Dog Gone Problems is a weekly advice column by David Codr, a dog behaviorist in Omaha. David answers dog behavior questions sent in by our readers. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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Dog Gone Problems,
I recently adopted a 2-year-old hound/doberman mix named Winnie. She has been such a lazy, sweet dog, and gets along with all other dogs and my two cats. We have had her a little more than two months and she has recently started showing some alarming behaviors. She starts running around the house, barking and growling.
Through Google I found “zoomies,” but it never talks about aggression. We take her on at least a two-mile walk a day, plus fetch, puzzle toys and other treats/toys. She does this at random times — like after going poop or late at night. She runs really fast and will run up to us growling and nipping, and then run away and come back. She sounds vicious but has never hurt anyone. We are at a loss with her. If you have any advice, it would be very helpful.
It sounds like you’re dealing with a few different things. When we first bring a dog into our home, they are often in a state of shock for the first couple of days to a couple of weeks. For dogs who have been through traumatic experiences or abused, it can take even longer.
Once they get comfortable, you start seeing more of their true personality come out. This is also the period where they start testing the boundaries to see who is the leader. In the dog world, leaders are the ones who take care of problems and enforce rules consistently. It’s quite possible your dog is testing the boundaries a little bit, as well as other factors.
The average dog needs a solid hour of exercise every day. Higher energy breeds or younger dogs sometimes need more than this. It sounds like your dog falls into this category.
While taking your dog out for a two-mile walk is awesome. However, when it comes to dog exercise, it’s best when you sprinkle in multiple exercise periods throughout the day — ideally spaced two to four hours apart.
In cases like yours, I usually tell people they should interpret their dogs surge of energy as his or her plea for you to take it out and exercise it.
Living in the Midwest, I have come up with a number of creative ways to exercise dogs inside. One of these involves tossing treats up or down stairs as shown in this <a href="https://youtu.be/KUQDYHSDokE" target="_blank">video</a>.
If your dog likes to fetch, that’s another wonderful way to burn off excess energy. Another option may be to do some nose work. Do a Google search for “scent training.” A dog’s nose controls 60 percent of its brain, and mental stimulation can be physically draining.
I would also suggest you start an exercise journal. Get a notebook and write down the date at the top of the page. Each time you exercise your dog, write down the number of repetitions or how long the walk was. At the end of the day, give your dog a letter grade from A to F. If your dog got anything lower than a B, the next day add in additional exercise activities or increase the quality for exercises you did the day before. This will help you identify how frequently your dog needs exercise and provide you with data so you can start working in short exercise routines before the dog gets a chance to get the zoomies.
Keep in mind that dogs have a high energy period, which typically starts early in the day and late in the day. Take note of when your dog has the zoomies and add it to your exercise journal so that you can coordinate an exercise session right before the zoomies usually kick in.
Without seeing your dog in person, I cannot weigh in on if this is aggressive behavior, but from what you described, I do not think that is the case. Some dogs growl a little bit when they are overstimulated. Some dogs also nip when excited. To address your dog’s mouthing and nipping problem, please check out this <a href="https://youtu.be/uood4RPNUpU" target="_blank">dog training video</a> I did for one of my in-home behavior clients.
I'm confident if you add in three to five short five to 10 minute exercise periods throughout the day, you will find the right combination to keep your dog from having to exercise itself.
Good luck and remember — everything you do trains your dog. Only sometimes you mean it.
Submit your pet questions to David Codr by emailing a photo of your dog and question to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit doggoneproblems.com for more from David.