My husband and I were maybe amongst the small percentage of dog owners who looked forward to walking the dog. Nowadays walking the dog on the sidewalk, or running him on the town running path, are amongst the things we refer to as “the Labrador Fantasy.” No offense to retriever owners–this is just our shorthand for that alternative reality in which we have an even-tempered dog with a natural desire to please.
In our reality, Silas is terrified of going out on the sidewalk, which is a whole saga unto itself that I’ll tell you about later. Our back yard is about the size of an average living room. Silas is also a pretty active dog. When I picked Silas up from being neutered, the vet cautioned me that healing might be hard “with such an athletic, busy dog.”
“Athletic? Busy? We don’t even go on walks!” is what I was thinking. My husband pointed out that regular dogs don’t, in fact, expect you to play fetch for four hours a night. And “fetch” is a very watered-down way to say what we do. Silas’s ideal game, in fact goes something like this:
1. Bring toy to human.
2. Lure human into chasing you through the house like a crazy, with the desired endpoint of upstairs.
3. Play tug for a while, if it’s a tug-appropriate toy.
4. Let human have toy, so they can throw it over the balcony to downstairs.
5. Run downstairs at lightning speed, bring back toy. (As a side note, this is, in fact, scary fast. If I throw a tennis ball straight down, at the same time that he’s leaving the top stair, he can catch it after one bounce. That’s going down the stairs, turning the corner at the landing, and running across the living room.)
6. Repeat steps 3-5 for a solid twenty minutes. Rest thirty minutes, max. Begin again at step 1.
This week I took Silas to the park two days in a row. He didn’t make a lengthy trip out of it either time. Day one was about twenty minutes. Day two was only about fifteen. Silas’s choice, not mine, although I didn’t argue–at the ten minute mark he started making a beeline for the car. It’s flamingly hot out there. I was interested to see that this disproportionately cut down on the amount of run/chase/tug/fetch we had to play. The first night we played maybe two rounds. The second night the dog stayed here solo while we went to dinner and to get groceries, and he seemed pretty content with chasing a few balls across the downstairs. Walking, I’m sure has the power of novelty on its side–new things to smell, people to see, things to experience. I just didn’t realize it counted for so much.
So now I’m curious: How much exercise does your dog get? What kind of games do you play instead?