Alpha Is a State of Mind

Tired Dog, Happy Owner

To raise your dog while keeping your prized possessions — not to mention your sanity — intact, you are going to have to find ways to wear out your dog on a regular basis. It’s not rocket science. Sleeping dogs don’t leave paths of destruction and chaos. They’re not barking at you or pawing you for attention while you’re talking on the phone, watching TV, or working on the computer.

Wear That Puppy Out!

Luckily, you have a ton of options when it comes to exercising your dog:

  • Swimming
  • Taking an obedience or agility class
  • Fetch
  • Frisbee
  • Hiking
  • Playing with other dogs (all parties well socialized)
  • Food-scattering or treat-dispensing toys
  • Long, fast walks — not meandering strolls
  • The Find-It game

Find something, anything, you both enjoy, and participate. Get a doggie playgroup together a couple of times a week. Alternate yards for variety, and start, interrupt, and end each play session with a brief training session for fun and variety.

Take a Proper Walk

Although walking just isn’t enough to satisfy most dogs’ energy, it can help take the edge off. Done properly, with your dog walking nicely at your side, not out in front of you, or sniffing a tree, or dragging you down the street, it can even strengthen your relationship. Walking helps, but pottying should be done first, and then the walk, for at least twenty minutes, should be at a brisk pace. If you must stop for potty breaks, stop walking altogether for a couple of minutes. When you’re ready to start walking again, move out like you’re on a mission. The faster you move, the more interesting you will be. All of these options require a little effort on your part, but your great dog is worth it.

The Find-It Game — Fun Indoors or Out

Find It is a game you can play with anything that your dog likes and will work for access to. Food, whether it’s your dog’s whole meal or just one or two special treats, is a great choice for the objects to be found in this game, as are favorite toys and even your dog’s favorite people. Start the game so that your dog wins early and often by letting him watch you “hide” the food or other object just a few feet away.

Did you know many zoos use environmental enrichment to feed the animals for their mental and emotional health? By hiding food around enclosures or freezing it into blocks, the animals have to work for their food, preventing many common emotional problems like compulsive and repetitive spinning, pacing, and self-mutilation.

Either have someone restrain him or tether him until he’s able to hold a sit-stay while you hide his treasures. Go back to him and release him with an enthusiastic “Find it!” Make a big deal about it when he finds the goodies, tell him how smart he is, and start over, moving the target a little farther away. Keep going until you can go around a corner or hide things in less-obvious locations.

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