Skip to content
Home » The Role of Exercise in Preventing Behavioral Issues in Dogs

The Role of Exercise in Preventing Behavioral Issues in Dogs

  • by

Dogs that do not have their natural behaviors met may exhibit abnormal behaviors such as chewing, digging, and excessive licking. Meeting their behavioral needs through regular exercise provides a natural outlet for energy and reduces anxiety-related behaviors such as barking and chewing.

Spearman’s correlations were calculated between daily questionnaire responses on owner-reported affective experiences when leaving and returning home and the mean physical activity every two weeks.

Physical Health

Exercise your dog regularly to help maintain a healthy weight, keep bones strong, and prevent heart and joint problems. It also keeps dogs happy and calmer, decreasing their tendency to engage in self-destructive behaviors like chewing and barking.

Regular walks or a run in the park can be great exercise for your dog. Games such as fetch, chase, and tug of war are also good exercises, but only if the dog can remain focused and under control during the game. Otherwise, it can quickly become a wild, exuberant play that gets out of hand and is a potential source of aggression.

Inappropriate elimination (marking or soiling) may be caused by anxiety, insufficient training, health issues such as pain on elimination, cerebrocortical disease, and cognitive dysfunction. Avoiding or limiting exposure to the stimuli that trigger the behavior and using desensitization and counterconditioning exercises is recommended.

Owners report a variety of reasons for not taking their dogs out to exercise, including feeling a sense of obligation or guilt, lack of time, a belief that their dog pressures them to go for a walk, and a feeling that their dogs do not want to go for a walk. Pilot intervention studies have shown that targeting the owner’s perception of the dog’s need for exercise through persuasive material on the benefits of exercise for the dog can increase owner activity.

Mental Health

For dogs suffering from mental health issues, exercise can play a major role in preventing those problems. These issues can include anxiety, phobias, and aggression.

Fear and phobias are often due to genetic predisposition, early experience with novel or threatening stimuli, or both. These issues can also result from chronic pain, which may create a cognitive bias in both people and animals, making them perceive even normal, neutral stimuli as potentially harmful or threatening.

Aggression, especially toward family members, can be a response to arousal, resource guarding, redirected behavior, or conflict (competing emotional states and unpredictable consequences). It may also result from prior learning, fear conditioning, or behavioral pathology.

In a study that surveyed dog owners on their exercise habits and behaviors, researchers found that a high level of physical activity was associated with fewer undesirable behaviors. This includes chewing or digging, chasing vehicles and persons, and attention-seeking behaviors.


Dogs not properly socialized during their critical development may develop fear-based behavior issues such as barking, nipping at strangers, or separation anxiety. These behaviors can persist into adulthood, making them less adaptable to new experiences. This is why it is so important to introduce dogs to people, other animals, and places from a young age.

Socialization is not only good for the mental health of a dog, but it also helps them better cope with change by teaching them that certain things are not to be feared. This can prevent many stress-related issues in dogs, like GI upsets, anxiety, skin problems, and even Cushing’s Disease.

Studies have shown that dogs who are more active daily display fewer behaviors based on fear of the unknown. For example, dogs that participate in agility exhibit a less apprehensive response to vehicles and people than dogs who do not do this sport. This is probably due to the positive reinforcement they receive when practicing their sport. In addition, regular physical activity helps lubricate joints and maintain muscle strength, reducing the risk of injury or degenerative conditions as they age.


Behavioral issues can result from an underlying physical issue, but often, they arise due to boredom or frustration. Providing adequate exercise and early training can help prevent these issues before they start. Playing tug-of-war or fetch or training for agility can be fun and engaging for dogs of all ages. Using positive reinforcement-based training methods that involve only praise and food treats is recommended, as using fear-based techniques, such as leash jerking and yelling, may increase stress levels and long-term negative behavior.

This study will evaluate dogs and their handlers, who will train them in four different exercises: ‘food refusal,’ ‘interrupted recall,’ ‘dumbbell retrieval,’ and ‘placing items in a basket.’ Each of these behaviors is designed to resemble real working dog tasks. Once the learning criterion is achieved, the trainers will perform maintenance training for each behavior once a month.

After the initial training, the test results will be compared to 140 sedentary dogs. Statistical analysis will be performed to determine whether or not there is a significant difference between the two groups. Generally, dogs who practice agility show less aggression towards other dogs,