Dog trains man

Friday, August 15, 2014

Tired Dog, Good Dog

You have heard the cliche before, "a tired dog is a good dog", or, "... a happy dog". Although it takes a lot more than that, I like it enough to say, it is one of my favorite motto's.

Tilde clearly never got the memo though, and she challenged us in this department in a way we could never have imagined. From almost day one she was like an energy bomb bouncing around.

We went on long hikes, we trained, exercised, learned new tricks, played mind- and nose games, all on a daily basis, but still, Tilde had plenty of surplus energy.

Even Kenzo sometimes had enough of it, and started to "play dead", to avoid her endless appetite for play and action.

The shelter warned us she was under stimulated. They were definitely not kidding.

First I tried to spend more time with her on all our activities, even to a level where it started to worry me. If this really was her energy level, was I be able to give it to her, on the long run? That scared the hell out of me. The whole family crashed in the evening after another day with our new energy bomb, and we were all clearly more tired than Tilde was.

Spending more time with her still, almost to the level of exhaustion for us as well as for Tilde, she continued to be hyper-active. Even when we could see how exhausted she sometimes actually was. She must have been. For a while we worried if she could have some kind of Obsessive Compulsive Behavior. Either way, hiking longer, training more and longer, wasn't helping.

And no matter how active we were, she would still be barking excessively, jumping up, mouth, bite, counter-surf, bite furniture, steal clothes and shoes, dig holes, scratch doors and some other things that don't come to mind right now.

Then it started to change. We could see, some months after her adoption, Tilde did know how to relax. She didn't feel it was necessary anymore to wrap up a two-hour hike with some rough play with Kenzo, and thereafter find some shoes to chew on. She did seem to be able to take her rest now as well.

And while we stuck to our daily schedule providing her with exercise and stimulation we could see her improve more and more. She was relaxing and resting more. Some bad habits started to disappear by itself, like the shoe stealing, biting in furniture and scratching doors. We train her on others, like mouthing and jumping up on people, and that has improved a lot too.

Though she is still the bouncing energy bomb, it is good to see she re-discovered her own quieter side as well. Overall she makes a lot more balanced impression now.

What I learned from all of this is that when a dog is as under stimulated like Tilde, you don't need to hike further, or train longer, almost to a level of exhaustion. A regular and varied schedule of exercise and stimulation is a lot more effective. It just takes a while, it will not happen over night, but it will do the job on the long run.

In Tilde's case, it was probably a long period of inactivity, as her former family suffered from a severe illness, as well as the re-homing process itself, which would have added a lot of stress, preparing a cocktail that could only do one thing, to explode.

I do hope we haven't diffused our little bomb, but instead migrated to a phase in which we can enjoy it more like "controlled explosions". Looking into Tilde's eyes, I can see all the mischief is still there, so I wouldn't have to worry about that.


  1. Agreed. You can also train her to relax. Those particular paths in her brain may be under developed. She might have to learn.

    1. Good point. We did train "patience" exercises as well, so that might also have something to do with her improving indeed.

  2. We have the same problem with Harlow, although we considered the old horse training standard "the harder you work them, the stronger they become". We had to direct some of her energy into mental games. It's not easy! Monty has taken to having private time outs under furniture.

    Monty and Harlow

  3. I read somewhere that some people exercise their dogs so much that they become super fit and it's impossible to tire them out.

    Doesn't sound quite like what was going on with your girl but it is interesting food for thought.

    I'm lucky Honey has very adaptable energy needs. She goes as long or as short as we want to. But I also have a good list of stimulating activities that don't involve physical exercise-like nosework.

    1. One of the things that surprised me most was that she didn't seem to tire of nose-work, thats where I knew something else was "wrong".


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