create activities for your pet that are safe, appropriate, and constructive. Check out puzzle toys that require some “figuring out” before they dispense treats, Kong toys stuffed with yummy peanut butter which takes awhile to lick clean, or creating a fun interactive toy in your home that your pet enjoys (Pinterest has some great ideas!) We have a variety of stimulating toys available at Pets Plus in Parrish, stop by to see us and get a recommendation for your furry friends!