The biggest issue when it comes to bringing up young dogs is finding the perfect balance between their emotional needs and physical abilities.
Most owners fall victim to the mistaken belief that most dogs need hours and hours of strenuous exercise, be it chasing a tennis ball, being dragged around the block on the lead, or running up and down the garden boundary. Don’t get me wrong – it is all a rather necessary activity (in moderation, of course) and without it dogs do not develop their social, inter-species and physical functions. But how much exercise do they actually need?
Any “expert” trying to give a time scale or miles estimate is barking up the wrong tree. It is the balance that we all need to find, the balance between developing the fast moving physical ability of the dog to run, jump, chase and chew for hours, and even faster developing (or not) brain power, which is supposed to direct all the active energy into the right stream. Unsettled, obsessive and paranoid dogs dead in their brains are known to us all – they do not need to use a single brain cell in order to bolt after a frisbee and munch on a massive beef joint. Instincts do that. But the muscles develop, they grow and expand, and like a vicious circle, a dog gets fitter the more you exercise it… And the more exercise they need as a result. But with a dormant thinking power, you get an unsettled, over-exuberant youngster that soon becomes an adult dog, who must have extensive exercise, and even then goes on destroying the inside of the house, jumping on visitors, barking out of a window, lunging at passing cars and chasing joggers.
Remember the way Nature has created dogs – they all go through critical periods when growing up – period, when pups discover fear, learn play- and bite-inhibition, mix with their siblings and other animals, hunting and chasing as well as pecking order, pulling, playing, defending and protecting and many more. The critical period ends – and the gate for this particular learning curve shuts. Permanently, – as some behaviourists think; but to my opinion – mainly, leaving the chance for those left behind to catch up. Otherwise we’d jeopardise the whole idea of rescue homes due to the amount of “second-hand” dogs that have missed out on most stages and experiences when growing up.
And even later on in their lives they have to discover (or re-discover) that physical & mental dexterity. Sometimes this is just a nudge in the right direction from the responsible owner, but more often with lots of hard work and even professional involvement.
And, of course, the difference in breeds, genders and personalities is so vast, that no one would be able to advise you better on the way your own dog should develop better, than yourself – the person who lives, sleeps, eats and exercises with them. You feel they are falling behind – you think of the way they can do a couple of brain-teasers a day; you have a well-controlled and content puppy – relax and just go with the flow. We can all relax once the job is done – you and your family, responsible for the pooch, and everyone else, who do not wish to be bothered, barked at, nipped by a dog, and those who just do not do dogs. And can you blame them?
You have made the decision to care for a pet – give it what it needs. Feed its’ physics, and nurture its’ spirit. And remember – that balance once achieved remains a moving and developing structure. So – update and maintain whatever you have built. This is what being a complete person is all about.