As you are probably aware, Hurricane Matthew scraped the Florida east coast last week. For those who stayed, many people spent all of Friday secured in their homes. After the storm passed on Friday evening, Saturday dawned bright and sunny and besides the cleanup time, many also ventured out to area restaurants. The interesting thing was that the news outlets labeled that as “cabin fever” where people had to get out of the house because they were “cooped up”. But that was only for one day! As this is a common problem with dog owners, let’s explore “being cooped up”. Especially when, for a dog, this means they’ll be getting into trouble by doing destructive things.
When your dog is home all day long and is let out into a yard we view that as giving them exercise so they can run off their pent-up energy and clear their mind. The question is, don’t people have yards to go out into and clear their minds and bodies of the excess energy? The answer, of course, is yes but – you might say – it’s different for my dog than for me. And you are exactly correct! Your dog actually needs MORE than we need to feel less stressed and clear minded. In fact, those of us who live in apartments or condos have dogs that get far more exercise than those with yards because they HAVE to get their dogs outside and walking.
We have activities that we can do in the house if we are stuck inside for an extended period of time: television, radio, video games, books, activities such as cleaning the house and rearranging things, etc. What does your dog have? IF you throw the ball for him or her in the house, that’s only one activity; chewing a toy also only lasts so long. All of the things we usually equate with helping the dog with their energy are usually one-dimensional. But real pack leaders take care of their pack; they know what they truly need and when they might need it.
The Walk is foundational for leadership but it also acts as a mental and physical challenge to our dogs. Simply walking down the street is not necessarily a challenge (sometimes it’s more of a challenge to the humans!) without rules/boundaries/limitations and being imaginative on your walk. Don’t always go the same direction or path, mix it up a bit. If you can, do your walking on a nearby trail or park. If you also have to get out of the house for a break, take your pack member with you and find a dog friendly location to shop or eat. Challenge yourself, and your dog will tell you whether or not it’s a challenge to them.
Remember that our dogs want to follow a calm and confident leader. If you are that leader your dog will let you know; if you’re not, your dog will also let you know that! When owners tell me that they have a very intelligent dog, “BUT,” then I know that the “intelligence” of the dog came out when the human connected on a canine level. Now the trick is to stay connected and it starts by staying connected with your pack leader self.
Until the next time, stay calm and connected to your inner pack leader!