By Anna Burke
If you own a dog, you have probably found yourself wondering “How much exercise does a dog need every day?” Depending on your schedule, that question might sometimes sound more like “How much exercise does a dog really need every day?”
As with people, the answer varies from dog to dog and is dependent on age, health, and breed. There are a few standard guidelines you can follow, however, to make sure that your dog is getting all the exercise she needs.
You might have noticed that your puppy gets a case of the “zoomies” several times a day. The zoomies are easily identified, and symptoms include madly racing around the house, followed by collapsing into a puppy pile, preferably in your lap.
Puppies generally have more energy than adult dogs and so require more exercise in short bursts — like the zoomies. Since puppies are constantly growing, including several short walks or play sessions throughout the day is a safer choice than going for one really long walk, as this can be too hard on your puppy’s developing body. Ultimately, every puppy is different, and the more time you spend with your pup the more you will learn about how much exercise she needs to keep her happy — and you sane!
Talk to your vet or breeder about how much daily activity is appropriate for your puppy, and don’t forget that exercise is a great way to train and socialize your new dog.
How Much Exercise Does an Adult Dog Need?
Your dog’s breed heavily influences the level of physical activity he needs. High-energy breeds, such as Border Collies and Belgian Malinois, require a lot more exercise than low-energy breeds like the Bulldog or Basset Hound.
A breed’s exercise requirements are important to keep in mind when choosing a puppy. It is not a good idea to buy an active dog breed, unless you already lead an active lifestyle, and it is unrealistic to expect your toy Poodle to join you for marathon training – unless you are pushing him in a stroller.
Your dog’s health is also important. If your adult dog has a medical condition, such as hip dysplasia or heart or respiratory issues, talk with your vet about an appropriate exercise routine that will help him stay healthy without causing him discomfort.
How Much Exercise Does a Senior Dog Need?
Your senior dog might not be able to run as far as she once did, and you might have to eventually restrict her run to a walk, but proper exercise is just as important for your senior dog as it is for your puppy. Talk with your vet about exercising your senior dog, and also observe her behavior. As the owner, you know your dog best and are the best judge of how much exercise your dog can comfortably handle.
Exercise provides all dogs with mental stimulation and keeps them active, which can help prolong their lives and reduce the risk of obesity.
Tips on Dog Exercise
“How much exercise does a dog need every day?” is often the first question owners ask. The second (and one frequently asked by owners of high-energy breeds) is “How do you exercise a dog?”
Taking your dog for a walk around the block is a great start, and it might be enough for breeds with lower exercise requirements. Even couch potatoes appreciate variety every once in a while, however, and there are countless opportunities to exercise your dog in your daily life.
Hiking. Dogs love the great outdoors just as much as you do. Take your dog along on your next adventure or explore some new parks and trails in your area.
Going With You When You Cycle. While not appropriate for all dogs, many dogs go with their owners when they ride. Cycling on the road is often dangerous, but many towns have bike paths where your dog can safely accompany you.
Joining Skaters. Whether you inline skate, Rollerblade, or skateboard, your dog can accompany you. Just be sure to skate in an enclosed area at first while training your dog to this new activity, and always wear appropriate safety gear.
Swimming. Most dogs love the water, and swimming is great for dogs with joint problems, as it provides low-impact exercise. A life jacket can help your dog stay in the water longer for an optimum cardio workout.
Fetch. Fetch doesn’t have to be boring. Shake up your dog’s fetch routine by making her run uphill to retrieve a ball, or by tossing a ball into the water. Alternate between balls, Frisbees, or other prized toys to keep your dog on her toes.
Draft Work. Dogsledding isn’t just for sled dog breeds. Larger breeds often enjoy draft work, whether it involves a sled, a cart, or skijoring, and these activities are also fun for people.
Obedience. Obedience work might not seem like exercise at first glance, but practicing recall, retrieving, and reinforcing basic commands offers mental stimulation, as well as exercise. You can also teach your dog fun new tricks like weaving and twirling.
Dog Sports. With so many dog sports to choose from, you and your dog can try a variety of activities or stick with your favorites. Lure coursing, scent work, agility, obedience, flyball, dock diving, Schutzhund, and Rally are just a few of the options available.
Indoor Dog Exercises
Inclement weather can throw a wrench in your dog’s exercise routine. Hot days, cold days, and rainy days make it difficult to get outside for long periods of time, and may even pose health risks. Here are some indoor dog exercises you and your pup can do to burn off steam and stay in shape.
Stairs. Running up and down the stairs a few times when you can’t get outside is great for building muscle. Just be sure not to push your dog too hard, as this exercise is just as strenuous for dogs as it is for people. Take special care with Dachshunds, Pembroke Welsh Corgis, and other dogs with longer backs and shorter legs, because stairs may prove more challenging for these dogs.
Hide-and-Seek. Hide-and-seek gets your dog moving and provides mental stimulation. You can also work in a game of chase.
Treadmill. If you’re looking for a great dog exercise for high-energy breeds, look no further than a treadmill. With careful training, your dog may grow to love her treadmill workouts. While they are not a replacement for a walk or a run outside, treadmills build endurance and don’t rely on decent weather.
Tug. Games of tug, when played properly, build muscle and the human-animal bond. Most dogs enjoy tug, and there are a wide variety of tug toys available.
Agility. When we think of agility, we usually think of outdoor courses or large indoor agility spaces. However, you can make your own agility course with household supplies, such as broom handles, boxes, Hula-Hoops, and ottomans. Practice your agility skills at home, or consider joining a local club with an indoor agility space.