How To Tire Out Your High-Maintenance Dog


Ask me how I know. 

All day, I had dreamed about sitting down with a cup of tea, reading a book and just winding down after work. But alas, ’twas not to be.   Charlie was “ON”.  He wanted to play, he was restless, he was nudging me with his nose every two seconds, then he started licking my hands, and on and on it went.  It is at these moments when a girl wants an easygoing cat, or a rabbit, or some diamonds (in case someone rich is reading).

Luckily, I have faced this situation many times before. So here’s my toolkit for tiring out your dog, so that you can have that cup of tea and have a happy dog (the number one thing is a good walk, of course, but I’m assuming you already did that):

1.   The ‘Find It’ Game 

I haven’t invented this.  But OMG it really works.  Put your dog in a sit and make him wait whilst you scatter some treats (preferably low-calorie but something he loves) around.  Make the treats a little hard to find so he has to work his nose muscles (?) to find them. When you’re ready, say ‘Find it’ and watch them run around finding the treats. 10 minutes of this works wonders.

2.  Tug-of-war, with home-made tug toys!

I used to spend a fortune on tug toys, then I learnt to make my own.  Go to your local Spotlight/fabric store, buy 2 metres of ‘fleece’, 1 metre in each color. Cut them up in long strips, then knot two strips together, and keep knotting up these two strips until you have a fleecy tug toy.

3.  The Old Faithful: “Fetch”

I have never mastered teaching my dogs to fetch.  I know, it’s sad.  So I have to have more creative ways of tiring them out. But if your dog loves playing ball, you’re lucky.

4.  Teach a trick or two

Sometimes mental exercise tires them out more than the physical.  Get a clicker and read up on ‘shaping’ for tricks and clicker-training.

One cute trick I have taught Charlie is how to get me a tissue when I sneeze. Essentially, I have a box of tissues in front of me.  I encourage him to touch the box with his nose. As soon as his nose touches the box, I click my clicker and give him a tiny treat.  Rinse and repeat.  Then up the ante.  So now he has to mouth the tissue to get the treat.  Once he’s able to do this consistently, up the ante to get him to actually take the tissue out the box.  Eventually, move the box further and further away from you.  You can also associate a word with the trick, so he knows to get the tissue for you when you ask.  For us, it’s ‘Atchoo!’

My favorite is the ‘Trick Medley’ –  in quick-fire succession, I will ask for ‘Sit, down, roll over, up, shake hands, ‘speak’, bow down, walk backwards’.  Charlie LOOOVES this and it’s hilarious to watch him do this.  I’m not kidding, he literally lives for this game.

What have you found that works for your dog? I would love to add to this list!

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5 thoughts on “How To Tire Out Your High-Maintenance Dog

  1. I’m going to try these tricks. I’ve always wanted to teach my dog how to ring the bell to say he wants to go outside.

    • Good luck! I will put up the occasional post on cute tricks you can teach your dogs. My dogs kind of ‘self-taught’ themselves how to ask to go outside. Hannah just stands at the door and looks at you pleadingly. Charlie nudges the door with his nose, and if you did not notice, he will give a very soft bark. To get them to ring the bell, you could first teach “Touch”. This is another great trick and tires them out too. Hold out your hand, and as soon as your dog nudges your hand with his nose or touches your hand, click the clicker and give the treat. Repeat quite a number of times till he ‘gets it’. Then start introducing the word ‘Touch’ everytime he touches your hand. Once he’s nailed it, up the ante by moving your hand to different places. You could use the same principles to teach him to touch a bell. (google ‘targetting’ or ‘touch’ to learn further).

  2. wagurtail says:

    Love the ‘scatter treats’ idea! A must do on wet winter days with my diva 🙂

    • Oh it’s great for rainy days! Charlie is too good at it now, so i have to really hide the treats so he doesn’t work it out too quickly (warning: you might find small pieces of cheese in the back of your cupboard one day if you hide the treats too well). Another tip for a rainy day is a stuffed kong. If diva is food-oriented, stuff a kong toy full of stuff (mashed up banana, a bit of peanut butter, other treats) and let him slowly get the treats out. In summer, freeze the kong overnight and it will help cool him down too.

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