Exercise in Treatment of Canine Trauma
The best part of my day is the part where I exercise with a dog. Sometimes it’s with my dog only, or a client’s dog, or both. Sometimes I run on the road, but that’s usually just to get to the trail. My favorite type of exercise is the trail run. For those of you who don’t know, that’s when you run on hiking trails.
Trail running will change your entire relationship to the outdoors. Rain? So what. Freezing temps? Wear your mittens, baby. Meltingly hot? It’s no-shirt time! I just ran 15 miles and I’ll wear whatever the heck I want, thank you very much.
Everyone knows that exercise is good for you, but not everyone has had the experience of exercising beyond the point of discomfort to the euphoria of realizing that this is what you are built to do. I think this is why most people are skeptical when I suggest intense, outdoor exercise for dogs with anxiety and related psychological issues.
For humans, vigorous exercise changes your brain. It makes you calmer and happier. You never have to feel guilty about a second piece of pie or indulging in that second eggnog, because calories are fuel for the amazing feats you are going to accomplish. You operate outside the social standards of beauty. Your body is an amazing machine that can do things you never dreamed of. You’ll be more confident. You’ll love yourself more, and you’ll have more love to spread around.
One of the services that Downstay offers is therapeutic exercise. Many studies have concluded that exercise is as beneficial as medication in many instances for anxiety, depression, PTSD, and related disorders in humans, and researchers are just starting to realize that it can work wonders for your dog too.
From a personal perspective, it’s amazing to look down in the middle of a run and see a smile in a pair of amber eyes that--when you first met--carried the weight of the world. Suddenly there’s relief. Trust. Communication. I love it, and I'm pretty sure they do too.
I’d like to see more emphasis on exercise in dog training in general. There have been some incredible strides in our understanding of animal learning and training in the last 10 years, but the effects of fun, safe exercise--not running indoors on a treadmill--remain underappreciated.
And you are a human with PTSD or an anxiety-related issue, contact a mental health professional--your life can be better. Also, try some nature and intense exercise. Run hard. Maybe you’ll see me some morning on the trail. I’m the smiley one with the really happy dogs.
Do you run with your dogs? Do you all have smiles on your faces? Tell us about it in the comments!