(Photo by Alessio Albi)
In the world of dog-owners, two continents have formed: those who push their dogs to physical exhaustion daily and those who, well, don’t do that. There is an ocean, or a middle-road between these two extremes which I’d like to address with this post. Some research states that dogs require around 20 hours of sleep per day. (So do I, by the way, but no one bothers to research that!!) This leaves about four hours where a dog is up and at ‘em. Even without research, we can fairly easily see that dogs, if they are living a fairly well-balanced life, tend to lounge around quite a lot.
That is why I recommend investing around two hours daily for your dog/s. For me, this means an hour-long walk in the morning, a half hour during my lunch break and another half hour in the evening. How you incorporate time with your dogs into your day naturally depends on your schedule and your dogs.
In addition to trying to start a petition for 20 hours of sleep daily being acceptable for humans, as well, I am saying:
Offer your dog movement they enjoy.
Observe what your dog loves to do. Is it walking around slowly and sniffing stumps and flowers? Then allow them the opportunity to do that more often. One of my dogs, Inka, loves to retrieve dummies, so during my lunch break I hide her dummy in the forest and allow her to actively search and hunt for it and bring it back to me. We are the ones who brought our dogs into our lives and keep them in a house for most of the day. Whether our lives are busy or not, it is our responsibility to offer them this movement and fresh air. Even if we have to wake up 30 minutes earlier to achieve that – we owe them that much.
Don’t over-do it.
Constantly exercising your dog (physically and/or mentally) can be stressful and exhausting. Some dog owners go biking daily, go to three agility and one dog-dancing course per week and the list goes on… This is too much and will likely cause stress and anxiety – for you and your dog.
A friend of mine said that they don’t take their dogs on long walks, because they don’t want them to become hyper dogs who start nagging them to go outside constantly. This is why I put emphasis not on the activity, but, rather, on the amount of time we allow our dogs to show us what it is they enjoy. I make sure that not all of the time I spend walking my dogs is about throwing dummies for Inka to retrieve. Most of the time we are calmly meandering through the forest – I will usually be listening to music or a podcast and my dogs sniff around and interact with other dogs.
So this isn’t about exercising your dog in the traditional sense. It is about walking outdoors with your dog and allowing them to act out their natural behaviours. Even dogs who are bred for more activity (including my other dog, Mowgli, who is a high-energy cattle dog), do not need to constantly be on the move. It is important to allow our dogs plenty of calm exercise. Walks. Sniffing. Interacting with others.
And then allow them (and me) to get in some 20 hours of sleep per day.