The Guild of Shepherds & Collies

Good for a Dog’s Mind, Body and Soul

Dog's Mind, Body and Soul FINAL

Activity -- Good For Your Dog’s Mind, Body and Soul

As humans, we know that exercise is good for us (whether we like it or not!), and now doctors are saying that it’s not just our bodies that benefit from activity - our mental health benefits as well. Dogs are no different.

The potential problem is that our dogs rely on us to make sure they get enough exercise, and they usually like it a whole lot more than we do!

It’s important that we make time to walk or play with our pups – not only for the activity, but for the companionship as well. Studies have shown that people who are socially active stay healthier and live longer, and once again, dogs are really no different. Especially herding breed dogs!

But for some dogs, the love and care of their human isn’t enough – as my husband and I discovered firsthand. Lottie was our first dog and she was a great dog - when we were home.

As first-time pet parents, we weren’t really sure what to expect. We took her to puppy school when she was young. When we were all at home, she was sweet and affectionate - she played and cuddled and tolerated the love of two human brothers and sisters.

Though during the day, my husband worked full-time, I was working part-time and the kids were off to school. So Lottie had the run of the house - and run she did! At Christmastime, she jumped on the back of the couch and ripped decorations off the wall. She managed to open the bifold doors of our front closet and ate two coats.

Realizing our mistake, we tried crating her, but she chewed through the wires and ruined the vinyl floor of the laundry room. So we tried keeping her confined to a slightly larger space. It was summer and she broke through the screens on the screen porch, and when we put her in the basement, she ate a hole in the basement door – large enough to squeeze through.

When we asked the vet how long it would take for her to outgrow this wild exuberance, we were told what we were hoping not to hear: Lottie had separation anxiety. While age might calm her down and walks are always a good thing, there was no magic time when she would “settle down.” She was just plain anxious when she was home alone.

Unable to change our work schedules, we made the heartbreaking choice to find Lottie a new home. I’m happy to report this story does have a happy ending, thanks to her new owners and her adopted canine sister – a five-year-old Belgian Sheepdog named Sally.

As owners of a herding breed dog, Lottie’s new “parents” were familiar with dogs that need attention and activity. The family lived on a lake that had paths to walk on, a lake for swimming, a large yard for fetching, an outdoor dog run – and best of all, a ready-made companion. It was a match made in heaven for both dogs.

Sally had grown up with another Belgian Sheepdog, so she was used to sharing both her turf and her family with another dog. But after her “sister” passed away a few months earlier, she had become very lonely and far less active.

Once the pair got together, Lottie used her boundless energy to help Sally set aside her grief, and Sally helped the newcomer learn the ropes and the rules of her new home.

Certainly the added activity helped Lottie burn some of that excess energy, but it was the constant companionship that helped ease her anxiety and make her a great family pet. No medication needed.

We were sad to give her up, but knew right away that she was going to a home where she would thrive. We learned a lot, too, and went on to adopt three more dogs (so far) over the years.

I later discovered that Lottie had the company of more than just her dog buddy. Many years after she left us, I saw an obituary in the paper. It was for the couple’s mother who lived with them. There in the woman’s photo, was our Lottie. The article said the elderly woman was survived by “her constant companion, Lottie.”

Like us, dogs need exercise to help with their mental health … but love and companionship aren’t bad either.

Article By:
Sue Sveum
Sue Sveum

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