A case against endurance

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.

Charlston Park | #knoxdog 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.

  1. Place a few objects on the floor
  2. Click when dog looks at it or the general direction
  3. Throw treat around or near
  4. Repeat & change the criteria after he starts to “get it”
  5. 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?



  1. mytwopitties · December 4, 2014

    I totally get this! When Kaya & Norman were younger, I was obsessed with getting them out for at least 2 hours off leash a day, never ever taking a day off. It didn’t affect Norman one way or another but Kaya became too fit & it probably actually hyped her up more. I now take them out for an hour a day, give or take 15 min. They often have plenty of gas in the tank when we get back to the car but they pass out when we get home & lounge around ’til the same time the next day! Totally true about mental energy too. A walk around the block will do nothing for physical exercise for my dogs but drains some mental energy:)


    • nicolb · December 11, 2014

      We’ve actually been trying something new. We run him up and down a few flights of stairs in our high-rise, practicing recall, and proofing known tricks while chaining a few commands. 10 minutes every other day, and Knox is done for the day.

      Learning the difference between mental energy and physical energy was SO helpful!


      • mytwopitties · December 11, 2014

        That’s awesome! Sounds just like what I do with Kaya. I often mix obedience drills into fetch play. I think she loves it and gets a lot more out of it. Plus when I work on her stay, Norman actually gets a chance to run after the ball! lol

        The should give people some info on this stuff when they adopt dogs, it could keep many from being returned I think. I was required to sign Kaya up for training classes when I adopted her but it did nothing for us. We just sat there while the instructor showed a dozen people how to get their dogs to sit and then time was up. Lame!


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