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17 Podcast – How much exercise does your dog actually need? The answer may surprise you!

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We all know that elated look our dogs have as they tear down the park chasing a ball but is this the best exercise for our beloved pooches? Is there any other form of exercise for a dog? During this episode Mark, Caroline and Rowan discuss; · How much exercise to give your dog. · Cortisol and it’s negative effects. · Alternatives to the traditional long walk and ball throwing. Join the conversation on Instagram and Twitter @BellaAndDuke and make sure to join our growing Facebook community! –…

‘Rather than throwing the ball for the dog, I would actually go out into the garden and I would hide two or three toys there and go with the dog to help him find it. But actually getting the dog to use his nose. So many dogs are reactionary, its eyes, eyes all the time and their best scent is their nose and we so very rarely, rarely help them to use that and draw on it because we love throwing balls and dogs love it.’ – Caroline Spencer Dog (Behaviour and Canine Training Specialist)

For further information on exercising your dog read our handy blog post here

0:04 – Greetings! 1:34 – The problem with over-exercising your dog 1:56 – Everything in moderation? 4:55 – Brain Training for dogs 5:54 – Toys over Treats 6:46 – Finding a place for exercise and play 10:26 – Cortisol Explained 11:50 – Negative effects of Cortisol 13:28 – The difference between animals and humans 14:42 – What is the right amount of exercise? 18:12 – Negatives of dogs free running 19:40 – Recap 24:35 – ‘Bimbles’ instead of a walk

Rowan:  Mark, Caroline, welcome.

Caroline:  Hello! Welcome to you too.

Rowan:  How nice to see everybody together like this.

Caroline: Cozy little family, hey.

Mark: It is.

Rowan:  So how’s it going in the office.

Caroline: It’s good. Oh I tell you, I love coming up here, because everybody is just talking dogs and it’s just heaven for me.

Mark: And dogs running around.

Caroline: And dogs running around or laying asleep under the tables. Yeah, it’s cool.

Rowan: What’s the dog content of the office today?

Caroline:  We’ve got Shona’s two Shelties here, sleeping.

Rowan: Yeah.

Mark:  — Straight off the news feed — [laughter]

Rowan:  Oh my goodness. Latest bulletins.

Mark:  We’re proper organized today.

Rowan:  So guys, what are we going to cover in today’s podcast? I know what we wanted to take advantage of the fact, not of Caroline, but off the fact that Caroline is here to cover something behavioral related. We’re going to talk about how much exercise does our dog really need. What I’d love to hear from Caroline is just from her perspective, a behavior respective — what are the impacts of potentially over exercising your dog?

Caroline:  Well, over exercising your dog, you’re lifting up the adrenaline to a state… Plus when he’s out he’s probably seeing things that worry him or throwing loads of balls around and he’s becoming ball obsessed. So, you can actually create a huge amount problems by where you go and what you do with them. But too much exercise, you know, everything’s got to be in moderation. A little bit of everything is great. It’s like with diet, you don’t overdo one thing or the other.

Rowan: I disagree with that entirely by the way.

Caroline: Oh alright then. I had a glass of wine last night. Well I didn’t actually, I had a little bit more than a glass of wine, which wasn’t in good moderation. But if I’d had one glass I would have been feeling a lot better today.

Rowan: Yeah, you know what as I soon as I hear, “everything in moderation,” quite often this is what happens in the Sanderson alarm bell center [makes alarm noise]. — Wait a minute, somebody’s about to justify doing something really bad, which really . . . with their health. But it’s OK in moderation.

Mark:  What like five cigarettes a day?

Rowan: For instance, I remember my French friend Cyril as his wife lit up her third cigarette, whilst talking about how pregnant she was and her second… And look, their business, right none of my business but the way it was sold to everybody was — “well, everything in moderation you know, because it helps me stress level.”

Caroline: Oh right, yeah.

Rowan: And for instance, people could then turn around and say, “well a bit of kibble, it’s all about moderation.” Absolutely not. I disagree with that. I think there are things that you should never do. You should never feed your dog carbohydrates, you should never give them grains, you should never give them sugars. Moderation on that is just actually moderately toxifying your dog, as opposed to totally toxifying your dog.

Mark: But it’s funny because you talk about that and also when you think about treats.

Rowan: Yeah.

Mark: You get into this habit of going — oh I’m going to treat myself. What by putting toxins in your body? It’s a toxic like, that’s not a treat.

Caroline: Alright, I take that comment back. Well slapped on the hand here.

Rowan: Hey we’re not into slapping, we’re into team, we’re into bringing the team up.

Caroline: Oh absolutely.

Mark: Oh by the way, I do treat myself with popcorn and stuff like that occasionally. I’m not a complete… I do carb up occasionally.

Rowan: Hey carbing up’s great for humans. Especially if they’re doing exercise. But yeah it makes me laugh when people turn around… In fact, maybe I’m being super sensitive to this, because only the other day I had a new patient and they listed all of the stuff they were going through. I mean they’ve got some serious issues to address. And everything was — well, everything in moderation. It’s like, you’ve done so much stuff in moderation that you’ve not actually done anything healthy and you can’t see you painted yourself into a corner.

Caroline: Yeah.

Mark: So going back to the exercise then…

Caroline:  Absolutely. Going back to the exercise, there are some dogs that, I was talking to somebody this morning but her dog is all over the place at home and she takes it out for big long walks and everything. So I’ve actually advised her to you cut those walks out, but do lovely brain training exercises at home, teaching the dog how to find his off switch and the calm button.

Mark: So brain training. Give us an example of the brain training?

Caroline: Brain training, right. So rather than throwing the ball for the dog, I would actually go out into the garden and I would hide two or three toys there and go with the dog to help him find it. But actually getting the dog to use his nose. So many dogs are reactionary, it’s eyes, eyes all the time and their best scent is their nose and we so very rarely, rarely help them to use that and draw on it because we love throwing balls and dogs love it. But what you’re actually doing is putting an awful lot of strain on the body with bolting off and quick turn, but also you’re just making them reactionary to movement and dogs naturally they respond very well to movement.

Mark: So could you do that with treats for example? So my dog’s not massively into toys, but if I did treats?

Caroline: I’d prefer the dog to find something and bring it back so it’s a bit of teamwork.

Mark: OK.

Caroline: Where if you start chucking treats around the garden you’ll end up with all your plants dug up. It’s like people put treats around the house and then complain that their dogs rip the sofa up.

Mark: So maybe not a huge amount of treats. But if your dog, like mine’s not a massive toy lover what can we use?

Caroline: Well that lots of dogs can’t play because they’re too serious and they got too much on their mind.

Mark: They’ve been watching Eastenders.

Caroline: They’ve been watching Eastenders too much.

Rowan: Like Deputy Dog. Deputy Dog.

Caroline: Lots of dogs… I missed that I was just enjoying my own voice at that moment. Say if you try and play with your dog in the garden, but most of the time the dog is out in the garden, walking around the boundary, trotting around the boundary, barking to the next door neighbour, cars going past. That’s not really a great place to play, is it? If they feel that they’ve got to be on guard out there and doing that big job, how can you… It’s like we could probably play tennis in this office, but there are plenty of offices you can’t play tennis. I don’t know the space is not very good, but ping pong table. But yeah, if you’ve got a really serious job on your plate, you’re actually looking out for danger and you want to keep yourself safe, why are you going to play in that area? So to find a place that’s safe for a dog to play. You can make the garden safe to play, but you have to address his fears about who might be jumping over the garden fence.

Mark: So you’re saying when he’s in the garden, just so I’ve got this right. It could not be fun for him because he’s protecting my boundaries and anybody comes close to my boundaries. But if he’s in a park he’s not protecting the boundaries?

Caroline: It depends entirely on the dog.

Mark: But I’ve just, yeah yeah. But…

Caroline: I would with a…

Mark: Or a safe area, where is…

Caroline: A safe area where the dog feels it doesn’t have an important job keeping you safe. Some dogs that place will be in the house.

Mark: OK. Safe house. So they’re not being stimulated by people walking past.

Caroline: Yes, but then also you have some dogs that can’t play because they are so worried about their safety because of what’s happened in the past or just their make up that you have to get them calm, you have to make you feel safe with you. If you can play and be happy and calm, then they will mirror you.

Mark: They’ll pick up on your —

Caroline: Trying to get an anxious dog to play is not going to work unless he trusts you and can be calm with you and start learning with you. You can’t just say — hey chill out mate, let’s have a game.

Rowan: Just to recap. Sorry go on Mark.

Mark: No I was going to recap, but you recap.

Rowan: So just to recap. What we’re saying is that traditionally lots of owners have felt a certain degree of guilt at how much or how little they believe they’re exercising the dog. What we’re saying is that constantly stimulating the dog with more exercise or throwing frisbees, boomerangs whichever isn’t good from a behavioral perspective because we need the dog to be stimulated in other ways and also for it find it’s chill out switch.

Caroline: Yeah. And also he needs to be using this brain rather than just being a reactionary animal.

Rowan: Yeah absolutely.

Caroline: People have got this perception that watching a dog racing around at a 100 miles an hour, the dog’s having a great time. He probably is, but he’s not thinking and that’s when accidents happen.

Rowan: Yeah. That makes perfect sense.

Caroline: Another dog pounds in chuck full of adrenaline then adrenaline’s the flee, I can’t… Fight and flight hormone. And the thing is if you’ve got two dogs with high adrenaline and they’re just playing, they smell like they’re ready for the fight, so this is where big accidents happen. This is why keeping your dog calm and being with you and not necessarily going and running around like an idiot because that can cause problems in and of itself, just because of the way they smell.

Rowan: Well this really, really ties in very nicely with something I see basically on the human side, is that as a precursor to adrenaline, one of the first things that gets raised is cortisol, the anti-inflammatory hormone. Now cortisol’s always basically our fire brigade. So when people say, oh I’ve got really high cortisol or I’ve got really low cortisol, to be honest, that’s a bit of a loss leader. What we want is appropriate cortisol. So if you Caroline, you’ve got load of work deadlines and you’ve being working a lot and you’ve been training for a triathlon and you’re running a business…

Caroline: You noticed?

Rowan: Oh yeah. You would expect to see your cortisol relatively elevated — i.e., there’s a lot of emergencies going on and you’ve got all the emergency trucks to be able to deal with those emergencies. Good, so that’s where we’ve got correlation. Where it gets problematic is if the requirement for those emergency trucks is constant, then the body starts to get desensitised to that, because it says, actually, we’re putting out all these fires, shouldn’t we have just be powering down a little bit? Why? Because cortisol itself can damage your own body. So it can create leaky gut, Mark. And this is why we say that stress is one of the major components of leaky gut and auto immune disease, because when people are stressed they’ve got loads of cortisol, cortisol cannibalises your own gut. Exactly the same story in dogs. So if you’re constantly stimulating and over exercising a dog, you could inadvertently be making that dog sicker, rather than healthier. And this is where a lot people struggle to differentiate between health and fitness. Certainly with the athletes I look after, that is such a difficult concept for them to get their heads around — health and fitness, two different things.

Caroline: Yeah. So the ideal thing is that, yeah you need those hormones to…

Rowan: Those resources.

Caroline: — run fast and all the rest of it. But it’s the ability to come down off that as well, isn’t it?

Rowan: Yeah.

Mark: So just if we look at the wild, in the wild you wouldn’t see wolves for example, or tigers or lines constantly run, run, running.

Caroline: Or even street dogs. You go out to Turkey, they’re just vegged out in the sun.

Mark: They’ll do what they need to do to catch their prey, but once they’ve caught it, they’re going to chill out, they’re going to relax.

Rowan: They’re going to digest.

Mark: They’re going to digest, yeah. And I remember somebody talking about a good example between the difference between animals and humans is, animals, if you have two ducks get into a fight, on a loch, on a lake if you’re in England. They would have their fight, they would fire off, they would land on the loch or the lake, different parts and they would flap their wings…

Caroline: Shake off the adrenaline.

Mark:  — shake off the adrenaline and they would forget they had that battle. A human, on the other hand would land, would go, “that wee bastard, if I could have done this or I could have done that. I’m going to see him later.” They just keep getting wound up, wound up, wound up.

Caroline: Animals live in the moment and because I think we’ve got so much on our plate and also dogs mirror us, feed off us, so if we’re running around like cats on hot tin roofs then they’re going to mirror that as well. If they react, we react back, we’re just joining in. We need to be the adult and guide them to, hey, you know everything’s fine, don’t worry about this and I’ll guide you to a better choice. But because we get so frustrated in how to manage some dog behavior or even guiding it into the right way of living really, we get frustrated, our adrenaline comes up and it all goes pear shaped.

Rowan: First of all, when people say to me — what is the right amount of exercise? You’ve got to understand that exercise is a hormetic stressor. A hormetic stressor is something which creates more growth than it does break down. So for instance, if you go to school and learn a really, really cool topic, it’s a bit of a stress learning it, but it leads to greater growth.

Mark: OK.

Caroline: Yeah.

Rowan: The gym is exactly the same. No different. You go in and effectively you’re not… When you go into the gym, you’re not building muscle, you’re breaking muscle down.

Mark: OK, because you’re tearing things and doing all that.

Caroline: [inaudible][crosstalk]

Mark: Yeah.

Rowan: Yeah but that doesn’t happen in the gym, that only happens in the rest period.

Mark: Ah, you brought us down that little hole, didn’t you?

Rowan: This is why it’s a hormetic stressor. Now if people train every day and they’re training similar things every day, they never get the growth according to the stimulus. So actually it becomes a negative stressor. So it’s basically stress leading to less growth. When you see these people like these gym rats, who basically go in and they just like or cardio hounds, they’re just running on the treadmill and they’re whittling away and they’re just looking like a sickly marathon runner, like a sickly version of one. And they say, well I’ve got to stay healthy, I’ve got to stay fit. It’s like, do you actually think that running yourself into the ground on an electric machine, which is giving off a load of electromagnetic frequencies and messing with your hormones is making you healthier or is it just dealing with your mind monkey?

Mark: Yeah.  

Rowan: So what is the right amount of exercise is — any amount of exercise that you can fit in, whereby you can allow enough growth to be greater than the amount of breakdown. So if you start looking at it like that it makes it really easy.

Mark: It does.

Rowan: Now that does depend on where you are in your health journey. So for instance, if you’re battling a serious illness, yes, you probably want to maintain movement, but the type of exercise you’re going to do is different. Likewise at different times in our lives, likewise if we’re really busy at work. A lot the execs I look after work 90 hours a week and then train for a triathlon at the weekend, when actually you should only really be doing yoga at the weekend. So if we wanted to quantify this you would say, let’s look at their cortisol levels. And you could do a cortisol saliva test or urine test. I would love to be able to get these available for dogs, because we would get so much interesting data. It would go back to neutering, you know like how the dog’s metabolising the hormones, as opposed to just the absolute levels, because we change that with your nettle tea idea. We could do so much funky stuff. It’s like stepping through a portal into another universe, if we could actually do some of these tests on dogs and see. And if their cortisol was absolutely sky high, you’d go, actually let’s dial back on the exercise and let’s dial up…

Caroline: Because that’s the thing with me, when I ask owners don’t let your dog free run and run around like a complete lunatic. We need to do some nice gentle brain exercise, nice gentle walking, nice on the lead — they think that’s boring for the dog. So to have a test to show them that actually look how high these cortisol levels are, we’re not going to actually get any learning because you can’t learn when you’re chock full of those hormones. So let’s bring those down and you do that with gentle exercise and brain exercise and looking to the owner for guidance and just put being with them, rather worried about what’s around and likely threatening.

Rowan: Yeah.

Mark: So it makes then a good mix.

Caroline: A really good mix.

Mark: Some days you’ll have… I know you’re not keen on balls, but where they can go of the lead and go off and other times where they just calm down.

Caroline: Again it’s throwing balls, especially for the bigger breeds where they can have hip problems . . . problems and all the rest of it. It’s so much better to have a bimble, have a trot, have a little canter and go and have a look for something in deep grass or in the bushes or something, rather just mindlessly chucking a ball for a dog to get, back and forward, back and forward, back and forward.

Rowan: Right OK. So what we’re saying is that constantly exercising your dog is neither healthy for the dog nor even for your own mind chatter? I think we can all feel good about a dog does need to get out as do we, at least once a day. But we should be looking for other forms of stimulation for the dog which don’t just involve simply going into fight or flight.

Caroline: Yes, absolutely.

Rowan: Fight or flight or raising cortisol or stimulating adrenaline, whichever way we want to look at it, all form three parts of the same thing.

Caroline: It’s just because people if they got a highly energetic dog, they think if they take it out for a big long run, it’ll be exhausted and sleep. Invariably, what happens — because it’s running on adrenaline really — it comes back and it’s actually no different than it was when it was out. It’s because you just filled it up again with all these hormones and it doesn’t know what to do with them. So it’s actually having a negative effect on their life. And they keep being told by friends, by neighbors by other people, no you don’t exercise your dog enough. So they take it out for another long run in the afternoon and then, no it’s still bouncing off the walls. Take it for another long run, you’re obviously not exercising your dog enough. Whereas you say it’s happening too much.

Rowan: So focusing on the positive and what we want to achieve.

Caroline: Yeah.

Rowan: Ignore people who give you advice.

Caroline: Yes.

Rowan: They probably tell you that a little bit of moderate kibble is also all right. And . . . ground for a balloon of crack cocaine at the weekends, because it’s only on Saturdays.

Mark: Have you been to my estate, have you? [laughs]

Rowan: What the one with the gamekeeper at the end of the driveway? So look for the ways to stimulate the dog. I totally agree with Caroline on this, is that actually less is sometimes a lot more and I think more importantly is for the dog to feel like it’s been super engaged. I think when it’s being engaged and been kind of rewarded with fuss or love or praise as opposed to simply another snack or treat, they become… They become, you know like you’re saying… Reading your book Caroline and listening to a couple of things you’ve put down recently, I’ve been making sure that Kismet gets super praised whenever she comes back, so that she’s really incentivized to do it.

Caroline: Rather than putting her in a sit, it’s just like — yeah, get you.

Rowan: Yeah, absolutely. And then deal with anything afterwards. Empty your pockets. Where have you got those from? Whose tablet is that?

Mark: Where’s that pigeon from.

Caroline: Yeah because I want dogs to respond to you as a person, rather than what you can give them. It’s like with kids, I want them to respond to me because I asked them to do something, not because I’m going to give them ten quid after they’ve done it. Teenagers now, so actually money is changing hands a bit more. But yeah it’s nice to do something for somebody because you trust them, you like them, rather than what you can get out of the.

Rowan: Yeah, OK.

Mark: Cool. That’s brilliant. I think we got a lot there.

Caroline: Hope so.

Rowan: We’ve still not given a golden indication for anybody on how much exercise is the right amount. But I think given the clues we’ve, we’ve discussed here, if people are aware of how calm their dog is throughout the day, how active they are on a walk, they can just take a view and titrate it up and down.

Caroline: Absolutely.

Rowan: It’d be really good to get some feedback from other people in the group to see how their dogs are responding to this.

Caroline: Yeah, absolutely. If we look at our own behavior, we don’t run around like headless chickens unless we’ve got a bit of a screw loose, unless we’re in a really stressful situation. If we’re not in a stressful situation, we are relaxed, we can talk, we can be with people and be quite engaging hopefully. But if we are in a really stressful situation we’re buzzing round, actually not getting much done.

Rowan: Right. I agree with a couple of those things.

Caroline: So a lot of rest, you can have days off with your dog’s so you’re just home relaxing, a bit of a massage, a bit of nose work, going out for walks.

Rowan: You can do his and hers “pawdicures.”

Caroline: Absolutely. And you can go for nice little bimbles for a walk. It doesn’t have to be…

Mark: Bimble?

Caroline: A little bimble.

Mark: Bimble. [laughter]

Caroline: Is it really old? Am I showing my age?

Mark: What’s a bimble?

Caroline: Potter.

Rowan:  Mark I’m so glad you jumped in on that one. I didn’t want to be the one who leapt in on that one.

Caroline: Look at his face.

Rowan: OK guys, well I’m going to say, thank you very much to both of you for being there and for being your best shiniest selves, particularly you Caroline and for bringing “bimble” to this party.

Mark: Bimble.

Rowan: Bimble to this behaviour.

Caroline: Been lovely to talking with you.

Rowan: I’d love to see two new puppies called “Bimble” and “Bungle.” [laughter]

Caroline: Brilliant.

Rowan: Anyway, so many jokes, not appropriate.

Mark: So many puppy jokes.

Rowan: So have a fabulous rest of day guys, thank you so much and look forward to speaking to you all again very soon.

Mark: Yes.

Caroline: Indeed.

Mark: Take care.

Rowan: Ciao.



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