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  • Claire Bannister

The Art of Relaxation

By Claire Bannister MSc Applied Animal Behaviour and Welfare

It may sometimes look like it's constant play, play, play here at Barka, but we understand the importance of making sure your Hip Hounds get plenty of rest.

Dogs will happily sleep for 16 hours a day and daycare can be a difficult place to switch off when there’s so much fun to be had. Many dogs will keep playing despite being tired which can lead to unwanted behaviour and illness, that’s why we make sure that all the dogs get structured quiet times to have a nap, cuddle or just chill out quietly. This is even more important for puppies where over exercise can cause growth problems, particularly in the joints. Puppies need even more sleep than adult dogs as sleep allows their bodies and brains to grow and develop, whilst recharging their batteries.

Problems that can arise from not having enough rest can be both physical and mental. Besides the problem of joint damage in puppies, too much exercise can cause excessive wear and tear on all dogs, which may not be noticeable until it gets too bad for the dog to disguise, and begins displaying symptoms of pain. Just like us, dogs can suffer from aching muscles and joints from too much physical activity, so if your pupster is feeling a little worn out one day, maybe they just need a bit of rest, but don’t hesitate to check with your vet if you’re worried.

Equal to the physical damage, over exercise can create a super athlete, always wanting to go out and get that adrenaline going, and by continually allowing more and more exercise the dog needs more and more exercise to feel satisfied. The release of adrenaline can also become addictive to some dogs. Just like human adrenaline junkies, over active dogs crave the feeling of an adrenaline rush and go out of their way to achieve it. If exercise is their main source of this, the dog will seek it out wherever possible. Having short bursts of adrenaline can feel good to all of us, but constant high levels of adrenaline in the blood stream can cause long term stress on the body, resulting in illness. During an adrenaline rush, the dog is also unlikely to be focused on you and will often ignore you and forget any training, appearing completely oblivious to your calls. This is because the adrenaline has impaired their hearing and thinking abilities, flooding the body and mind.

Over exercise can also cause over tiredness leading to behaviour problems like nipping, not listening to humans or other dogs and generally acting like a human toddler throwing a tantrum. By allowing dogs to get over tired we are setting them up to fail and may be encouraging a cycle that can become difficult to deal with.

For these reasons it is important that at Barka Lounge we ensure that all the dogs get rest throughout the day. Most of the dogs can’t wait to get their favourite spot on the sofas to come and join us for a cuddle when we sit down for quiet time. Because we often put toys away for quiet time, most of the dogs see this as the signal and head for a lie down. Most of the dogs will also take themselves off for a rest at any point during the day if they feel the need to. There are always spaces available to go and have a lie down without being involved in the surrounding activity and we will always make sure they are comfortable and have their nap time respected.

Some dogs do need to learn to settle and the key to this is that they feel safe and can put their trust in us to keep them that way whilst their defences are lowered. We develop close bonds with all our Hip Hounds which gives them a feeling of support, and use various positive methods to help them settle. This can range from taking a dog into a separate area and sitting with them quietly, maybe doing some brain games or chewing to calm them and induce a more relaxed feeling, or smaller dogs can be cuddled in a blanket to gently restrain them whilst we calmly pet and soothe them. Our body language and vocal tone is extremely important when helping a dog to relax and it’s always lovely to see a very active dog just let go and let themselves fall asleep. Restless dogs can learn to settle very quickly as the feeling of relaxation is a reward in itself and they will soon learn that having a rest is a great way to spend a bit of time.

We know our dogs can fall into the “Barka Coma” and may need a more relaxed day following their visit but you can rest assured that all your pups get the rest that they need, balanced with exercise and stimulation for a happy Hip Hound.

As always, please don’t hesitate to ask for advice.

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