Zen and the Art of Dog

Is a Tired Dog a Happy Dog?

When we adopted our first dog Denver, we were young, childless, and living in a 3rd floor condo with no yard space. We would take our happy dog Denver up and down the stairs for 2-3 walks a day. A year after we adopted him, we moved to his namesake city Denver, Colorado–one of the most active cities in the country. In addition to his usual 2-3 walks a day, we would take him on miles-long walks to the various parks around the city, bike rides along the Cherry Creek bike path, and hiking in the mountains. He got a LOT of exercise. 

Even with all of his exercise he would still misbehave. He would still get excited around other dogs. He would still lunge and pull at his leash.

Once, I had him in the elevator of our apartment building in downtown Denver and a new dog came on. The space is, as you would guess, tight, and the two dogs wanted to play. Unfortunately, an elevator is not a place for dogs to wrestle and they upset one of the other passengers. As this passenger was getting off the elevator she says to me, with a patronizing glance, “that dog needs more exercise”.

Tired Dogs are Happy Dogs

There is this misconception that a tired dog is a happy dog, or a well-behaved dog. Denver is a husky mix and they tend to be anxious and restless dogs. But no matter how much exercise we gave him, Denver would still be highly anxious. We could go on an hour walk and he would be reacting to every dog we encountered. Denver doesn’t bark and lunge, he whines and pulls because he wants to meet every dog no matter the other dog’s body language. This was very difficult for us in the city of Denver because it is such a heavily dog-populated area. We felt very defeated when he would react with the same level of reactivity at the end of his walk as he would at the beginning of his walk.

Denver camping in Colorado

We adopted a second dog, eventually moved back to Chicago, adopted a third dog, and 2 babies followed. There was no way we could keep up with the same level of activity that we had when Denver was our only dog. So what do we do now to help him manage his anxiety?

Dog Walker?

No, we didn’t hire a dog walker or buy a treadmill or send him to doggy daycare. We just changed his walks from quantity to quality. The game-changer for Denver was the introduction of a prong collar to our walks. When correctly fitted, happy dog Denver does not pull on the prong collar. This allows him to focus on the walk and on his humans. He knows that we are in charge of the walk and he doesn’t need to check out every dog we pass. Now he is far from carefree but it has helped his mental state immensely.

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