The SuperDog Syndrome: Too Much Exercise?

We’ve been discussing exercise lately. We’ve covered how important both physical and mental exercise are, as well as why you should avoid overly arousing activities on a daily basis. Today, let’s talk about another common exercise issue: the SuperDog Syndrome.

SuperDogs are created through too much physical exercise. This most frequently happens when owners rely on physical exercise alone to create a well-behaved dog. Tired dogs are good dogs, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to keep a dog worn out through regular, intense physical exercise in order to avoid behavior problems.

At first, keeping your dog worn out through physical exercise does the trick. The dog spends his time at home sleeping or lying quietly, tired from the increased physical activity. Things are peaceful.

There’s a problem with relying solely on physical activity though: your dog will become more fit the more activity you provide. Activities that previously resulted in a tired dog will instead only take the edge off. Over time, more and more exercise is required to wear the dog out. The dog becomes a great athlete in peak physical condition. The dog becomes a SuperDog.

SuperDogs are hard to live with. They have come to expect, and even to require, massive amounts of physical activity. Missing a day is not an option. Sick with the flu? Too tired from a long week at work? Family visiting from out of town? The dog still needs exercise, or he’s going to be a nightmare.

So, how can you avoid creating a SuperDog? First of all, acknowledge the fact that physical exercise alone will not create a calm, well-behaved, and balanced dog. Mental exercise, training, clear rules and expectations, and management are all also important. Completely wearing your dog out might work in the short term to avoid issues such as counter surfing, attention seeking, barking, or chewing, but long-term results will only be accomplished by teaching the dog appropriate behavior and preventing him from practicing bad behavior through the use of management tools.

Extra physical exercise certainly does have a place. Short-term situations that require an extra-well-behaved dog, such as when frail or elderly visitors are expected or a family member is recovering from surgery, call for increased exercise. Consider hiring a professional dog walker for the week or look into doggy daycare options for social dogs. However, anything longer than a week requires a more well-rounded plan than just increased physical activity.

What if you already have a SuperDog? Climbing out of the rut of relying on physical exercise takes some forethought and preparation. First of all, start increasing your dog’s mental exercise and make sure that you’re providing adequate training and management. Consult us if you need help with this. Then, start slowly decreasing your dog’s daily activities until you’ve reached a more normal and sustainable level (most dogs need about half an hour of physical activity a day).

Do you have a SuperDog, or do you know anyone who does? How do you provide balance to your dog’s exercise routine? Let us know in the comments!

7 responses to “The SuperDog Syndrome: Too Much Exercise?

  1. Pingback: Afflicted With SuperDog Syndrome | Rescued InsanityRescued Insanity

  2. I have a superHusky! I have to crate (I hate doing this) her while I am at work. So before work I take her out for a good mile and half run. Then right when I get home from work we go for a 2 mile run. She knows when its time to go, and as soon as I start putting on my hoody or clothes to run she starts jumping all over me. What are some good mental games Zoey and I can do? in need of some help!

  3. UrbanCollieChick

    Given the number of pit and bull type dogs, younger dogs, etc, in urban situations and leash-restrained, I’d say a half an hour is really underestimating need, though I do get the point about the importance of mental stimulation.

    A half an hour seems really short though. In a 24 hour day? A half an hour for a human, slow as we are by comparison, doesn’t result in a very fit human for example. You are barely getting by with that. People get mental stim sitting at a computer forever, but do that all day and then walk for one lousy half hour, and see what kind of shape you’re in.

    I realize the blogs are intended to add another POV and to teach the art of “balance” but I think some of the statements are a little off, and others just need a few more points added to round things out.

  4. UrbanCollieChick

    And being out of shape is actually BAD for your mental state too BTW. Lack of oxygen, vulnerability to weight gain (some breeds like Labradors are notoriously difficult to keep weight off of in midlife and beyond even if you cut the food), can mess with various hormones just like extended hyperness can.

  5. Before talking about reducing physical exercise, the way we interact during walks needs to be sorted. I have a superdog, but on purpose. I love going on hikes, I love exercise and I need a dog that can keep up with me. So naturally, I will train my dogs to reach a proper athletic fitness level. I also like to work them doing pest control, mainly ratting. But – I know that 20 minutes of a regular paced pack walk with proper heelwork and lots of sit stays will tire my dogs as much as a 2 hour jog, because its really hard work for a dog to keep up such a high level of focus. So yes, there is some truth in this. But it needs to start with learning how to walk a dog properly. Because half an hour of strolling around with an extendable leash, sniffing and greeting everyone will not be enough for any dog, regardless of fitness level, breed or typical lifestyle. As such, the article is misleading.

  6. I do, 3 1/2 year old Collie. 2 to 3 walks per day, romp on beach being one. He is Certified Pet Therapy Dog so he has had lots of training. It is the home environment where he does demand barking—-work on tricks, training, now doing a class that encorporates some agility, can’t do this at home or outside right now with snow still on ground, mud etc.

  7. Tracey Fitzsimmons

    I have an elderly girl going on 15 i call her my adhd dog lol she still showss no signs of slowing down. She’d swim all day if you let her, same with ball games loves ppl visiting “cause they will throw a ball”. Although our visitors know that when she’s had enough alls they have to say is “thats enough now Mini, go away” then she’ll do a big circle and come back lol she thinks we are gold fish :)
    I also have a little english staffy 4 yrs old and she was born blind. Mini has been her eyes and solid companion from the moment i bought Whiskey home. Actually that first day Mini laid with this tiny pup on the lounge and gently licked both her eyes as if she knew something was wrong. They have an extraordinary bond now. And Whiskey is a highly active confident dog now, thanks to Mini. Whiskey loves all the things a dog does swimming running playing all with Mini right beside her. When we go to the beach, lake or off leash park people don’t realise she’s blind as she’s that confident until they ask about her eyes and i tell them, as she has bright blue eye balls thats it no pupil or nothing. And its always the same response “WOW”
    When Whiskey was 6 months old i discovered Aussie dog products at Sydney dog lovers show. And Whiskey got her 1st tucker ball OMG a blind dogs dream her own toy she can hear and she is incredible with it 100 mph and weaving it doesn’t leave her nose. She can play like a real normal dog thanks to the guys at aussie dog and now they even made her, her own special ball.
    So yep i have a super dog. Actually i have incredible SUPERDOGS

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