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Are We Over Exercising Our Dogs?

Updated: Jan 1



When is too much of a good thing, too much?


Dogs have physical and mental health needs just like people do and often times we aren’t doing enough because we are unsure how to properly, adequately, and efficiently provide them with appropriate outlets. But many times, and even though we mean well, we could be providing TOO much for them to do.


Let me back up a bit and share a personal story about our dog Tucker. We adopted him at 13 months old (right smack in the middle of adolescence-hooray!) and he came to us with a ton of energy. Like crazy amounts. We would take him for an hour long walk, he would do a 20 minute power nap and then was up and ready to party again. It was a level of energy that we didn’t know how to keep up with, like at all. So naturally, we increased his level of physical activities, thinking that he just needed to be more active. Right? Wrong! By my husband running with him (anywhere between 3–6 miles, 4–6 times per week) and then taking him for additional daily walks of 45–60 minutes, we thought this would do it. I mean, it had to do it? NOPE. What we did was (accidently) create a super athlete.


We were only addressing his physical enrichment and stimulation needs and completely forgot (well in our defense, didn’t know about mental enrichment and stimulation for dogs) about his mental enrichment and stimulation needs. We had unknowingly locked ourselves into a rigorous and unforgiving daily routine for years (untl Tucker got older and started to slow down) and it wasn’t until much later in his life that we realized our error. But, we didn’t know what we didn’t know and now we know better, so we can do better. By providing him more of a good thing, his brain chemistry got addicted to the levels of feel good chemicals he experienced while doing these activities, and he had to hit those levels daily, or we had to deal with him turning into a complete and utter disaster.


Now we know better and realize that he didn’t actually need as much physical exercise and activity as we were providing. It was his brain that needed activity and it didn’t matter if those needs were met physically, mentally, or a combo of both. I’m not saying that it’s not important to provide your dog with appropriate amounts of physical activity. They need it and since we domesticated them and ask them to spend most of their time cooped up in a house/backyard, it’s our responsibility as their guardians and caretakers to meet those needs.

But what they don’t need is to literally be walked or ran or hiked or dog parked or doggie daycared all the damn time! Sometimes what they need is something to keep that little brain of theirs busy because they have dog needs and need to fulfill them somehow. This usually involves them finding outlets that us humans find inappropriate or unsavory: barking, biting, chewing, digging, jumping, and just general destruction, chaos, and what we humans often describe as being “naughty”.


So sometimes it’s a case of actually doing less. I’m not saying doing nothing all the time, just less sometimes. It’s okay for dogs to slow down, chill, and relax (and for us humans to do that too!) Activities don’t always have to be high intensity. It can simply be putting your dog on a longer leash and going out for a meandering sniff. Dogs have over 300 million scent receptors in their little noses (humans have about 6 million) and sniffing can do wonders for a dog’s soul!

So next time you think that you might not be doing enough and you need to do more with your dog (whatever that more may be), pause for a second and ask yourself if you might be doing too much. Too much of good things. Too much stimulation, Too much activity. Too much stuff and things and here and there and everywhere. There is beauty in slowing down and shifting focus onto other types of activities and types of stimulation and enrichment.

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