Taking a Break

As I mentioned last time, Tribble and I have been checking out the parks in our new city while I wait for my program to start. A brindle-and-white dog stands in a park, staring upwards.

She’s been having a grand old time with this new all-park-all-the-time schedule. Before the move, Tribble had been accustomed to a good run maybe once or twice a week, since I had work and it was just too hot to do things outside over the bulk of the day. Now that I don’t have much else to do but hang out at the park and talk to people, we’ve been going a lot more often.

In fact, we ended up going to the park so often that by the fourth morning I headed to the car with her, she made a terribly upset face, turned her head away from the car, and balked at the leash. I worried a little but immediately turned around and headed back to the apartment. It’s important to listen to what the dog is saying, and taking a tired cranky dog to a park full of bouncy happy dogs interested in playing is a recipe for disaster. After a day of rest and hiding under my couches, she was ready to hit the trails again.

I think it’s really important to keep in mind that while many dogs are underworked and underexercised, it is also totally possible to overdo it on the fun stuff. In Tribble’s case, she wasn’t used to the level of exercise I was offering her, nor was she conditioned to run around at high speed that frequently. By that fourth day, she was probably so sore from so much unaccustomed exercise that even the idea of the park didn’t sound fun anymore. What I probably should have done–and am doing now–was give her breaks in between park days so she isn’t completely exhausted.

I once knew a lady who got a Malinois puppy from good, health-tested, extremely drivey lines to be her next sport dog. She was so excited to be working with this puppy that she had the dog in classes every single day of the week. According to a mutual friend, she was drilling a four-month-old puppy on box turns for flyball and racing the dog over jumps, among other things. By eight months, the puppy was laid up with elbow dysplasia, despite coming from lines that were clear of the condition. My suspicion is that by being so excited to start working hard with the puppy, the woman ruined the dog physically by pushing a growing pup too hard.

A muddy brindle-and-white dog rolls around in the grass.I think you can also sour a dog mentally if you try to push training too far. Most dogs will let you know when they’re done by losing interest or not accepting their rewards or ignoring you, so it’s harder to get to the souring point if you’re doing primarily reward-based training. Still, it’s a possibility, especially if you’re routinely pushing a dog to the point that they get bored or stop wanting to work with every training session.

So it’s important to take a break now and again. After all, it’s important to remember to keep it fun!

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