Any time I hear about a dog with destructive tendencies, my mind immediately goes to wonder about what the daily routine for that dog looks like. Do their owners take them for a long walk or a jog in the morning and evening? Do they stay in bed till the last minute and squeeze in a quick walk before they rush to work? Does this dog get any sort of mental stimulation during the day?
There is an old saying that I have always lived by when it comes to dogs:
‘‘A tired dog is a happy dog.’’
It’s super important to make sure that your dog gets physical and mental exercise daily. Dogs that have pent up energy tend to look for ways to release that energy and more often than not, it is in the way that owners don’t like: destruction.
My daily routine with Lucas, my Sarplaninac, has evolved a lot over the years, but we have always made sure to get multiple 30 minute walks a day in some form or another. With a large working breed like the Sarplaninac, who’s original purpose is to move with the flock and protect them from predators, they require a certain amount of exercise to keep them satisfied. Since they are also a highly intelligent breed, they also require a good amount of mental stimulation, too.
When I lived in the mountains of Colorado, Lucas and I would take a trail up the side of the mountain every morning and a long walk in the evening through the little town. Even when living in a more urban setting, it was important to get him out for those long walks to keep him healthy and moving. There was also plenty of wildlife to be watched on the hillsides, so he spent his afternoons scanning the mountain for Bighorn sheep, bear and other creatures.
For mental stimulation, there are many different outlets that dog owners can take to get the gears turning for their Sarplaninac. Ideally, these working dogs can do just that – work. Having a job is what truly makes a working breed happy, and having a flock to watch over gives lots of mental stimulation to them. They are watching for predators, and making sure that their area and flock are secure.
In non-working situations, I have found that training to learn new things, or toys and puzzles are a good way to help get your Sarplaninac some mental stimulation. There are many types of treat puzzles on the market, and I’ve not yet met a Sarp that is not food motivated. Learning new things with training is also a great way to build and strengthen the bond you have with your dog.
For me, Lucas is not one for toys. As much as I want to get him toys to play with and stimulate him, he truly has no interest in them. He grew up partially working 40 acres on my dad’s property in Colorado, and Lucas was always one that was serious about his job. For his mental stimulation, I like to bring him to various places and let him observe the environment. He watches people and other dogs at parks, he keeps a keen eye over us at camp, we go for rides in the truck and he gets to take in all the smells, and on our walks we also take time to let him smell a lot and that also helps stimulate his mind.
Every situation is different, but if you find that you are having some behavioral issues with your dog or they are being destructive, consider writing down a list of the things that you are doing with them to make sure they are getting the exercise and stimulation they need to be fulfilled and content. Exercise can also help extend the life of your dog.