The second of Cesar’s Five Natural Dog Laws is this: “Energy Is Everything.” It’s how dogs — and all animals — communicate with each other and how they read our intentions and respond to us.
If you have dogs, you probably already know intuitively what their general energy level is; whether your dog is a hyper pup that needs to play all the time, or more of a couch potato that’s happy with a slow walk and then a nap. But how can you tell whether a new dog’s energy would be right?
When people ask Cesar what breed of dog they should adopt, he always steers them away from picking a specific breed, telling them instead to look for a dog with the right energy level — the same as or lower than the lowest energy level among your existing pack, whether it’s only humans or you already have dogs.
So how do you know what a dog’s energy level is? If you were a dog, you could tell immediately. But, since you’re probably human if you’re reading this, it takes a little more effort and a lot of observation.
Five Things to do to Figure Out a Dog’s Natural Energy Level
Look at the Breed — A Little
Dogs see themselves as animal, species, breed, and then name, so a dog’s breed is not the most important thing about them. However, their breed or mix can give you an idea whether they might lean toward higher energy. Dalmatians, Jack Russell terriers, and Siberian huskies are known to be energetic, as are many hunting breeds. Breeds like basset hounds, pugs, and bulldogs tend to be lower energy.
Try to See the Dog in Different Circumstances
Every dog is different depending on where they are, who they’re with, and whether they’ve just come back from a long walk or have been cooped up all day. If the dog is at a shelter, you may only be able to visit and not take her out for a “test drive,” but try to come at least once when the shelter is very hectic and again when it’s very quiet to get an idea. A calm dog in a hectic shelter is probably laid-back all the time; a dog that barks and runs around when hardly any people or dogs are around is probably very energetic.If you are adopting from a rescue or a breeder, then you probably have more opportunities to interact with the dog. See if you can visit before and after walk time, or see how the dog behaves in the car, interacting with a groomer, with strangers, and so on.
Go for a Walk
The walk is the perfect way to judge a potential dog’s energy. Again, at the shelter you may only be able to do this in a limited way, or only watch a volunteer walk the dog, but you can learn plenty. Is the dog a puller, trying to drag the human along? Or does the dog seem reluctant to go on the walk, turning back almost immediately? How long does it take to wear the dog out? This is one of the two most direct ways to judge a dog’s energy.
Try Play Time
Find out what kind of games the dog likes to play. Some are into fetch, some are into playing with rope or squeaky toys, and others are only into playing with other dogs. Some dogs are not big players at all. If the dog likes to fetch, does she tire out quickly or will she play until you end the game? If he likes to “kill” the rope toy, how soon does he seem to lose interest and walk away? As with the walk, the longer a dog will go, the higher energy he or she probably is.
Watch Interactions with Other Dogs
Is your potential dog the one that tries to engage in play with every other dog, racing from group to group, or does she prefer to watch from the sidelines, engaging only a few dogs for a polite greeting and sniff, and not much more? When the dog does play with others, does it always turn into a game of chase, or is it more focused on play bows and wrestling that ends quickly? A visit to the dog park or watching dogs interact at the shelter are the quickest ways to judge your dog’s energy. Again, though, try to do this several different times, once after the dog has had a walk and once before — the latter time will give you a better idea of the dog’s true energy level.
The biggest cause of misbehavior in dogs is when their needs for exercise, discipline, and affection are not fulfilled, but especially when they do not get enough exercise to drain their excess energy and bring their minds to a calm, submissive state during which we can reinforce and reward that calm behavior with affection.
Dogs that have a lot more energy than their humans often don’t get enough exercise. This is why it’s very important to know your own energy levels, then know how to figure out a dog’s energy level in order to find exactly the right one for your pack.
How would you describe youd dog’s energy level?