Karen B. London
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The Challenge of Enough Exercise
Is your dog hard to tire out?
Hours of running off leash tire out this dog. Walks do not.

I picked my kids up from the climbing gym a few weeks ago after they had spent an hour and a half there. It’s great exercise—physically demanding both aerobically and from a strength perspective—and many parents claim that their kids sleep really well afterwards. Not mine. They just don’t seem to tire out easily at all, and the fitter they become, the harder it is to wear them out. The instructor actually said to me on this occasion, “They’re pretty energetic still. I don’t know what to tell you. We tried to tire them out, but they could probably climb for several more hours.” To be clear, they were not misbehaving, but neither were they worn out.

Many dogs are like my kids in that they are not easily exhausted. In fact, for many dogs, the exercise that we typically give them—a long leash walk—doesn’t tire them out at all. It invigorates them. It’s discouraging to consider that when we take our dogs out for a walk, we may not be tiring some of them out, but rather, pepping them up. That’s certainly what a brisk walk does for me. A run, especially a hard run or a really long one does exhaust me, but a walk does not. My kids are even harder to tire out. Like many dogs, the only way to truly tire them out is to spend a lot of time in the ocean or a lake. The sun and swimming can accomplish what more typical forms of exercise can’t.

It’s a great feeling to be tired, worn out, and ready for a relaxing evening followed by a good night’s sleep. It’s a great kindness to provide our dogs with that same experience. However, it’s not as easy with some individuals as with others. Some dogs are suitably tired out by long leash walks, but others require hours of off-leash running at high speeds or long play sessions romping with other dogs to have their exercise needs satisfied.

Do you have a dog who seems to perk up from 30 to 60 minutes of exercise and really needs a lot more activity? What does it take for your dog to be happily tired?


Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

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Submitted by Kate | September 21 2012 |

A little over two years old and the only thing that slows him (black lab mix) down for a few hours is a 2 hour training run. Even then he still wants to play fetch!

Submitted by Karen London | September 21 2012 |

Kate, thanks for sharing. You must be busy! It can be hard to fit in hours of running each day, especially if that's just a way to loosen up for a good game of fetch. I'l bet you and your dog are both fit and healthy. I sure hope so!

Submitted by Carolyn | September 23 2012 |

My recently adopted 2-yo Maltese/Poodle is difficult to tire out. She returns from a long brisk walk, invigorated. She learned to swim and retrieve this summer so that helped quite a bit. Once she chased her ball during a 2-hour walk along Lake Michigan and still had energy. Don't know what we are going to do when winter sets in ... ?

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