How to Fulfill Your Poodles Physical and Mental Exercise Needs

How to Fulfill Your Poodles Physical and Mental Exercise Needs

The following is an excerpt from "The Complete Guide to Poodles" by Tarah Schwartz. For more information visit the books Amazon Page.

Author Credit: Tarah Schwartz

Poodle Exercise Requirements

No matter what size Poodle you decide to bring home, you should plan on spending at least 30 minutes per day exercising him. Most healthy, able-bodied dogs would prefer more than 30 minutes of strenuous exercise, so if you have the time they will gladly play or exercise with you for as long as possible. Obviously, older dogs with mobility issues and young puppies with growing bones and joints should be exercised less than healthy adult dogs. For dogs with physical health problems, you can focus more on mental stimulation to keep them happy and out of trouble. Poodles are incredibly intelligent dogs and if you don’t find a way to keep their overactive minds busy, they will typically find their own activity, but it may not be something you approve of. No matter what type of exercise you decide to do with your Poodle, it’s recommended to check with your veterinarian to see if your dog is healthy enough for that level of activity. Like humans, dogs typically need to build up their fitness and stamina, so go slowly and increase your dog’s activity levels over a period of weeks or months. Young Poodles can suffer from permanent joint damage if they exercise too strenuously before the growth plates in their bones close, so go easy on your dog until he is around 12 to 18 months old.

The Importance of Exercise

According to Sheri Regalbuto of Just Dogs with Sherri:

“Exercise is an important part of living with Poodles.”

Dogs who do not receive enough physical and mental stimulation may develop both health and behavior problems as a result of their inactivity and boredom. Dogs who do not exercise enough may gain weight, which can lead to obesity-related health problems such as arthritis, diabetes, and heart and respiratory disease. Overweight dogs also typically have shorter life spans than dogs kept at a healthy weight. Poodles were bred to be active sporting dogs and as such, they do not do well with sedentary lifestyles. If you are an active person, your Poodle will gladly accompany you on long walks, hikes, or runs. They also very successful in most dog sports, so if you’re looking to compete with your dog, the Poodle may be your ideal partner.

Mental Exercise – An Intregal Part of Having a Healthy Poodle

Ensuring your dog receives enough mental exercise is just as important as making sure he gets his physical exercise every day. All dogs need a certain amount of mental stimulation to prevent boredom-related bad habits, but this is especially important for highly intelligent breeds such as the Poodle. A bored Poodle is a destructive Poodle. A Poodle who doesn’t receive enough daily mental stimulation may develop bad habits such as chewing, barking, escaping, or getting into the trash. The breed typically learns quickly and can be taught new tasks in a matter of minutes, so it’s better to teach them desirable behaviors rather than let them teach themselves. Poodles thrive in obedience competitions and are often used as trick dogs, so if you’re looking for a dog that you can constantly teach new commands to, your Poodle will be an eager student.

Different Types of Exercise to Try

Toy poodle running
Photo Courtesy – Jasper Roam

Poodles are versatile and athletic dogs, capable of succeeding in many different types of dog sports. However, they are also individuals with their own likes and dislikes. You may want to try different types of exercise to figure out what works best for you and your dog. Some sports require more physical activity on your part, while others require more from your dog. There are lower-impact sports for dogs with physical limitations and high-speed sports for dogs who need to burn off a lot of energy. Before you introduce your dog to any activity, find out what sport clubs exist in your area. You should be able to find a group who will allow you to come watch them practice or even compete. You can talk to other handlers and see if it is something you’d like to try with your own dog. You may even find other Poodle owners who can help with introducing your dog to this new sport. If you find that you or your dog aren’t enjoying a particular activity, don’t feel bad about quitting. There are so many different ways to exercise your dog, you don’t need to spend time doing something you don’t enjoy.

Obedience

Obedience is a sport in which Poodles of all sizes can excel. Their incredible intelligence allows them to learn quickly, while their dedication to their owners and willingness to please make them focused and eager learners. In obedience, a dog is asked to perform a series of commands including heel, sit, down, and stay. There are different levels of competition and the challenge increases with each level. Lower levels are performed on-leash and only basic commands and short stays are required. More advanced levels of competition require the dog to perform off-leash and the stays are longer and the commands more complex.

Agility

If you’re looking for something more fast-paced, try agility. Agility is a sport in which dogs must make their way through an obstacle course as quickly as possible. There are jumps, tunnels, weave poles, and more. Dogs are faulted if they miss an obstacle or knock down a jump pole. Jumps vary in height and are adjusted according to the size of the dog competing. Dogs only compete against others of similar size, so you won’t find a Toy Poodle competing against a Standard Poodle.

Flyball

Flyball is an exciting team sport where dogs take turns racing over a series of small hurdles before pouncing on a box that releases a tennis ball. Once the dog has the ball, he turns around and makes his way back over the hurdles to his handler. Once one dog has cleared the start line, the next dog can be released. The event is timed, and the fastest team wins. Poodles are excellent retrievers and particularly fast or energetic dogs may especially enjoy competing in flyball.

Dock Diving

Dock diving is another sport that is perfect for Poodles. Although all breeds and sizes of dog may compete, water-loving retrievers such as the Poodle particularly enjoy taking part. This is not a timed sport, but rather a test of the dog’s jumping ability. A toy is hung in front of a platform above a long, rectangular pool of water and the dog must jump out into the water to grab it. The dog who jumps the furthest distance wins.

Canicross

If you’re looking to get your exercise along with your dog, you may be interested in Canicross. This is a relatively new sport where a dog wears a harness similar to those fitted on sled dogs. The leash is attached to either a harness worn around your waist, or your bicycle. The dog then runs in front of you, either on your feet or on your bicycle. Canicross races vary in distance and terrain, but it’s a great opportunity to bond with your Poodle through a physical challenge.

Importance of Mental Exercise

Poodle on leash
Photo Courtesy – Emil Friberg

Mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise. If your Poodle isn’t given enough opportunities to work his mind, he’ll likely find some on his own. Terri L. Creech of Bear Cove Standard Poodles says:

“A naughty Poodle usually needs more exercise.”

If your Poodle becomes bored, he may try to entertain himself by chewing on furniture or personal items, digging in the yard, or getting into the trash can. Poodles’ intelligence means they can be quite creative in the ways in which they entertain themselves. Unfortunately, this also means their ability to learn quickly applies to bad habits. If your dog figures out how to open the back gate once, he’s likely to repeat the behavior. To prevent your Poodle from developing behavioral problems, it’s important that you keep his mind busy. A tired dog is a well-behaved dog.

Dog Sports – a Great Mental Stimulator

Dog sports are a great way to keep your dog exercised, both physically and mentally. Each sport has a certain level of mental stimulation which can be a great way to keep your dog out of trouble. If you don’t plan on competing or would like to keep your dog busy in between practice sessions, you can simply work your dog’s mind with regular training sessions. Depending on your dog’s age and level of training, it’s best to keep these sessions short. A dog can become surprisingly exhausted after a five to 15-minute training session. However, you want to quit before your dog completely loses focus on you. You can always give him a break and begin another short session later. Poodles are capable of learning an incredible variety of commands, so don’t be afraid to get creative with your training.

Using Toys and Puzzles for Mental Stimulation

You can also exercise your Poodle’s mind with fun games and toys at home. There are many different toys on the market that require your dog to use his brain to figure them out. Most involve placing a small amount of food or a treat inside and the dog must think about what he must do to get it out. This may include nudging the toy, moving flaps or sliding pieces, or moving the toy with his paw. Toys are available in a variety of sizes and difficulty levels, so you should be able to find the perfect puzzle toy for your dog. Many owners choose to keep a few on hand and switch them out once in a while to prevent their dogs from becoming bored with just one toy.

Tips for Keeping Your Poodle Occupied

Poodle owners who work long hours are always looking for new ways to keep their dogs busy while they’re away or just so they can get work done around the house. Your local pet store or favorite online retailer likely has a huge selection of puzzle toys and games to keep your dog busy. Since most dogs are food- motivated, most of the toys must be filled with treats or dog food. To prevent your dog from consuming too many extra calories while he exercises his brain, you may want to feed a portion of his daily meals in a puzzle toy. This can be an excellent way to motivate your dog to figure out the puzzle or toy without contributing to any weight gain.

Freezing Treats and Toys

poodle outdoor
Photo Courtesy – Andrew Wood

During the warmer months, you may want to try freezing your dog’s food-filled toys for an extra challenge and a refreshing treat. This can be a little messy, so if you’re concerned about cleanup you can give your dog his frozen treat outside. If you usually use dry treats or kibble in your dog’s toys, you can try mixing it with a little yogurt, baby food, or canned dog food before putting it in the freezer. Dogs who are usually able to get the food out of their toys quickly may be kept busy for longer periods of time when their food is frozen. This is a great option for both young and old dogs since it keeps their mind active but doesn’t put too much strain on their bodies.

Snuffle Mats

Another food-filled option to keep your Poodle occupied is a snuffle mat. These mats can be homemade or store-bought and are typically made of a soft and washable material such as fleece. The snuffle mat is just a small rug with various flaps and strips of fabric covering its surface. Simply take a handful of treats or kibble and sprinkle it over the mat. You may need to ruffle the fabric around to properly bury the treats within the mat. Your dog then has to use his nose to search for the individual treats or pieces of kibble among the strips of fabric. Snuffle mats can get dirty quickly, so if you’re making one yourself it’s best to choose a fabric that can be easily washed.

Nose Work Games

Fun run PoodleSome Poodle owners take the concept of a snuffle mat and increase the challenge by hiding treats all over the house or room. This can only be done with dogs that are house-trained and can be trusted to have access to more space than just their kennel. By hiding treats in corners, under chairs, and just out of sight, your dog must use his nose to search for and find all of the hidden treats. When hiding the treats, you can try closing your dog in a separate room or out in the yard, so he doesn’t see where you put the treats. This type of scavenger hunt allows the dog to use his primal hunting instincts in a way that exercises both his mind and body. It’s also a great way to exercise older dogs since it doesn’t require much more physical strain than just walking around the house.

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