The first day after I brought Johnnie Cash home I thought, “What did I get myself into?” I came back from work and she started flying around the house doing zoomies until I was dizzy. For over an hour she would bounce around excitedly trying to play. I took her on a walk that night and couldn’t stop shaking my head at the little firecracker I had chosen to take home. “I’m active, but I’m not this active,” I thought. And then Johnnie & I returned home from the walk and she completely passed out in her bed around 8 pm, sleeping through the night. I realized she was a little more on my level than I thought.
That is the key to it all: using up Johnnie’s energy in intentional bursts so that she’s laid back the rest of the time – or, as Mark calls it, energy management! I’m sure a lot of you are rolling your eyes at me right now because – duh – you all have to do this with your dogs. But since I haven’t had a very “energetic” dog in a long time, I wasn’t sure if she’d have an off switch. Luckily Johnnie certainly does. I generally take her on one hour-long walk in the morning and one-hour long walk in the evening – along with some games of tug, fetch and clicker training in between – and that pretty much does her in.
My point is that instead of saying, “This dog is nuts!” and dealing with her being generally active all the time, we experimented with different exercise amounts and mind games that fit both her needs and my capabilities to create a happy, settled dog pretty. Sure, it took a few days for me to get used to the fact that I need to spend a decent amount of time exercising her, but our walks together have become routine, pleasant and a de-stresser for both of us. They make me feel a lot better because I know she’s walking out any pent up heebie-jeebies, and they make her feel a lot better because, well, she’s walking out any pent up heebie-jeebies!
Another important part of Johnnie’s exercise needs is keeping her at a safe, productive level of excitement and activity. For the first week and a half I had Johnnie I would take her into the backyard and chase after her and we’d do glorious zoomies for a half hour, but when I wanted to be done, she most certainly did not. She would come back into the house, still in zoomie mode, and not settle down for another half hour. It got to the point where I was letting her get entirely too riled up and she was reverting back to her old bad behaviors because she was just too stimulated.
I learned very quickly how important moderation is with J. When she gets too wired, it’s like her brain turns off. So we work on ways to keep her brain on. When we go to play in the backyard, I’m sure to bring a clicker and treats with me to practice sit, touch and other focus activities in between running around like a goofball. When we’re playing inside, I always practice impulse control with her toys, just to keep her mind working. Little J is such a happy puppy, but that can get the best of her sometimes. If I notice she’s getting too worked up, we stop the game and chill out on the couch. She’s very receptive to your energy levels, so when you stop moving around, she usually does too. . . eventually.
I let her be a dog. I let her bounce around and I play with her when I know she has energy to burn off and I give her expectations I know she can meet. I wouldn’t ask her to be calm at the end of the day if I hadn’t exercised her at all, you know? The more we figure her out and can tell when she just needs a little jog, the more understanding we are of her behaviors. Usually we both end up heavily snoozing at the end of the day and I have to drag her out of bed in the morning (which, by the way, is the cutest thing ever).
If you’re interested in adding a mostly sleepy and snuggly, but sometimes bouncy, Johnnie Cash to your family, email firstname.lastname@example.org.