Everything in life is a balancing act. Constantly adjusting the balance of how I spend time with my pets sometimes feels overwhelming. When the dogs, cat and cockatoo are not interested in training, I wonder if they are getting enough exercise. When Wilhelm, Brychwyn, Huxley, Amelia and Leo are not focused when we are on pet friendly adventures, I wonder if we have been doing enough training. I want my pets to lead enriched, happy lives so mentally and physically stimulating them is extremely important to me. But finding the time and balancing the schedule to get the right amount of training and exercise plus making it all exciting and fun feels like a full time job.
Of course, training is often exercise. Dog sports like agility, Flyball and herding involve a lot of running. Leo gets a lot of exercise practicing tricks that involve flapping his wings and walking. Even Amelia gets a work out when I attempt to put cues to jumping or we simply practice her recall. Yet no matter how active and fun the pets positive reinforcement training sessions, it is still work. My job as a Pilates instructor is often great exercise but it's my job. I want to get my heart rate up when I don't have to think. I like the pets to have the same relaxed exercise time. All work and no play would make my pets and I dull!
Walking is the activity all of the pets most enjoy as leisurely exercise. But every walk is a training walk. The rules of society apply no matter where we walk. It is work for the dogs to not bark at, well, everything. I have to make sure we follow traffic rules. Leo and Amelia have to keep their leashes and harnesses comfortably loose. Even playtime in the yard or house has rules to follow. We often practice "quiet," "give" and "take" cues at playtime as well. After all, it is important that all the pets are always learning and staying fit. And both mental and physical stimulation activities should always be fun.
My experience has been that some dogs and other pets are more open to training after or during exercise while others consider exercise a training reward. Since sharing both physical and mental stimulation time with pets increases the human-animal bond, it doesn't take long to figure out what kind of exercise and training timing makes the most sense for each individual pet. Wilhelm focuses better on cues before exercise. Brychwyn pays better attention when he is tired. Huxley needs training and exercise time evenly mixed together as he considers moving a reward. It is always best to catch both Amelia and Leo right after a nap to get some training mixed with exercise in with them. Then I get back to balancing how much training and/or exercise we do in he time we have together.