Cultivating play and rest – letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth
A tired dog is a happy dog. Is it?
I have heard that comment many times in my 20 odd years of dog ownership. You need to keep them enriched, engaged, you need to mentally stimulate them, to exercise them, to keep them tired. I do think we have dogs who are chronically under employed and enriched but I also come across a tonne of dogs who are over exercised, over trained, over walked, sleep deprived. Clients buy “working” breeds and then run them ragged. Tonnes of walking and off lead play around other dogs and on the lead. They end up with no rules, no frame of reference of how they should behave, over tired, the inability to sleep and settle indoors and outdoors. Most of the behaviour problems you see with your puppy, such as zoomies and constant biting, barking and snarling is a symptom of the pup needing more sleep. They are growing and the need rest. Significantly more rest. I interviewed a vet behaviourist I know a few years ago and the doc told me that dogs need 16-18 hours of sleep per day for optimal health. Puppies need more than that. Logan sleeps toward the top end of that every day and if we have had a strenuous day of outdoor activity for two days in a row (and strenuous for him isn’t a lot) then he definitely needs more rest the next day.
Many of us are chronically overworked and sleep deprived. We boast that we can go on 6-7 hours of sleep per day. News flash – you can’t. You are literally killing yourself, knocking years of your life. Chronic fatigue is as bad or worse than smoking, we are just able to do it because too much screen time stimulates our brains into being awake and we top it up with caffeine. If your dog doesn’t have a quiet place to settle in your house and the ability to do so, they will not be getting the sleep they need. If you are exercising them often throughout the day, they don’t get the chance to switch off the same way we don’t through too much time on devices.
How to we play ? Play is actual play – goofing around with your dog, chasing him from one room to the next, rolling around on the floor with him and being silly. Actual play. When I am sparring at Jiu Jitsu with a good sparring partner, you can hear the play. Because we laugh, we joke around, it’s light and playful. Not everyone can do it because competition and fight kicks in. That’s what happens if you are too heavy in your dog. It’s like me having some 120kg 25 year old weight lifting white belt trying to kill me because he doesn’t know who to play and wants to make his mark on the old man. I’m hanging on for life. That’s how your dog can feel if you are too rough.
How do we rest? Can your dog settle? I mean really settle? Do you hear that big exhalation of breath when they lie down? Do you see soft muscles? Do they stretch off fully (up and down dog) when they get up from their nap or rest? And I’m not talking about the stuff you might have seen online where the dog is wearing a shock collar and “stimulated” every time they move from their bed. That’s not rest, that’s a prison. Can your dog sit or lie in a relaxed manner if you sit on the floor or all they all over you? Do they invite play and massage if you do? If not, they are likely bored or over tired. Forensic examination of your lifestyle might give answers.
Your dog needs rest, play and enrichment. Lack of or two much of any of these leads to behaviours we don’t want. Provide her with what she needs.
Love and peace.
Par t 8 to come