Getting high with your dogs
Recent study shows that dogs, like people, get runner’s high!
As discussed by Dr. Ernie Ward here, Raichlen et al , in the Journal of Experimental Biology report that dogs and humans are both wired to experience a feeling of well-being and euphoria through Endocannabinoids (eCBs), chemicals produced naturally by the body during high intensity training.
Here is a graph from the Raichlen study. The white bars are pre-exercise levels of eCB measures and the dark bars are the post-exercise levels. You can see that eCB levels spike in both humans and dogs after high intensity training. Interestingly, the dog spike is even greater than the human spike! The asterisks for the human and dog results mean that these differences in eCB levels are statistically significant (in other words, they are likely to to be ‘true’).
Why am I not surprised? For those who don’t know me, I have been a proponent of exercise for 30 years and I have always believed that a major reason that I have stuck with it over time is because of the “high” that I experience during and after a hard workout. I have done some of my own research on eCBs and have even consulted with Dr. Piomelli on this topic as it relates to humans. Hell, I admit it, I am hooked on exercise. I experienced withdrawal symptoms a few years ago when an Achilles injury forced me to drastically cut back on my activity!
What about dogs? Before reading this study, I never even considered that dog’s might get runner’s high. But now that I think about it, the anecdotal evidence seems to support this case. My dogs almost always seem ‘happy’ when we are running and immediately after we finish. And I have seen first hand how regular exercise has been able to help eliminate behavioral problems (digging, barking, etc.) for my own dogs. Of course there are many dog experts who suggest that exercise if an integral part of any dog training/behavior modification program. (I will have more to say on this in future posts).
What does this mean for your dog? I hope that you already know that proper exercise can keep your dog healthy and at a proper weight. Now we know that exercise can also impact your dog’s mental state as well. For their sake, please make sure to vigorously exercise your dog frequently! If that is not reason enough, did you know that dog’s who are overweight can cost their owners $100 – $1,000 + per year in extra medical costs as a result of being overweight? This figure doesn’t even include what you might spend on training to eliminate behavioral issues (and chewed shoes, torn socks, etc.). So even if you don’t ‘care’ about your dog’s mental and physical well being, make sure to exercise them to save yourself some money!
While you are at it, use the SlimDoggy app to track your dog’s activities so that you can make sure that you are feeding them correct amounts!
How about you? Do you notice a change in your dog after a run or other exercise? If so, please share your experience in the comments section below.