Mental Exercise Tires a Dog Physically More Than Physical Exercise Does

Ian DunbarI love this quote by Ian Dunbar.

Check out Ian Dunbar here .

I have been saying this for years.

And, quite frankly I kinda love Ian Dunbar.

If I were to have an admiration work crush I think it would be on him and Karen Pryor.

Check out Karen Pryor here.

So I found this “meme” the other day while scrolling through Facebook and of course I shared it!

It seems I may mention Facebook too much, ha ha ha, but my mind often has to multitask and so as I work, I go back and forth seeing what my friends and colleagues are up to in their lives.

Anywho… I digress… another problem of mine...

I was pleasantly surprised when someone asked me to clarify what he meant.

Thanks Animal Planet for the Photo

Thanks Animal Planet for the Photo

Physical Exercise

Physical exercise is great, it tires our muscles and sometimes our bodies and makes us need a little sleep or nap.

I also happen to be a certified personal trainer, so I know the benefits of physical exercise.

But I have gotten a little (or a lot if you ask anyone else) chubby since my old dog died and I got depressed and have suffered from depression for quite a while now.

Sometimes life is overwhelming... and I digress yet again...

So I've started exercising again; I started at 3 miles and I am now at 5 on the treadmill and 10-15 on the bike.

All of this has been within the last month.

3 just doesn't do it for me anymore and I need the help sleeping at night right now and fighting a new reason for some feelings of depression ;)

Plus I have increased my pace and incline, yippee for me.

And, I wasn't born an athlete.

Your dog was born an athlete...

He is able to change his fast twitch muscles into slow twitch muscles (slow are better because they help with endurance) much faster than we humans can.

This means he would probably be able to go from 3 miles to 5 miles in a couple of days rather than the weeks that it takes for me.

He, your dog, is a much better athlete than you will ever be ;)

It takes a lot of work to consistently tire a dog out using exercise only.

Mental Exercise

Thanks Soda Head for the Photo

Thanks Soda Head for the Photo

Now send me, the slow but beautifully aging adult (if I do say so myself), to school or a CE (continuing education) for the day.

I'm pretty sure I would come home more tired than if I had to run a half marathon.

My muscles may hurt after some severe exercise, but everything is tired after lots of mental stimulation.

Think, study, problem solve and don't take many breaks and you will sleep like a baby and be exhausted by the end of the day.

Your dog is the same way.

Exercise builds on itself increasing your endurance and making you a better athlete.

But mental stress and stimulation and exercise is always more exhausting, even physically.

And, you can mentally exercise any dog; old dogs, puppies, painful dogs (like hip dysplasia) etc.

How to Use This to Your Advantage

Remember when working with your dog; mental stimulation is always better than physical exercise if you have to choose between the two.

Need a tired dog, but have a limited time?

Teach him something new!

When the weather outside sucks (it's too hot, too cold, too rainy) or otherwise not workable; train with your dog!

If You Want a Double Whammy Tired Dog


Exercise your dog physically, while training him to do either something new; or while stimulating his mind and working on his existing obedience.

For instance, I take my dogs running with me (I can't run as fast as they need to make them tired) but I add sits or downs in motion, U turns, circles, down stays as I run past, eye contact and focus.

For more on eye contact and focus click here.

And of course teaching them heel position for more on that click here.

Teach him some tricks.

Add some retrieve work, play with him, but most of all make him thinking.

A thinking dog is a tired dog; and a tired dog is a good dog!

Don't you agree??

Start Calming Down Your Over Excited Dogs Today!

Your First Lesson’s FREE:

Sign up below and we’ll email you your first “Training For Calm” lesson to your inbox in the next 5 minutes.


  1. DON BARTELS says:



  2. Christina says:

    Hi there, I appreciate your article regarding mental training. But I still have a huge problem to socialize my dog. He goes on a wild bark when he sees other dogs and seems he wants to attack. Sometimes the other dog barks back and he will give a cry, turn around and run back to me. When he look over his shoulder and notice the other dog not following him, he will run towards him as if in a attack mode and bark again. I walk on the beach and he loves it but as soon as other dogs appear I have to put him on leach. It is no pleasure to take him for a walk. What to do?


    Minette Reply:

    Look into our companion dog or aggression program to find out when one will be starting again.

    email customer service at


    Harley Reply:

    Hi Christina, I always tell my clients to first put into place the four corner stones of being a good pack leader, being a pack leader has nothing to do with fear,force or heavy handed methods. It’s about winning your dogs mind in order to influence their behavior. Once you have these rules in place, you can begin to show your dog that when a dog approaches they have nothing to worry about, you simply turn your back to the perceived threat, and your dog will understand that if you are not concerned than neither should he be..when your dog sees you as their leader all of the unwanted behaviors just seem to fade away..


  3. Debby says:

    Gaily is 2 yrs old now. She isn’t very active but is very smart. To keep her brain stimulation going, t taught her to get my slippers & bring them to me after our walk. She learned it in 15 min. Then I put them in a large pile of other shoes. She got them right every time. Then I taught her to put them on my feet. Well done! This dog will learn anything cuz she needs to learn new things to keep her brain in good working. What do you think of this?


    Minette Reply:

    That is what makes a dog happy


  4. Chloe says:

    Hi Debby, how in the world did you get your dog to do that?!?! My dog (Mocha) could never do that. We’ll maybe, but I don’t know how to teach him. I’ve got a personal trainer coming to my house now and he’s doing great. Once he masters the Basic stuff he will be doing off-leash. I think he’s smart enough. I guess if he can trick me to give him a chicken bone with his cute puppy eyes then I guess he’s smart enough. Lol


    Marge Reply:

    Oh, chicken bone nearly killed my dog! Years ago when I was young and ignorant about dogs I gave my poodle chicken bones and for a while he didn’t seem to have any problems with them but one day I came home from work and found him under my bed with a puddle of blood nearby …after coaxing him out I saw blood all over his butt and he was in misery. Off to the vet he went and they found that he had a sharp bone splinter that punctured his intestines! That was a lesson for me….never give your dog turkey or chicken bones they splinter into sharp pieces like needles and have killed many dogs!!!


    Colin Churchill Reply:

    Cooked Chicken or other poultry bones are a No, NO. Uncooked carcasses without large leg bones are ok and a good treat is uncooked chicken necks – good for cleaning their teeth.


    john lancaster Reply:

    My dog is a very healthy (Runs 6 kilometers with me no problems) Maltese/ Bic-hon 14 months old. He is a very fussy eater, doesn’t like raw chicken necks but if I cook them with some olive oil for a few minutes and mix with dried food plus cooked mince he loves it. but is it Okay to cook the neck bones for that few minutes.

    Minette Reply:

    cooked bones are not good for dogs. AND, I have never seen a dog that wasn’t sick starve himself. He is doing the training. When he is hungry he will eat what you offer him.

  5. Mel says:

    Any recommendations for specific mental exercises?


    Minette Reply:

    It really depends on your current training level, but check these out


  6. Muriel Reiffe says:

    I have two cats. Please send me some exercises for them.
    One is a bully. Recently the bully (Merlin) was lying along the kitchen wall and the coward (Sunny) wanted to pass by, but she was afraid. After thinking for a while, she just turned around and walked BACKWARDS past him–safely!


    Val Reply:

    Cats can learn plenty of tricks, just like dogs. Look into clicker training for your cats. It’s easy and fun. Sunny sounds plenty smart enough and Merlin would probably get jealous watching Sunny interact with you, so he’ll probably barge in on the treats.
    My cats do many tricks — sit, stay, target, wave, high five, nose touch, foot touch, answer questions, play piano, push a cart, jump through hoops,spin, etc. There are several books and instructions online. Have fun.


  7. Michelle says:

    The reason I purchased your training was because I rescued a pit/terrier mix puppy and he has been out of control since day one. I have used a lot of your techniques with minimal success. He does great during training with treats, although he goes nuts when he sees the treats. He has done fair with clicker training. But, he doesn’t repeat anything without treats, and he is extremely hyper! He is very timid, but also somewhat aggressive in new environments, and when company comes over. I have a chow/lab mix that is a gentle giant, but Harley is exercising dominance over him. He sits on his head, bites his tail, constantly terrorizes him. Please help!!!!


    Minette Reply:

    You are not using treats right read this

    He needs more exercise

    And I would look into our companion dog or aggression program for the aggression issues. You can email to find out when they start.


  8. Eugenio says:

    I have a Malinois. You know what that is. What I do to tire him a bit more is I hold a stick with a cloth ( think a fishing cane ) and make him chase it, jump,circle, etc. It works wonders. I do it after a 20-30 minute walk. I used to bike with him but fell and fracture my arm so I just walk now.Hope my tip helps.


    Minette Reply:

    I have 2 malinois and a dutch shepherd 😉 I use a lateral recumbent trike to wear mine out and being seated closer to the ground helps to make the danger less 😉


    Eugenio Reply:

    Good idea but they are expensive and not easy to find. I used to bike with my Mal but fell and broke my wrist and elbow. Only walking and jogging now.


  9. Carolyn says:

    Ladies, please, please do NOT give your dogs any bones at all. Dogs don’t need them! Any bone can splinter, especially chicken and turkey bones. If you want to give your dog something crunchy try a few BABY CARROTS instead of bones or too many treats. Most dogs love carrots and they are approved by your Vet. It is best, however, to cut the carrot in half because believe it or not it is kind of hard to get chewed up. And it is very good for their teeth. Carrots are loaded with vitamin A and are low in calories. Please keep your dog safe, give them carrots instead!


    Jenn Reply:

    When our puppy was teething last year the vet recommended frozen carrots for her. She could gnaw on them while frozen, and as they thawed they went mushy so she could eat them up. (I was worried she’d get big chunks and choke but it never happened). Now at 18 months, she still loves a frozen carrot, especially on a hot summer day after chasing the tennis ball!


    Minette Reply:

    That is a great idea! I have big dogs and they would devour any sized carrot even when they were puppies but this is great for smaller dogs.


  10. tracy says:

    absolutely agree with NO bones. my stumpytail, ned, loves carrots. my daughter is a vet nurse & some of the horror stories of dogs that have ingested bones, even if they chew them up, they don’t digest properly & can cause all sorts of dramas down the track. carrots on the other hand are good for them & as an added bonus, can help keep their anal glands clear.(that has to be a good thing, no boot scootin).
    he has to work for his carrot tho. (nilif!)


  11. Sharon says:

    Please help. I have 3 rescue dogs, a terrier poodle, a lab pit bull mix and the most recent, Rosco, a bichon mix. Rosco arrived here when he was about 4 months old. That was a little over a year ago. He is the sweetest cuddliest dog with a very bad habit. Barking. I have a very big fenced in yard where they chase tennis balls, (he loves to run), and play. Rarely are they out alone, my husband and I are out with them. Problem, he sees a cat, a kid, a dog, a neighbor, and you can’t shut him up! I have tried treats to distract, throwing a ball, a whistle………..I am unable to talk with a neighbor over the fence, even if I pick him up. We have cats too, so this is not really new to him.

    I even tried bopping his nose after I pick him up in an effort to keep him quiet. (I know, but this was a last resort and it didn’t work at all.)

    Same thing in the house, if someone comes to the door. I shut him in the bathroom so I can answer the door. He knows what quiet means, and I don’t raise my voice, so he isn’t ‘barking with me’. Please can you suggest something? I would soooo appreciate your help on this. A muzzle? I don’t want to hurt any of my animals, and I really don’t want to use a muzzle. I love your training ideas, but nothing seems to work with Rosco. Thank you in advance.

    Trouble is, Rosco is not a very smart dog. Actually, he is dumb as dirt. Moly and Sara catch on to things quickly, and even though I have one on one sessions with him, he just doesn’t ‘get’ it. Food is a good motivator for him, but no food, no response!


    Minette Reply:

    Don’t use a muzzle that keeps him from barking, if he can’t open his mouth he can’t expel heat and can die of heat stroke.

    You must teach him to be quiet. Check out this article and the articles within


  12. Nancy says:

    Glad I read this article on carrots.
    My husband keeps sending me to the store for meat or pork bones at Wal-Mart.
    He figured that would calm them down.
    Yes, sure does doesn’t want to eat the regular food.
    So now will start on carrots.
    Who would have known about this only thought of horses when I hear carrots.


  13. MARGARET says:

    TRY IT.


  14. Red Barn Saint Bernards says:

    So COOL love the carrot idea, can’t wait to try!…. And a Popsicle on a hot summer day! : ) Our Lab who passed away 3 years ago(from old age) loved fresh veggies(mostly cucumbers) from the garden, and apples from the orchard. Our saints like to go berry picking with our family! The are very good at it! Amazing…now if i could just get them to put them in the bucket! LOL Love reading all the tips from minette and readers. Thanks so much!


  15. Kim says:

    Carrots are definitely better than cooked bones. But there has been a lot of talk lately about root vegetables being related to cancer (as they turn to sugar, and sugar can cause cancer.). I feed RAW and the person who makes it (locally) has removed all root vegetables from the product. Just wanted to throw that out there.

    There is a great toy out there called Game Changer (you can find it at Amazon) that they really have to work at to get the treats out. They can pick it up but can’t get it apart and they have to really think to figure out how to get the treats – it tires them out as well.


  16. Vicky Morrow says:

    Minette Reply:
    July 22nd, 2014 at 9:59 am

    cooked bones are not good for dogs. AND, I have never seen a dog that wasn’t sick starve himself. He is doing the training. When he is hungry he will eat what you offer him.
    Minette: My border collie cross (about 9 years old) goes on jags when he won’t eat – for 4-5 days. Nothing we put in front of him will entice him to eat. We have tried different dry food, wet food, home made hash made just for him, eggs, cooked meat, and salmon. We have taken him to the vet several times thinking there must be a problem if he isn’t eating, but the vet never finds anything. I know it isn’t good for him, but I’m at a loss as to what to try for a dog who goes on hunger strikes.


    Minette Reply:

    Find another vet and have them do bloodwork


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *