Tired vs. Fulfilled

A Tired Dog Is A Well-Behaved Dog

For as long as I can remember, people have said:

A tired dog is a well-behaved dog“.

While this may be true for a short period of time, it’s not very good advice. Focusing on making your dog tired so that they are well behaved is a horrible strategy. This is not a practical way to ensure your dog behaves and it’s also not effective. If you focus on making sure your dog is tired by having them run for an hour every day, there will come a time when that hour of running will no longer make them as tired. So eventually you will have to increase the length of time or the amount of exercise. You will always either have to increase time or activity. So this strategy may work for a short period of time, but once your dog requires more time and activity than you are able to give, you’ll be right back where you started. Except now you have a hyper, misbehaved dog and it’s nearly impossible to tire them out.

A Fulfilled Dog Is A Well Behaved Dog

Although this saying isn’t as catchy, it’s way better advice,

A fulfilled dog is a well-behaved dog“.

When you focus on every aspect of a dog’s life, your dog will have the ability to behave even in the absence of physical exercise. Physical exercise is absolutely something your dog needs, but it is not everything. We cannot give a dog one biologically appropriate thing, leave everything else out and expect them to behave. Your dog will only behave when they are tired, which is what the first saying implies. When your dog gets every biologically appropriate activity to fulfill all of their needs, then your dog can not only behave but also relax. This also takes away the limitations of only behaving when they are tired. Dogs need to have a sense of purpose and fulfill certain drives. If you don’t allow them to fulfill certain things, they will find a way to do it on their own with what we usually call a behavioral issue or destructive behaviors.

There Are Three Major Areas That Need To Be Fulfilled

Physical Fulfillment

This area obviously includes physical exercise, but that’s not the only thing in this area. Since exercise is the most obvious, we will address this first. Physical exercise can be taken care of in many different ways. No matter how you choose to exercise your dog, make sure there is some kind of structure and purpose involved. Letting your dog run around the house like a maniac or run around the backyard twenty times is not a good idea. Although they will have gotten some physical exercise, this may be doing more harm than good. Running around aimlessly without a clear focus is not a good thing. This can cause obsessive behaviors in all areas of a dog’s life. The same is true for obsessively running back and forth along a fence after people walking by or obsessively chasing a ball. When you add rules and structure, you make the exercise much more valuable and decrease the likelihood of your dog developing any obsessions. The other areas of Physical fulfillment are dependant on your dog. Not all dogs need to run a lot. Some dogs need to chase something like a teaser toy, some dogs need to tug, some dogs need to search and dig. The challenge is figuring out your dog and knowing what games are best for them. For a retriever, fetch is a great game. For a German Shepherd, tug may be more suitable. There are many dogs who like many games, so spend time playing the games your dog needs most.

A person's hand holding a purple dog toy and a golden retriever puppy is tugging on it.

Shayna, the golden retriever puppy playing tug with her favorite toy

Psychological Fulfillment

This is just as important as physical exercise and can sometimes tire your dog out even more than running or playing can. Mental stimulation is a must have for every dog. Some need more than others, but you can add mental stimulation into your games that you play. If you add rules to any game, you are adding a level of mental stimulation. If your dog cannot just mindlessly fetch the ball, but they have to pay attention and follow the rules, you have added a degree of mental stimulation. You can also be creative about the way you feed your dog. We have built a habit of feeding our dogs in a bowl every meal. Eating the same dry food from a metal or plastic bowl day after day can become very monotonous, to say the least. Your dog wants to think and work. Hiding their food in a Kong or feeding them from a puzzle toy is a great way to stimulate their mind during an everyday activity like feeding. Obedience training is another great way to get your dog to think. There are many other ways to stimulate your dog’s mind. Be creative. One thing is for sure, most behavioral issues would never arise if psychological fulfillment was a priority.

Social Fulfillment

Socialization is a huge problem when it comes to dogs. We have way too many under-socialized dogs. Many of these under-socialized dogs are being blamed for their antisocial behaviors when it is not their fault at all. Dogs are being put to sleep for this every day. Your dog needs to not only learn how to interact with other dogs but people and their environment as well. This is very important to do as a puppy. But no matter if your dog can go to the dog park or not, you can make sure they are getting social interactions. This does not require them to be dog-friendly at all. It definitely helps if your dog can interact with other dogs, but if they can’t there are still many things you can do. If your dog can interact with other dogs than they should be able to do so at least a few times a week. Whether that be at the dog park, doggy daycare, or a playdate with a friend or family member’s dog. Your dog should also have plenty of social time with the whole family and people outside of your family. This is the part you can still do if your dog cannot be around other dogs. Social fulfillment is not just interacting with other dogs. A lot of it depends on their interactions with their family. Greeting them after they are calm every time you come home is very important. There should also be at least one game that is only played when both human and dog are involved. In other words, the game does not exist without both parties. A good example is tug. You can have one specific tug toy that only comes out when you decide to play tug and goes away when the game is over. Having a social structure that involves your dog is extremely important as well. This means there should be rules that are consistent. In the same way, we follow certain social rules, your dog should be expected to do the same. If every family member takes their shoes off when they come in the house, the equivalent for your dog might be to sit every time they come in until you say Okay.

Woman squatting down to get the toy from her puppy who retrieved it

Maria squatting down to get the toy from her puppy Rori as they play fetch


Making sure all of these areas are fulfilled can be a challenge. Starting small and building things up can set you and your dog up for success. Try making time, for one thing, each day. The good news is that once your dog is fulfilled, you will see a real difference in their behavior and temperament. You get all three of these areas into one exercise. If you play a game that is physical, has rules, and involves you then all three areas are being stimulated. This can absolutely help with almost any behavioral issue and also prevent behavioral issues from ever occurring. Most importantly, your dog cannot be completely happy without being fulfilled. You can make all of these things fun and enjoyable for both you and your dog.

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