The idea of creating a “SuperDog” with too much exercise isn’t a new one to me. I’ve always kind of shrugged it off as unimportant. Even if it is possible to give one’s dog too much activity, I wasn’t certain it was a bad thing. Shiva is a high-energy puppy. She enjoys getting out and running around. For the most part, I enjoy it too. If we’re both happy, what’s the problem?
A few weeks ago, I read this post on the Paws Abilities website and I began to wonder if it is more of an issue than I thought. Perhaps I have not done my dog or myself any favours by keeping up our rigorous schedule. It might be possible I am setting us both up for inevitable failure. As I sit here exhausted after trudging through a blizzard, I am starting to question the madness.
I guess it’s like the cliché of the chicken and the egg. What came first? Shiva’s constant need for an outlet or our strict exercise routine? If I had been more casual from the beginning, would she have learned to get by with only thirty minutes of exercise a day? Or do we exercise so much because she just really needs it?
The article talks a lot about how physical stimulation can easily be overdone and how mental exercise is just as important for creating a balanced dog. I have always believed the latter. Life with a Shiva involves just as much training and management as it does physical exertion, if not more. I don’t think it is really possible to have the one without the other. There is no point in running one’s dog ragged every day if neither of you are actually learning anything. Agility training for us has been a lot more about keeping focus than it has been about athletic ability. The jumping around is easy. The brain work is much harder. And thus, much more tiring for the my nutty dog.
This winter has been rough on both of us. It’s the coldest we have experienced together. Too cold for even all-weather Shiva. When I can’t take her out for more than twenty minutes at a time, her need to blow off energy builds up. This lack of a real outlet makes her anxious. It also drives the cat insane. She does get to run around on weekends when we can hit up the dog park during the day. But I know it is not enough.
This quote from the aforementioned blog really stuck with me:
“SuperDogs are hard to live with. They have come to expect, and even to require, massive amounts of physical activity. Missing a day is not an option. Sick with the flu? Too tired from a long week at work? Family visiting from out of town? The dog still needs exercise, or he’s going to be a nightmare.”
Yep, that’s my dog. When my parents were staying with us back in October, I made sure to get up super-early to get her walk in before heading out with family. When we returned home after a busy day of touring the province, I headed back out with the dog to get in her evening exercise. Things were stressful enough with all the new people in the house. I wasn’t about to make it worse my slacking on her activity levels. Furthermore, when I was sick in January while simultaneously gritting my teeth through a tailbone injury, Shiva still got her daily walks. Better to suck it up and get outside than to face a manic puppy.
So maybe I have created a bit of a “SuperDog” after all. The good news is, all the work we have done together has given us a deep bond. The bad news is, I am not sure how we could ever leave her in someone else’s care, should that ever be necessary. I don’t truly mind battling snow storms to make sure her needs our met. But what if we have to hire a pet sitter or board her in a kennel? Will the decrease in physical exercise drive her insane?
It is something I am starting to worry about. Perhaps I need to take a new look at our routine and see where I can implement some changes. It’s all about balance. Though Shiva will always be a super dog to me, maybe her status as a “SuperDog” isn’t making her the happy dog she deserves to be.
Do you think it’s possible to over-exercise your dog? Do you know or live with a “SuperDog”?