A common piece of advice we hear frequently is that dogs showing behavioural problems (like barking, destruction, aggression and escaping) must be suffering from a lack of exercise. Therefore they must be regularly exercised to the point of exhaustion in order to curb these signs.
What worries us is that this advice is often given out (by well-meaning people) without taking into account what the actual CAUSE of the behaviour problem is.
Whilst increasing exercise would certainly be helpful if the animal is in fact suffering from a lack of physical exercise, it would not be helpful in cases where the behaviour is driven by a training problem, physical problem or mental health disorder.
It’s a bit like recommending insulin for a dog who is urinating too much, without first diagnosing the cause of the frequent urination (which could be due by anything ranging from a completely normal behaviour, to a UTI, to diabetes).
Excessive exercise and exhaustion can also cause irritability and an increase in anxiety and aggression. Think about how grumpy you sometimes feel after a long day on your feet!
In summary: please try to determine the cause of the problem before you recommend a ‘treatment’!
- Dr Jo
Dr Joanna McLachlan is an accredited Behaviour Veterinarian. She is the owner of Pet Behaviour Vet, a mobile behaviour only veterinary practice in Sydney, Australia. If you would like to enquire about having a consultation with Dr Joanna, please contact us.
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