“Unemployed Dogs” Are a Growing Trend

Photo by Patrick Danforth| www.clicktozen.com

Photo by Patrick Danforth| www.clicktozen.com

I often use the term "unemployed dogs" to describe four-legged friends who live their lives with little exercise or mental stimulation. While most dogs don't need to be actual "working" dogs, it's a real tragedy when dogs are left alone most of their lives and are rarely given the chance to exercise--mentally or physically. A new study out of the UK shows just how out of hand the "dog unemployment" problem has become.

The study was conducted by PDSA and surveyed pet owners in the UK. The study showed that one third of pet dogs were never allowed off leash, and spent their entire lives either inside the home or on a leash. More than a quarter of the dogs were left alone for more than five hours a day, and 35 percent of owners admitted to not giving their dog proper exercise. 

With statistics like these, it's no wonder that we're seeing an alarming spike in cases of aggression, leash reactivity, separation anxiety, and other behavioral issues in the modern pet dog. Dogs that lead a sensory-deprived existence are much more prone to physical and mental stress than those who receive proper exercise and mental stimulation. There's no question that owners love and care for their dogs; it's just that many owners have lost sight of just how important it is for a dog's exercise needs to be met on a regular basis. 

There are all kinds of ways to provide entertainment and exercise for your dog. Here are a few quick tips:

  • If you work long hours and can't get home during the day, hire a responsible person to check on your dogs and provide them with some exercise and playtime.
  • When you leave the house, give your dog an interactive toy to play with, or stuff a Kong toy with his favorite treat.  
  • Exercise your dog in the morning before a long day away from home. He'll be more tired and less likely to get into trouble while you're away.
  • Check out this video for tips about how to exercise with your dog.

We all lead busy lives, and the pace of our world moves faster than ever. Regardless of my schedule for the day or how tired or stressed I am, I always make time to provide my dogs with a walk, time to play off leash, and plenty of mental stimulation. It's a small chunk out of my day that makes a huge difference for my dogs. Find a routine that works for you and your schedule. Your dogs will thank you for it!


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Positively Expert: Victoria Stilwell

Victoria Stilwell is a world-renowned dog trainer best known as the star of the internationally acclaimed TV series, It’s Me or the Dog. A bestselling author, Stilwell frequently appears in the media as a pet expert and is widely recognized and respected as a leader in the field of animal behavior.


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  • http://shephardsdogtraining.com Christy Shephard

    I love this! Thank you for posting this. I was just talking at a group class about how dogs need to have a "job", even if it's just exploring on their daily walks. I cannot wait to share this with my clients ;)
    Take care!

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  • Mabels Mum

    I ensure that my 4 dogs are never left for longer than 4 hours and always get a long off lead walk everyday in open countryside. I accept that I am extremely lucky to live near countryside, however, I am increasingly encountering other dog owners who seem to be of the opinion that all dogs should be kept on leads. Two of my dogs are rescue sight hounds and they enjoy running, are totally non aggressive, but do enjoy meeting and greeting other dogs. I have recently been told that my dogs should not be allowed to run free in the woodland and that in the UK they will soon be bringing in laws that ensure dogs should be kept on a lead at all times. This I find really worrying. Providing your dog is non aggressive and not causing harm to anyone or livestock, they should have the opportunity to run free and expel energy. If dogs are not able to exhibit their natural drives then surely we are only storing up more problems for the future. I am still rehabilitating my 2 dogs from their neglected and abused early lives and to see them run free and playing gives me so much pleasure.

  • Tine Onderbeke

    Just a little note: being on leash sounds like a bad thing here and although running off leash is a lot of fun for most dogs, it's a privilege that's not suited for every dog. On leash excercise doesn't have to be boring, though. Jogging and bike rides give the dog the chance to run safely and making your daily walk an obstacle course make it more exciting. And of course there are many more possibilities to give your dog what he needs without losing your responsibility when your dog can't go off leash.

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