Can too much exercise be harmful for dogs?
Absolutely. Engaging in high-energy activities can cause your dog to become overstimulated. If you do these activities often, they can lead to undesirable outcomes.
Activities such as playing fetch, chasing frisbees, and romping around at the dog park/daycare are just a few of these high-arousal exercises I am referring to. Though these exercises are great for burning off energy, they place your dog in a heightened state. If you do these exercises often, you'll need to know how to train around it, or behavioral issues may develop.
I get quite a few high-energy dogs in my classes, and they all tell me the same things, "We were at the dog park for hours today, and they still can't focus." "We played fetch for an hour before class, and they still haven't calmed down." "I took them on a run, and I don't know how they aren't tired."
When you give your dog a lot of high-arousal activities, you are unknowingly causing your dog to crave being in an arousal state, BUT there is no impulse control training being done. Now you have a dog that knows how fun adrenaline is and is always seeking it out without being trained to regulate and listen when highly excited.
Unfortunately, this can lead to other problems. Your dog may become frustrated when they cannot have fun when they want, leading to redirected behaviors, such as barking, pulling and lunging, jumping, or being unable to settle. Suppose your dog gets to engage in high-arousal activities all the time. In that case, they will start to expect and may even demand they get to partake in these activities every time you go out.
So, what is the solution?
Dogs need a balance of high and low arousal activities. The more high-energy activities your dog does, the more you have to balance with impulse control training. Think of it this way: you are teaching your dog to party hard but not giving them the skills needed to chill out (Your dog being too tired to keep being crazy doesn't count as calming down).
Here are some examples of physical exercises and where they stand on the arousal scale:
-High Arousal, physically demanding: Playing with other dogs, fetch, etc.
-High Arousal, not physically demanding: Being close to other dogs training while unable to engage with them.
-Low Arousal, physically demanding: Going for a hike.
-Low Arousal, not physically demanding: Taking a scent walk when it's quiet out.
Are you giving your dog mentally stimulating activities every day?
If your answer is no or minimal, you need to change that answer to "Yes, every day"! Adding mentally stimulating activities into their daily routine will help them burn off energy without causing them to go crazy and help with the balance they need.
Here are some examples of Mental Simulation activities you can do:
-Play With Puzzles and Interactive Toys: These require critical thinking skills. As a bonus, puzzle toys are a great way to slow down your dog if they eat too fast.
-Basic and Manners Training: Even 10 minutes a day can go a long way.
-Learn A New Trick: Take a break from the Basics and learn something fun to do.
-Icy Treats: This gives your dog something yummy to eat and takes some work to get through.
-Clean-Up Game: For dogs that already know how to 'Drop It,' you can now teach them to drop their toys in the toy box after playtime. This not only signifies playtime is over, but it also helps them start to wind down.
-Chew Times: Chew times are not just for teething puppies! Incorporate 1 or 2 chew times a day (make sure to use chews that are not accessible all the time; otherwise, they may not be interested if they can have it any time).
It's essential to consider the types of exercise you give your dog and to aim for a balance that suits them. If you're experiencing difficulties with your dog's impulse control and level of excitement, it's worth examining whether this is being exacerbated by the activities they're getting in their daily routine.