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!