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Does Exercise Help with Dog Aggression?

By Jason Wright

January 16, 2023

Is Your Dog Aggressive?

An aggressive dog can not only pose a challenge, making it difficult for you to be around other dogs or friends and family, but it’s also dangerous. If you have or know an aggressive pet, you probably have seen them react quickly or unexpectedly, sometimes biting or trying to harm someone or something that’s in the way. This serious problem needs to be addressed and resolved as quickly as possible.

Many dog owners, unfortunately, try to use unsafe or poor training tactics that only result in their pets becoming more aggressive or harmed in the process. Some of these training techniques include alpha rolling or asserting dominance to try and get their pet to back down. This not only results in a poor relationship between the dog owner and the dog but can also lead to the pet reacting, causing physical harm.

The good news is that there are quite a few tactics and training exercises that can help alleviate your pet's aggression, making them calmer and more relaxed. One of these tactics is exercise. Exercise can be used as an outlet for any of the reasons that could be causing the aggressive behaviour, such as anxiety, fear or nervousness. When a dog is aggressive, there is always an underlying issue causing the aggressive behaviour. While this may sometimes be genetics, exercise can always be used to help relieve pent-up energy and stress, allowing the dog to remain level-headed. 

Exercising Your Dog to Release Aggression

Humans and dogs are alike in that exercise and diet are the first things prescribed to help when trying to tackle physical and mental issues. If you think about it, humans who have anxiety, depression, or anger, are often recommended to work out at least 30 to 120 minutes per day. The same can be said for dogs.

Naturally, dogs are highly energetic, as they initially needed this energy to hunt and survive. Now that dogs are pets, they have a surplus of energy that needs to be expelled daily to help keep them mentally stimulated and prevent them from getting bored. There may be many reasons why your dog is showing signs of aggression. However, one of the most common factors in play is usually that the dog is bored or has a great deal of excess energy that needs to be expelled. Dogs, unlike humans, don’t know the difference between positive or negative ways to expel their energy, which is where aggression comes out.

If you’re looking to alleviate the aggression in your dog, one of the more simple solutions would be to increase their level of physical activity per day. Any of the following tactics can complete this:

1. Structured Play:

Playtime is not only an effective tactic to help tire out your pet, but it can also help mentally stimulate your dog, reducing boredom and building a strong relationship between you and your pet. The key to having a playtime session that is both fun and effective in expelling energy for your dog is to have set boundaries:

  1. Keep playtime to a specific play in your home. We recommend that playtime should always be an outdoor activity; however, if this is not possible, you should set up a designated area within your home.
  2. Do not overstimulate your pet during playtime. It’s best to ensure that your dog is not getting into the habit of being too excited, aroused, or overstimulated while they play. If so, your dog may feel like this mindset is always okay, which will affect their obedience training and behaviour.
  3. Play with your dog at least a few times per week. Your dog needs a break from being in command every day and night. Schedule a few play sessions per week ranging from 15 to 30 minutes. This allows them to relax without being overstimulated while expelling energy.

2. Mental and Physical Stimulation:

For your dog to alleviate aggression, they need to be both mentally and physically stimulated. Taking your dog for long walks helps to get them out of the house and get some exercise; however, this isn’t the only tactic that should be relied on as it doesn’t incorporate mental stimulation. During your walks or outings with your pet, make sure that you also incorporate a mix of games as well. 

Stimulating Your Dog Physically and Mentally

It is important to ensure that your pet is getting enough exercise daily to get rid of excess energy and feel calm and relaxed. However, if you are using exercise to alleviate your dog’s aggression, it’s important to ensure that they are being both physically and mentally stimulated.

Overexercising your dog will only create more problems in the long run. Not only will you increase their cardio and build a stronger pet, but you will also notice that it will take them longer and longer to tire out or become calm. 

Ways to keep your pet mentally stimulated include the following:

  • Allowing your pet to sniff or explore throughout the day. While this is not recommended during a walk, it can be used as an award during your pet’s training sessions.
  • Having your pet work for their food or treats. This can be done by having your pet work for their toys, treats or paise during their daily training.
  • Playtime with new toys. Again, we recommend you follow the necessary playtime boundaries and rules to ensure playtime is effective and enjoyable for you and your pet. A game that we highly recommend is tug.
  • Teaching your dog a new trick.
  • Threshold practices include sitting and waiting before walking through a door frame.
  • Take your dog on long walks in new areas rather than using the same path every single day.
  • Having your dog walk or run on a treadmill. This tactic that our trainers at iTK9 use have shown great results in not only physically and mentally stimulating a dog but also in helping to alleviate aggression, as it tires the dog out in a productive manner.

Training with a Focus on Impulse Control

Exercise is the key tactic that we recommend and use when working with pets that show high signs of aggression. However, another tactic that is also effective, safe and productive in achieving desired results is incorporating the place command and training your dog on impulse control.

The place command refers to training your pet to go to a specific place or location upon your command. This can be their bed, crate, or a location within your home. It is a useful command that can help prevent your dog from performing an undesirable action, as it helps to distract them and enter into a calm state of mind. 

Impulse control training teaches your dog to resist the temptation to perform an unwanted action or behaviour, allowing them to learn self-control. This allows your dog to develop and create a calm and stable state of mind so that it can learn to make better decisions. 

All dogs can learn self-control through delayed gratification or by accepting alternative rewards during their training. Key commands and training techniques to use to teach your pet impulse control include

  1. Wait - teaching your dog to wait until you command otherwise for them to move or get their reward
  2. Leave it - teaching your dog to leave the reward and not touch it until commanded otherwise,
  3. Sitting at thresholds - this is an important tactic, especially when teaching your dog to wait patiently and not jump up to greet any house guests
  4. Crate - even teaching your dog to retreat to its crate and wait there until commanded otherwise can help instill impulse control and a calm state of mind

The iTK9 Way

An aggressive dog is not a happy or healthy pet. Instead, it is usually a sign that a dog needs more mental and physical stimulation. However, if exercise or impulse control training does not seem to be helping your dog in reducing its aggression, it may be time to seek professional help.

Our trainers are fully committed to helping you improve your relationship with your dog through behaviour and obedience training and continued learning. 

We do the hard work for you to attain a happy home and a healthy relationship with your pet.

Included in all of our programs are the following;

  1. In-Person Learning: Midway progress training video, two go-home lessons.
  2. Online Learning: Owner education course, instructional training videos, iTK9 member community, e-books & additional training resources.
  3. Owner Support: Photo updates of your dog training with our team and access to our team for questions & support.

For more information on our programs, including Board & Train, contact us today.

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