How Exercise Improves Pet Behavior
At Run Those Dogs, our motto has always been, “A tired dog is a happy dog.” We love to help pets and their parents be healthy, safe and happy. In addition to pet sitting, pet exercise is a big part of our business. Yes, we’re biased, but we’ve also seen the evidence first-hand time and again that exercise is the number one way to help improve pet behavior and stay healthy. But exactly how and why does exercise help prevent ‘bad’ behavior?
No pet is angelic, no matter how much we love them. We have to remind ourselves that even sweet little tea cup poodles came from wild pack canines that roamed the vast prairies for food and defended sweeping territories in order to survive. Humans have made big changes through breeding, but those survival instincts are still there. The amount of exercise needed varies from breed to breed, but their bodies and brains are meant to move constantly. They are practically born with stamina and the desire to use it. When their lifestyle doesn’t support their natural drives, that’s when we see one or more of the ‘bad’ behaviors below that are hard for owners to appreciate.
- Play biting and rough play
- Destructive chewing, digging or scratching
- Attention-getting behaviors like barking and whining
- Investigative behaviors like garbage raiding
- Hyperactivity, excitability and night-time activity
- General bad manners like knocking over furniture and jumping up on people
- Excessive predatory and social play
But what studies have shown, and perhaps what we already knew, is that most dogs don’t turn to these behaviors when they have the exercise and care their bodies need and want. Although this list was prepared with dogs in mind, many of these behaviors apply to cats and other pets as well.
Brain & Body Chemistry
Just like humans, dog behavior is influenced by physiological processes including the activity of neurotransmitters and hormones. Neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, send chemical messages throughout the brains and bodies of dogs and humans.
Serotonin, for example, has a profound affect over emotions and is responsible for regulating mood, enhancing a positive feeling and inhibiting aggressiveness. Dopamine helps to focus attention and promote feelings of satisfaction. A lack of these neurotransmitters causes irritability, limited impulse control, over-reactivity, anxiety and greater sensitivity to pain.
Guess which neurotransmitters increase as a result of exercise? Bingo. Seratonin and dopamine. Exercise also helps produce and regulate of many other chemicals a healthy body needs including other neurotransmitters like endorphins, stress-regulating hormones like epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol, and insulin that helps regulate blood sugar. So the next time your best friend chews up your favorite shoe, remember that it probably wasn’t to get you back for that bath with the hose, it was just one outlet for their wound up, anxious feelings.
‘A tired dog is a happy dog’ because when a dog’s machine is finely tuned and running ‘just right’ where its designed to cruise smoothly, they feel and act better.
Other Benefits of Exercise and Play
The good news is that keeping your dog healthy, happy and out of trouble with daily exercise has many other benefits including:
- Keeping dogs healthy, agile, limber and at a healthy weight,
- Achieving more and deeper sleep,
- Getting along better with their housemates and strangers,
- Reducing digestive problems and constipation,
- Helping timid or fearful dogs build confidence and trust, and
- Making dogs feel calmer, rather than restless, at bedtime or when you’re relaxing.
These facts are the foundation of why Run Those Dogs became a business. We help pet parents give their fur babies the care and exercise they truly need. We fill the gaps that you just can’t get to. A whole lot more than just running, we develop a plan and care for each pet specific to their unique needs, from puppies to seniors with chronic illness, plus cats and other small animals too. Get in touch today to schedule your free consultation and find out how Run Those Dogs can help your pet be happier, healthier, and well-behaved.