Balanced everyday life
Our dogs, like us humans, need a balanced daily routine to avoid being understimulated or overstimulated. To achieve a balanced day, dogs need meaningful activities combined with recovery. Balance helps your dog from becoming stressed and in many cases performing unwanted behaviours.
What is balance?
Balance is something in between. It is not a dog that recovers all day, nor is it a dog that is active all day. We will give you guidelines that you can explore but remember that your dog is unique and it may take time to find the perfect balance for your dog's well-being. Some individuals need more recovery and rest, while others need more time for movement and activation. Explore your individual and find the balance that works best for you.
Under- and over-stimulation
Why under- and over-stimulation fall under the same paragraph is usually because they express themselves in the same way in dogs. If we don't have stimulation in balance, the dog can become stressed and with that perform undesirable behaviors like pulling on the leash, chewing up things around the house and digging up the flower bed. To evaluate whether we are dealing with under- or over-stimulation, we need to think about what the days before the unwanted behaviour were like for the dog. Form an opinion and start adding or removing activities for your dog.
Many times it is the dog's breed characteristics that are triggered when the dog is under or over stimulated. You'll see your poodle suddenly starting to puppy cars or passers-by, your terrier suddenly starting to dig up the lawn and your Labrador constantly having to carry objects and look for birds.
All dogs need some form of movement every day to feel good. How long and in what way can vary between individuals with both breed and age playing a part. In general, dogs need between 30 minutes and 2 hours of walking per day, preferably in varied terrain and at their own pace, either long-legged or loose. Many times we can solve behavioural problems just by giving the dog more freedom and exercise in their daily lives.
Rest and recovery
All individuals need recovery but this is also on an individual level. Dogs rest/sleep around 16-18 hours per day a little depending on age. Puppies sleep much more than this. If we don't give dogs the opportunity to rest they can become overstimulated and with that stressed. Important to keep in mind that if your dog gets too much rest it can make them understimulated. Something that often manifests itself in the same way as overstimulation. Each week it can be good to have at least one day where your dog can fully recover from walks in messy environments, training and meeting up with dog friends.
Common sense is needed when we talk about activation. The dog should not perform activities that increase stress levels in the body more than a few times a week. These activities can be ball throwing, agility, vigorous exercise training, competitive obedience, etc. Plan the dog's week to avoid giving it too many sessions that increase stress levels a lot in the body.
However, it is good to give your dog activations that do not increase the stress levels too much in the body every day. Give the dog food in activation toys, hide treats out in the yard, let it chew on chew bones, run simple clicker training or let it seek out toys in the woods.
All of the above are important. There's nothing wrong with doing activities that increase stress levels in dogs, but doing just that can result in a dog that doesn't get enough recovery. Use common sense, check on your dog to see if he's doing well, and keep this in mind when planning your week together. Balance is an important part of a healthy life!