"A tired dog is a well behaved dog", that has been my mantra since I began training dogs and working with dogs and their owners in the early 1980's (has it really been that long?!?!?!?!?! ). Dogs are a lot like children and if you don’t give them something fun to do, they will make their own fun—and often not in ways you approve of. Providing your dog plenty of physical and mental exercise, will get you a happier, healthier, better-behaved dog. Hands down, a Well-exercised dogs will bark less, chew less, sleep more, and rest easier when left home alone. They are also much less likely to rummage through the trash or attack the couch cushions.
Unfortunately, leash walking is often not enough, especially for adolescent and young dogs who are just full of energy. Almost all of our dogs have been bred with a purpose in mind...to hunt (the sporting dogs and terriers), to move around livestock on farms (the herding breeds), to patrol and guard our property (the working dogs) and for these dogs a simple stroll for potty break and sniff around the yard just doesn't cut it. Your dog needs to run, swim, or do something else that gets his heart pumping for at least 30 minutes every day. A 2-3 mile brisk daily walk may be enough for some dogs, others will need to chase a tennis ball or frisbie (a good choice for handlers who physically can't be active), play a good game of tug, run at the dog park playing with other friendly dogs or go for an off leash romp or hike.
Another good way to help tire out your dog is by engaging them to work their brain. Work to eat. Biologically speaking, your dog is not supposed to have a bowl of kibble plunked down in front of him. He is a hunter by nature, meant to work for his keep. Mimic this by serving your dog’s food in a Kong or treat ball. On a nice day, toss your dogs kibble in the grass in the back yard and allow him to use his nose to hunt out every littel morsel. Your dog will spend a good part of the day figuring out how to get at his food and the rest of it recovering from the mental effort. Perfect!
Toys are another good way to engage your dog’s brain. Dogs have distinctly individual toy preferences, depending on the day, time, and situation. You will need to do some creative detective work to find out what truly tickles your dog. The best toys have a purpose. They deliver food, present a challenge, squeak, or make themselves interesting in some other way. Some classics to consider: Rope toys, plush toys (with or without squeakers), Hide-A-Bee (Squirrel, Bird), tricky treat balls, soft rubber toys (vinyl), and hard rubber toys like Kongs and nyla bones.
Once you have a good selection for your dog, develop a toy strategy. Designate a popular toy for use only during alone time, like when you need to leave your dog in his crate, confinement area, or a spare room. Then, rotate the other toys daily to keep the novelty factor high. If you leave all the toys out all the time, your dog may become bored and decide destuffing the couch cushions is a more fun!