Already mastered the 101,102 and 103? Good Boy! Youre’ well on your way to responsible pet parenting.
Let’s double check your skills:
Training Essential #5: Exercise
How is exercise different from playtime? Exercise has intent. Dogs need both physical and mental exercise to be full-filled and relaxed. If it starting to sound like raising a puppy is a lot of work. . . IT IS, but it is also very special and once you get the hang of communicating with your dog, life becomes much simpler.
Rule #1: Physical Exercise
Establishing an exercise routine as a puppy is the best way to go. If you don’t exercise regularly yourself, its a great time to start when the puppy is small. They need it and so do you. If you start when they are small, exercise periods are shorter and can ease you into a more fit lifestyle. The older they get the longer they will be able to exercise and the more benefits you will reap from the relationship as well.
Physical exercise can be in the form of fetch, walks around the neighborhood, hiking, swimming, and even the fun sport of dock diving! Any activity where you set out with the purpose of expending energy is exercise. The key to safe and happy exercise is leash training.
Rule #2: Leash Training
Safety should always be your first priority with your pup no matter what. Leash training is the best way to keep them safe when away from your home. The sooner you start the better. And even though its so very tempting when they are pups, do your best to make your dog walk on leash rather than being carried. If you have a large breed puppy, imagine trying to carry them when they are a year old. By that time, you are really going to want them to be good on a leash.
The best way to get your puppy acclimated for leash walks is to start with a collar. Their collar should carry ID tags (and ideally, they are microchipped as well) and be on them 24/7. Accidents do happen and if your dog escapes to adventure the world (re: Milo & Otis) you will have comfort in knowing if someone else finds them, they have a way to find you. Leave the collar on the puppy for a few days or until it has accepted its new accessory. Then allow it to drag the leash around when it is outside to get used to the feeling of the tether. After it is ignoring the leash altogether, start using it to walk them around the house. Once they are used to following your lead, its time to start leash training out in the world.
Rule #3: Mental Exercise a.k.a. Enrichment
The second type of exercise, which is less strenuous on you, is mental– meaning dogs are making choices and experiencing the results of those choices.
Different than play, mental exercise with your dog is more of a training exercise combined with mental stimulation. All dogs are individuals and have certain behaviors they are prone to. Retrievers like to fetch, scent hounds like to smell, terriers like to rummage, etc. Even if you have a mixed breed (aka mutt) it is likely that your dog will exhibit certain instinctual behaviors and not others. Try and harness those behaviors into a game with commands and this becomes a mental exercise.
That’s a wrap! Now that you understand how to keep your pup and home safe, how to reinforce appropriate chewing, and how to wear them out with play and exercise– you are good to go. Now the fun begins on learning to train for specific commands. . . stay tuned.