As dog trainers, we often stress the importance of providing dogs with enough stimulation and exercise.
I’m really pleased to say that I’m meeting more and more pet owners who take this into consideration. However one thing that people often forget to consider is how much rest their dog needs.
On average, an adult dog requires 16 hours sleep/rest a day, and a puppy, even more!
I recently met an excellent border collie owner who was well aware of how much simulation border collies require and of her dog’s working heritage. However her dog was showing signs of stress and struggling to settle. Upon talking to her it became clear that in her attempt to ensure her dog was kept stimulated, she wasn’t giving him chance to rest and recover.
Together, we formulated a daily plan which included specific rest periods (amongst other things) and within a week she contacted me to say how much better he was doing and how much more settled he seemed to be at home.
Of course, I’m not saying that stimulation isn’t important, it absolutely is. Just like us, dogs don’t want to be constantly bored or they will become frustrated and possibly destructive and it impacts on their mental health.
However, just like us, they also need rest. Even work they enjoy puts their body and mind under strain, and rest is vital for recovery. We can enjoy our job immensely, but it doesn’t mean we want to work long shifts with no time off and if we don’t get enough sleep, we don’t perform well.
We sometimes forget that working dogs rarely work all day long. Much of the time, they’re on standby waiting to be called on. High stress jobs often require more than one dog so they can be swapped over rather than overworked.
Guide Dogs For The Blind give their owners guidelines on how long a dog should be worked for and insist that when the dog is at home, it is a pet, and working sheepdogs don’t herd sheep all day every day.
In addition, dogs have been bred as pets for a long time now, so even dogs of certain breeds may have been bred as pets rather than working dogs.
Not all pups from working parents will go on to work either. Some don’t have the drive to work, and these will be sold as pets. So often, just because you have a breed that typically does a certain job, doesn’t mean that your dog would be doing that job if he wasn’t with you. He may actually prefer to laze around!
So, enrichment and stimulation is important but in small amounts! If you constantly keep a dog occupied, you will end up with a dog who can’t handle quiet time and needs to be constantly occupied.
If you have a dog who is getting plenty of enrichment, but is still finding it difficult to settle, he may simply need more downtime and to learn to self-settle. If you think this may be the case with your dog, you are very welcome to drop me an email for advice!