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Our puppy (8 months old, Husky/Shepherd mix) is getting to be good enough on the leash that I can take him for a nice run. I live near a park with a 5K loop road, which I used to run regularly.

When I first started taking him out around the loop road, he'd jump at me and bite and try to get me to play right away, or at least at fairly arbitrary intervals. I got a good lesson in dominant walking, and a better slip lead that actually loosens again after I tug it so I can keep it high on his neck, give it a quick tug and re-orient him to following me and we can keep going. That had a huge impact--he's way, way more manageable. My pace is pretty slow, he seems to handle it very comfortably, and we stop for water.

But since the walking lesson I've noticed that about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through, he still gets really unmanageable. He tries to jump on me and bite playfully, but he forgets his bite inhibition entirely. The other day he did this really manic digging for a few minutes. Just scraping at the soil with dirt flying and shaking his head and jumping around. In general, it seems like he just gets manic and bonkers, jumping around and barking at me.

It occurred to me (this might be obvious to everyone else?) that 5K might just be too long for him to run. Do I need to find a shorter route, or is there something else going on?

P.S. There's a mention of overtiredness at What can I do if my puppy is hyperactive? which seems to suggest that's exactly what is going on. But I'd love to know more about how to tell when a young dog is getting overtired.

  • What climate are you in? This sounds a bit like overheating to me, odd behaviour can be sign of this, and this is a breed that has evolved for extreme cold environments. – John Cavan Jun 18 '14 at 21:28
  • It is in the high 70s/mid-80s. Right now it is 87°F but it hasn't been this hot. I do need to figure out how to keep him cool this summer. – Amanda Jun 18 '14 at 22:39
  • Amanda, I copied and inserted your comment into your question because it's an important information and comments could go missing. It stayed there for 6 years, but oh well - at least my excuse could be that I've added https:// to the link. – lila May 22 at 22:36
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There's not enough information in your post to provide a valid clinical picture. All of the behaviors you mentioned are natural dog behaviors that can occur in many situations.

Context Matters

Consider that digging can be self-rewarding play or prey drive, or it may be stress-displacement behavior. "Jumping around" in a bouncy way is generally a play behavior, but would generally be paired with play bows and other cues if it were all in fun. "Barking" has a whole range of meanings, but rapid bursts of barking with bouncy body language is most likely excitement or attention-seeking behavior.

"Just the Facts, Ma'am"

Focus on the facts:

  1. Your dog loses interest in the walk (or gains an interest in something else) after a given distance or time interval.

    Experiment. Try shorter distances or time intervals. Try avoiding specific areas that trigger arousal. Learn more about dog body language, and respect your dog's signals that he's tired, bored, or over-stimulated.

  2. Your dog loses bite inhibition when aroused.

    Avoid situations that cause excessive arousal. Learn to read the signals that your dog is becoming aroused before he hits DefCon 1. You might also train an alternate behavior (like a down-stay) that is designed to reduce arousal.

By focusing on observable behavior, rather than trying to guess about your dog's internal processes, you can avoid or manage almost any behavior. Your dog is clearly trying to communicate with you; however, learning what he's trying to communicate will require time, effort, and research on your part.

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I would definitely ask his vet how much he thinks is too much for the dog's age and physical state. Then I suggest you see how long does he sleep after he arrives home (if you are not running just before going to bed). Dogs can easily get overexcited and push themselves too hard just to please their owners. What gives me the best idea of how much exercise my dog needs is not how he behaves while outside (he's a Boston Terrier 10 months old, could stay out running, jumping and playing with other dogs forever) but how he behaves once he has arrived. If he sleeps for two hours straight it was a good workout, if he sleeps for four it was definitely too much, anything less than two hours of straight sleep and we have to go out again later in the day if we want a calm dog at night. Of course those numbers might not apply to your dog, but I think you'll find this method to give you a good idea of how much exercise he needs to be happy.

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  • Nod. I think he is overtired. I watch him at the dog run and he runs like a maniac but then he flops down for a while. So he's resting a lot more than he does if I go for a long run. The vet was really not very helpful, said there's no such thing as "too much" with him. I think he's used to more sedentary folks. – Amanda Jul 7 '14 at 18:14
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Good morning! Your puppy is probably sizable and physically immature, so his joints are not really ready for a lot of intense road work. Your veterinarian can probably guide you on this, as your dogs’ conditioning needs to be done carefully. For instance, an overweight dog would probably do well to lose some of the weight prior to pounding the pavement.

The duration on these walks may need to be shorter, initially. Intermittently rewarding your pup for calmly walking in a loose lead position will probably enable you to minimize tugging on the lead - the tugging could spark off some of the “manic” behavior.

Keep it light and easy, with a lot of positive reinforcement, and I suspect you’ll see rapid improvement.

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I have a Siberian Husky that is not much older than your dog. As I take him for a jog/walk, he will do the same thing sometimes such as bite the leash or jump around.

It could very well be the case that your dog is bored of walking and wants to run or at least go faster. This makes sense for a Husky Shepherd. They have lots of energy and your goal should be to help them exert it.

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  • I've more or less decided that he's actually overheated/overtired when he get so bonkers. – Amanda Jul 1 '14 at 17:57
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Young dog is very curious about the world surrounding him and if you take him for a walk and force him to walk besides you like a walking robot and not having a chance to examine the world around him - he won't be very happy with that.

You should allow him to sniff around, to take a better look into various details he finds interesting, wait patiently while he examines smells and markings from other dogs and animals etc... This is very important to him.

Not allowing the dog to do his "doggy things" is like taking a child into a kid's playground and expecting him to sit quietly on the bench. Be aware that the smell is the dominant sense in dogs, way more important then the sight, and the dog that doesn't get his chance to sniff around is like a man who goes for a walk with his eyes covered.

Remember, when you're spending time with your dog try to do things that pleases him too, not only you.

The reason why your dog starts doing "weird" things near the end of your walk is probably that - as the walk approaches it's end - he realizes the time is almost up and he won't get any of that he hoped for, and then he tries to do something about that at the very last moment.

Let him go for the first half of walk his way, and end up the rest of the walk your way. He'll be very grateful to you.

And yes - huskies like to dig. Leave him a few days in your backyard and he'll make you a beautiful large scale model of Moon's surface on your lawn yard.

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