How to Exercise a High-Energy Dog During the Work Week
I love owning a high-energy dog – but I also have to work a full-time job! Although I love taking Barley out on exhausting hiking trips on the weekend, I can’t do that every day because of my work schedule!
We’ve already got some tips for balancing a dog and a job – but now it’s time to look at the specifics of exercising a high-energy dog when you work full time.
Most high energy dogs aren’t well-suited to being weekend warrior types. They need exercise most days (but not all – even the most energetic dogs should get a rest day once in a while) and telling them to save their energy for the big biking trip this weekend usually doesn’t fly.
If you own a high-energy dog and work full time, both you and your dog will be happier with a well-thought-out mental and physical exercise plan for your dog during the week.
I personally avoid doggie daycare (most adult dogs aren’t well-suited to the free-for-all style of doggie daycare) and can’t afford a dog walker every day. If your dog likes daycare or you can afford a dog walker regularly, great! But you’ve probably already considered those options.
Here’s how to survive life with a full-time job and a high energy dog:
1. Consider taking up jogging.
I stopped running after an MCL tear in high school. Instead, I biked, cross-country skied, swam, and lifted weights.
But when I brought home Barley, I realized that I simply wouldn’t have enough time in the day if I tried to take him to the park for an hour and then take myself to the gym for an hour.
Nine months after adopting my first dog as an adult, I completed my first marathon. Start small: Barley and I averaged three miles per day at 10-minute miles at first (we now regularly clock over 15 miles on trails on the weekends).
You’ll both reap plenty of fitness benefits from getting outside and getting your heart rate up most days! If you need help teaching your dog to run nicely with you, read this article about getting started in canicross and consider joining a canicross-focused Facebook group.
2. Give your dog tons of mental stimulation.
Most high-energy dogs are pretty smart. Even if you don’t consider your dog to be a canine Einstein, you can make a good dent in his daily energy levels if you tire him out mentally.
You’re probably tired after a long day at work due to mental exertion, not physical. Leverage the same thing for your dog!
Puzzle toys are hands-down the best way to do this. I put Barley’s daily kibble rations into a few different puzzle toys, then hide them around the house every day while he’s at work.
This gives him a two-part puzzle: scavenging and searching for the food, then solving the puzzle to get it out. He loves it – and your dog will too!
3. Add in some daily training.
Whether you join the local agility club or just take 5 minutes while your dinner is cooking to teach your dog a trick, training is a great way to work both your dog’s mind and body. We’ve already put together several lists and how-to demonstrations for a variety of tricks that will help keep your pup in tip-top shape for the adventures to come.
Aside from the benefit of reducing behavior problems that come from a bored and understimulated dog, daily exercise for your dog will help your dog avoid injury and have more fun on the trail. Remember – your dog spends most of the day waiting for you to come home from work. As tired as you may be, it’s important to give him more than a cursory lap around the block or 30 minutes of free time in the back yard. Structured exercise will help keep your high-energy dog much happier and healthier during the work week.