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"This dog just needs more exercise."

There is a common misconception that if we give a dog lots of exercise, the dog will be "fine."

It is true that exercise is important, and l love to walk and play and work with my dogs; but tiring a dog in and of itself will not solve most behavioural issues.

If a person is scared of the dark, swimming for an hour a day will not make him more confident in a dark alley.

So, why do some people believe that if a dog is aggressive, giving him a lot of exercises will change that?

If a dog is very “hyper”, tiring the dog out physically may give the owner a few hours of peace, but it will not teach the dog how to have better impulse control.

Physical exhaustion will not change the dog’s ability to control his emotion or teach him how to make better decisions when he is not exhausted.

I have seen a lot of dogs who have been exercised a lot daily yet are still constantly struggling with anxiety, confusion, fearfulness, and many other issues that made them very stressed and unbalanced.

On the other hand, l have also seen how these dogs who became a lot more stable and balanced when they were able to receive something they had been craving for their entire life that they never had — leadership — which made them much happier even without a lot of heavy daily physical exercises.

It is important for owners to understand this concept.

It is not the amount of exercise that is making the dog happy, it is the depth of connection the owner has with the dog that is going to change the dog.

Exercise is not bad. I am not saying don’t exercise your dog.

I have seen owners with really happy dogs who are very well exercised. These dogs and their humans have a great relationship. The connection they have is beautiful to watch. Their dogs are always hiking, playing, and doing lots of fun staff with their humans. When these dogs are running, hiking, playing..., they still pay close attention to their human and they still view their humans as the most relevant. They enjoy the exercises; but most importantly, they enjoy spending time with their human while doing those exercises.

I have also seen dogs who were very well exercised but also very entitled, anxious, unpredictable, disengaged, reactive, and aggressive. These dogs do not care about their humans once they are having fun. They pay no attention to their humans. Everything is more fun and interesting than their humans.

Because such a dog sees no relevance in the human, the dog does not trust nor respect the human. The dog has no one to look up to so he/she would become defensive, anxious, processive, and aggressive once he/she is triggered. No matter how much exercise this dog has, the void for guidance is never fulfilled and the dog will remain unsatisfied and imbalanced.

A lot of owners unfortunately don’t understand this concept. They don’t know that the priority should be placed on the connection the dog has with the human, not on the amount of exercises the dog gets.

In our training, we seek to reset the balance in dogs. We do provide them with lots of play time, exercises, walks...but we use these activities to teach the most important thing — how to make better decisions by viewing the human as the most interesting, important, and desirable person in the world.

It should not be the amount of exercise that makes the dog happy, it should be whom the dog is doing those exercises with and what the dog can learn through those exercises that really matter.

Hope this helps.

Thank you.

Reactive dog board and train dog training with Vancouver dog trainer behaviourist Richard Chan


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