My constant refrain that nothing in dog training is black and white has a new bit of research to support it. While common wisdom is that "a tired dog is a good dog," those of us who work with a large spectrum of dogs know that sometimes that advice is counter productive. Take the typical "reactive dog." These are dogs that growl, lunge, bark, and generally carry on or have a freak out when they see other dogs -- whether the behavior comes from fear and a desire to keep other dogs at a distance or from frustration and a desire to be able to go and meet every dog, the behaviors look the same. Typical advice might include "tiring the dog out" but my experience says that these dogs usually need the opposite. They need a highly structured training program and a calm day-to-day life. When initially treating this behavior these dogs often need a lengthy vacation from the arousal that long outings, rowdy games of fetch and walks with constant exposure to other dogs. Instead, they benefit from a focus on learning to be calm, relaxation techniques and mental games.
A recent study from Linda Cooper, a student at the International School for Canine Psychology & Behaviour, looked at the effects of certain types of exercise on reactive/stressed dogs and found that reactivity significantly improved when activity that created arousal in the dog was reduced or eliminated. Its a small study, but puts data to what I've personally seen over the years.
So if you have a reactive dog, don't feel like you are cheating him by dialing back the hype inducing romps. It may be just what the dog needs. Here are the details of the study.
Dogs that are "reactive" often need less exercise not more.