There is little doubt that no matter how much we love our dogs, the friendship can get somewhat strained when we come home to mass destruction. Digging holes, tearing clothes off the line and eating your favourite furniture is seen as disruptive and naughty behaviour… but have you ever wondered why he is doing it? Maybe he is not intentionally trying to be ‘naughty’!
Every behaviour has a reason and an underlying cause. An anxious dog who pants and paces around the house is doing this because he is terrified of a the sound of thunder and because he does not understand it. Digging a hole (or fifteen) also has a reason behind it.
What is the cause of all this energy?
The best way to explain this is by giving you a brief history on how dogs became domesticated, then it will make sense very quickly.
It is unknown exactly when dogs became domesticated, but archaeologists have found canine remains buried beside humans a far back as 14,200 years ago.
It is believed that when dogs were still considered nothing more than a pest, like a pigeon snatching fish and chips at any opportunity, they would scurry around and scavenge food wherever they could. This may have been while fisherman were filleting their catch, or while a farmer is collecting vegetables.
Every now and then a dog would accidentally perform a useful task such as bark at wolves or keep varmint out of the vegetable patch. Over time humans began to recognise that dogs could potentially provide some useful protection for little more than some food scraps.
It was these dogs that were given the best table scraps in an attempt to extend their lives and continue the good work they were doing around the home and farm.
Dogs were now being used to keep herds safe, haul heavy supplies and guard the home. Over time their bodies grew to maintain this level work and increased energy requirements to complete their daily requirements.
This was a great relationship for both humans and dogs, as now they were fed, their bodies were worn tired each day and ready for rest, along with their minds.
But as dogs because more and more domesticated and humans required their expertise less, they became more of a companion rather than a ‘worker’ and their daily energy expenditure lessened.
So what we are facing now, is dogs that have evolved to require muscle strength and mental stimulation throughout the day for work, are often remaining at home while their owners work all day. The energy and mental stimulation requirements are just not being met. This is when destructive behaviour occurs. It is a way for them to deal with their built up energy in the only way they know how.
Does breed come into play?
Yes! Dog breed has a large part in energy requirements. Herding and working dogs require more exercise due to their natural instinct to use masses of energy and brain power while hunting. Some of these include:
These are just a few of the many dogs that require large amounts of exercise and mental stimulation. It is very common and easy to disregard our dogs behaviour as nothing more than some intentional naughtyness, followed by some form of reprimand. This is what makes selecting the right breed for your family and home crucial for a happy and positive relationship with your dog.
How much exercise does your dog really need?
Whether your dog is big, small, fat or skinny, he needs regular exercise every day. Imagine placing yourself in the same yard or house, every single day… no stimulation outside of a few fluffy toys and the confines of the fences. Mentally, you can sustain this for a period of time, but after that, you would do what you could to break out, correct? Dogs are no different.
Active dog breed types need around 60-90 minutes of hard exercise per day. This may be through running, swimming, ball throwing etc. Basically, anything that is fast paced, requires them to think and exerts masses of energy.
The less active breeds such as your Brachycephalics (flat faced breeds: pugs, french bulldogs etc.), giant breeds (Mastiffs, Great Danes etc.), and toy breeds (Chihuahuas, Maltese etc.), require around 30-60 minutes of exercise per day. This can include walking, swimming, ball playing and social interaction. They do not need to be worked as hard as the active breeds but still require some solid exercise and attention.
What you can do to help
Get yourself a good quality collar and lead and start exercising! Morning and night if you can, but if once a day is the only viable option for you right now, start with your mornings. The more energy you can expel before you leave for work, the more of a chance your grass, clothes and furniture will have of staying in one piece.
We all know how much dogs love something that is running, or bouncing away from them!
It is not necessary to keep the type of exercise the same every day, the important thing to focus on is that you do the same or similar amount/level of exercise every day. Remembering that your more active dog breeds require 60-90 minutes and less active breeds require 30-60 minutes of exercise per day.
If you exercise twice a day, try and keep it constant. Your dog will learn when exercise times are and when it is time to relax.
For your active and high energy dogs, you will need to incorporate both daily exercise and mind stimulating toys at home to keep him occupied while you are away and to help prevent destructive behaviour.
If you have a collection of toys, I recommend only placing a few out and rotating them every 1-2 weeks. This way each time you rotate them and pull new ones out while packing old ones away, your dog will think he has a new selection of exciting toys to play with. He will need to learn how to use them all over again and that takes time!
If you have any experiences or tips, I would love to hear from you.