Dogs are born to work for a living. They’ve worked alongside us for thousands of years, and most are bred for a particular purpose, like hunting, herding livestock or providing protection. Dogs’ wild relatives spend most of their waking hours scavenging and hunting for food, caring for offspring, defending territory and playing with each other. They lead busy, complex lives, interacting socially and solving simple problems necessary for their survival.
The most common job for our companion dogs today, however, is Couch Potato! They no longer have to earn their keep and instead have to adjust to our more sedentary lifestyles. They get their food for free in a bowl and are often confined, alone and inactive, for most of the day. This lack of purpose leaves dogs no outlet for their naturally active tendencies-physical and mental-and it contributes to the development of behavior problems.
Another problem modern dogs face because they rarely work anymore is a lack of opportunities to exercise. Some pet parents make the mistake of assuming that if a dog has access to a yard, she’s getting exercise. But your dog doesn’t run laps by herself in your yard-or do much of anything besides waiting for you to come outside or let her back inside. It’s the interaction with you that counts!
Problems That Result from Lack of Exercise and Play
Dogs can be like young children. If you don’t give them something constructive to do with their energy, they’ll find something to do on their own-and you may not like it! Some of the most common behavior problems seen in dogs who don’t get enough exercise and play are:
Destructive chewing, digging or scratching
Investigative behaviors, like garbage raiding
Hyperactivity, excitability and night-time activity
Unruliness, knocking over furniture and jumping up on people
Excessive predatory and social play
Play biting and rough play
Attention-getting behaviors like barking and whining
Benefits of Exercise and Play
The good news is that keeping your dog healthy, happy and out of trouble with daily exercise is a lot of fun and provides many benefits, including:
Helps to reduce or eliminate the common behavior problems listed above, such as digging, excessive barking, chewing and hyperactivity
Helps to keep dogs healthy, agile and limber
Helps to reduce digestive problems and constipation
Helps timid or fearful dogs build confidence and trust
Helps dogs feel sleepy, rather than restless, at bedtime or when you’re relaxing