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Posted on Mon, May 16, 2011 : 6 a.m.

Do you have three and a half hours to devote to your dog each day?

By John Spieser

bored dog.jpg

Are you on your way?

Photo by Benoit Dupont, courtesy of Flickr

I have a secret. Not many of you know this yet, but a new Hollywood blockbuster is poised to bound into cinema-land. This action thriller stars Cesar Milan... playing Jackie Chan... as Eddie Murphy's indispensable side kick. Here is a trailer...

Mi Toy and Chase Ball may seem like average everyday middle class bachelors...but don't be fooled. These guys have got the right stuff and stop at nothing to accomplish the impossible. Toy and Ball dazzle viewers with their uncanny ability to utilize mass transit and hail cabs with lightning speed, and often resort to high speed biking and sprinting through congested urban streets; launching over dog leap stairways and scaling precarious cat-walk fire escapes, all to make it home and save the world for their three and a half hours.

Dogheart hails actress Gretchen Shepherd's supporting role as so spectacular it “may land the glamorously stoic 2-year-old Belgian in the running for an academy award!”Wake up! John, wake up!

Man, you were having some kind of crazy nightmare... just kept mumbling, “Three and a half hours... Three and a half hours..."

Oops, sorry if I got your hopes up folks, but I doubt it.

I myself would probably at least rent the flick when it came out on DVD. I wouldn't mind the wholesome angle, and I'm sure that I wouldn't miss the guns and car chases all that much; but it probably wouldn't do real well at the box office.

Sigh, back to reality...

How much time it takes to satiate a dog's appetite for exercise and interaction is the first thing a conscientious trainer/handler/owner needs to examine before before even thinking about moving forward with a training strategy. In so many cases, the lack of a permissible expenditure of energy and quality interaction are the primary inhibitors to successful teaching.

Ironically, I have conversed with many “canine professionals” over the years that, admittedly, don't have a clear answer for the question: “How much time do I need to spend with my dog on a daily basis, to ensure that they are getting enough (of me)?”

My answer: You guessed it — three and a half hours.

I spent about eight years in a live-in, caretaking arrangement with dogs (a period of my life I endearingly refer to as “doggy prison”). On any given day I would be responsible for the care of anywhere from six to 25 dogs, and it was imperative that I fulfill the needs of every dog, every day.

Providing exercise and interaction was not only for the sake of keeping the dogs happy; in order for me to greet my task with fortitude the following day, I had to sleep! Which meant the dogs had to sleep too.

Conked out dogs are a sure sign of a successful day.

Even though snoozing in the company of 16 dogs scattered about, with all of the breathing, shifting and snoring at times makes you feel like you are in an army barracks, it beats the heck out of whining, pacing or barking.

In time, the sounds of sleep became music to my ears.

It was over these years I learned that, as a general rule, one and a half hours of invigorating exercise combined with an additional two hours of interactive/family time was a good (minimum) baseline for the vast majority of dogs to access the daily fulfillment quota.

Depending on the age and the amount of physical drive the dog has, you can break the time up according to the guidelines below.

For a young dog that is healthy/energetic, you may need to provide more physical exercise and training time to achieve fulfillment. For an older or physically-compromised dog, you may reduce the amount of physical challenge and lean more towards gentle interactive time. When you are caring for a pup/s, a smart idea is to make outings shorter and more frequent.

If you subtract time from one side, apply it to the other! Always hitting the baseline mark of three and a half hours.

If you think three and a half hours sounds like a lot of time to spend in the company of your dog every day, consider this math...

Figuring (generously) that there are about 15 hours of awake time in a day, if you share interactions with your dog two hours a day and extrapolate that out over a week, the breakdown looks like this:

63 hours sleeping with you.
14 hours interacting with you.
91 hours “on hold” (or maybe at doggie daycare).

By adding that extra one and a half hours daily, you boost Fido's numbers up to 24 hours of sharing time with you and still, 80 hours a week on hold!

So, by the end of the week, your buddy racks up one full day with you and gives back two full work weeks of anticipation for your return. You can see that my three and a half hour baseline is a minimum, not a maximum.

Whether or not you believe that dogs are inherently similar to wolves, I believe that they both share at least one distinct characteristic — that is an intense dedication to, and need for, family. Different breeds express it in different ways, but you can bet that your dog wants you and needs you. You are your dog's “family.”

I have met many dogs (and human children) over the years who suffer from anxiety and develop neurosis that are directly related to the perceived, or actual, loss of family.

I guess, until movie-goers develop a greater appreciation for the “finer” things in life... you and “Gretchen” will have to be the stars of your own show!

John Spieser is a professional dog trainer and owner of Dogheart. He can be reached at



Tue, May 17, 2011 : 3:41 a.m.

Well you know us and Ebo and Jasper. There is only one day of our week where a pet caregiver comes in to give them a break in waiting for our return. They get lots of good family time. We play frisbee almost every evening. They get a good romp in a variety of local fields daily. They both get brushed every day. Both of them go to bed before I do and nap too! Jasper still gets grumpy at night but, they are generally happy campers. They are going on 9 and 11 years old, and not showing many signs of slowing down. The eldest does have Lupus, that seems to be in remission. What can I say...It is all time well spent. When Jim and I go out of town our boys get a dog vacation with care givers who spend a lot of time with them and have other dogs for them to run and play with.It takes a solid day for them to recover from all of the fun. We take two vacations a year with our boys too. Thank you John for all of the work you have done to help us create this functioning/thriving humane + canine family.