How did your schedule change after adopting a dog? Well, I used to wake up 30 minutes before work, get to work, stay late (averaging 9 hours a day), and cook dinner. Now:
6:15am — wake, emails, get ready
7:00 to 7:15am — prep for dog walk
7:15 to 8:30am — dog walk
8:30am to 5:00pm — work
5:00 to 7:00pm — dog walk
Sometime around 9:30pm — dog walk
We easily averaged 150 minutes of walking with Knox. Every. Single. Day. We have a Whistle report to prove it! But as it became easier and easier to wake up and walk long distances in -1C temperature, I couldn’t help but wondering “just how do other people so it?!”
Of course, in reality, most dog owners don’t do it. They wonder why their dog is destructive or acting out. Or, their dog is so small that it doesn’t need to be exercised! But with destructiveness or “acting out”, the culprit is usually the lack of mental stimulation combined with physical exertion.
When I had mentioned that I tend to take Knox on 2 to 3 hour walks on Sundays, my trainer couldn’t believe it. With two bullies and a JRT of her own, she’s never had to incorporate that on a regular basis. She made a good point: with “power breeds,” the more they walk, the more they need. And everyone knows, I am not a fan of cardio.. or exercise..
So how do we reconcile this? Focus on mental activity.
We know that Knox learns fast with luring techniques – it’s how we taught him new tricks in just minutes – but he gets bored of it quickly after learning it. But with constant luring methods, it means Knox is now always waiting for a command. He’s then gets to the point where he doesn’t really need to think about it, just do the action that’s asked. Not much mental activity there.
Much like the mental stimulation dogs get when they are introduced to new places, Shelagh pointed us towards using free shaping techniques with the clicker.
- Place a few objects on the floor
- Click when dog looks at it or the general direction
- Throw treat around or near
- Repeat & change the criteria after he starts to “get it”
- Stop the session on a high note, not when he gets bored
Our new plan? Walk the dog for 30 to 45 minutes in the morning. Play a few free shaping games with a box for 10 to 15 minutes. Watch dog pass out from using too much brain. Win.
A great resource to start with is Karen Pryor’s 101 Things To Do With A Box.
Have you tried this before? Any success stories?