Have you ever felt guilty about not taking your dog out? Do you sometimes skimp on their walks because you are feeling tired? Don’t worry, we’re sure that almost every dog owner has done that at least once, but is it okay?
Dogs, like humans need exercise to keep healthy and mentally stimulated. It doesn’t matter whether your dog is small, big, young or old, they all need exercise. The real question is not “does my dog need exercise?”, but actually “How much exercise does my dog need?”.
As with all things canine related, the answer isn’t as easy as it may initially seem. There are a whole host of different things you need to consider when exercising your dog and we are going to cover them in this article.
The Benefits of Exercise for Dogs
First things first, let’s talk about the benefits of exercise for dogs. We’ve listed the three main benefits of exercise for dogs below.
- Improved physical health
- Improved mental health
- Reduction in unwanted behaviour, boredom and anxiety
The quantity and type of exercise a dog needs will depend on several factors from age, to physical ability, health/injuries and environment. Exercise will help tone your dog’s muscles and will help their metabolic system to function properly.
For those who have a dog that suffers from lack of exercise and mental stimulation, they will tell you that their canines turn to destructive and sometimes even aggressive behaviour. If your dog is behaving bad, it may simply be a case of lack of exercise.
Dogs that fail to burn off the calories they take in can gain weight and may even develop conditions such as diabetes. It is incredibly important to keep your dog’s weight under control and a good balance of exercise and diet will help this.
Is My Dog Naughty or Just Under Exercised?
As we wrote above, bad behaviour can be a result of lack of exercise. If your dog is giving you nightmares will their chewing, digging and just generally naughty behaviour, you may want to try upping their exercise. Many owners label their dogs as naughty or badly behaved, but the simple truth is that they probably need a bit more training and exercise to get them under control.
So How Much Exercise Does a Dog Need?
There is no concrete answer when it comes to this question. Your dog’s overall condition, age, breed type and genetics will play a big part in how much exercise they need. For example, our two dogs, Daisy and Winston, require vastly different amounts of exercise, even though there is only a year and a half between them.
Daisy and Winston come from the same parents and are similar in size, but Winston requires a whole lot more exercise than Daisy. Daisy is perfectly content with one long walk a day, but Winston is still bouncing off the walls after two or three walks.
However, the general rule of thumb for a dog in good condition is roughly 30 minutes to two hours of exercise per day. Around 15 to 30 minutes of this exercise should be fairly rigorous and can include anything from running to hiking or playing games.
Your dog’s breed will affect how much exercise they require, so it is important to factor in that. More active breeds such as the ones below require around one to two hours of physical activity a day. Some of these breeds include:
- Scent Hounds
Less active breeds will require a bit less exercise at about 30 to 60 minutes. Some of these breeds include the following:
- Giant breeds (Great Danes, Newfoundlands, etc.)
- Toy breeds (Chihuahuas, Yorkies)
- Brachycephalic breeds such as pugs or French bulldogs.
The age of your dog is just as important as their breed type, so how much exercise do puppies and older dogs need?
How Much Exercise Does an Elderly Dog Need?
Obviously, as your dog gets older they are going to slow down and need less exercise. However, the amount of exercise an older dog needs can vary wildly depending on their overall health.
Canines around the age of seven will tend to show signs of slowing down and they will probably need less exercise. However, remember that this is just a rule of thumb and some dogs may start to slow down before that or well after that. Our first Labrador, Rosie, was still a very active and energetic dog well past ten years old.
We recommend around 60 minutes of exercise per day for an older dog. This should be broken up into smaller, more manageable chunks that don’t leave your dog feeling too tired or sore.
Consider Any Health Conditions or Injuries
Like humans, as dogs get older many start to develop conditions such as arthritis or dysplasia. Additionally, any injuries can start to take their toll on an older dog and make it painful for them to exercise. If your dog has been diagnosed with any health conditions or they have any injuries, it may be best to talk to your vet about a suitable exercise program for them.
For dogs that are starting to get a bit older, it may be best to limit their exposure to high impact exercise. We recommend that you take them for either a gentle walk or swim. Swimming can help take the weight off their limbs and is an excellent form of exercise. Just remember to avoid swimming in cold temperatures as this can come with its own set of problems.
One other thing to be mindful of is don’t ask too much of your dog when they get older. Even elderly dogs still love to chase a ball or play a serious game of tug-of-war, but these can do more harm than good. If you still want to play these games, make them easier for your dog and try to limit their exposure to high speed direction changes.
Be Observant and Check Your Dog Over Regularly
As your dog ages, you need to be watchful for any changes in their ability to exercise. This may include changes in their movement, breathing and enthusiasm to do exercise. In addition to this, you should check your dog for any painful spots or injuries on a regular basis. This can help to prevent minor injuries turning into more serious ones.
How Much Exercise Does a Puppy Need?
Puppies up to around three months old do not need any sort of ‘structured’ exercise routine. They are small and will tire extremely quickly. Simply playing and interacting with them throughout the day will be more than enough exercise for them.
In fact, you should be more concerned about over exercising a young puppy than under exercising them. Playing to exhaustion or overexerting themselves can cause damage to a puppy’s developing joints.
For those with young children or older dogs in the house, we recommend that you be extra vigilant. Young puppies are keen to play and keep up with children or older dogs and can quickly become tired. Make sure you keep an eye on them and interrupt any play if you need to. Put the puppy in a quiet place where they can rest and recover for the next play session.
As your puppy grows they can handle more exercise. A general rule of thumb is to add five minutes of exercise for every month they grow older. For example, a four-month old puppy may require 20 minutes of exercise, so a five-month old puppy should require around 25 minutes. Obviously, this will also depend on the breed of your dog and their genetics as well.
The Kennel Club has a great article about this, so we suggest checking this out.
Once your dog reaches about three to four months of age, we recommend that you start to introduce a structured exercise regime. It is important to get your dog used to exercising with you on a regular basis.
Up until around 12 months of age it is important to not over-exercise your dog. As we said earlier, too much exercise can damage a young dog’s joints, so it is important to be careful. Once your dog passes 12 months, they can begin to partake in more vigorous exercise.
Here’s Some Top Tips for Walking and Exercising Your Dog
Always exercise at your dog dogs own pace. If your dog isn’t tired or is too tired when you get home, you may need to reconsider your dog’s exercise routine. For dogs that are still full of energy, consider adding another walk into the mix or increase the intensity of their exercise.
Vary your route and where your dog is exercised. Take your dog to new places and on new routes to make exercise time more exciting for both you and your dog.
Let your dog have a sniff. It’s important to let your dog sniff and investigate the environment they are in. If you are constantly pulling your dog away from interesting smells, it can have a negative impact on their relationship with you and their mental health.
Get your dog trained. From the moment you bring home your new puppy home, you should be training them. It is far more enjoyable to walk a dog that behaves and does not pull. Training your dog to come, sit and stay can also keep them safe in dangerous situations. We have created a list of the 27 best training tips for dogs so make sure you check that out.
Mix up games and walks. It is important to both walk and play games with your dog. This will keep them exercised, mentally stimulated and will make them form a stronger bond with you. You can introduce games or training sessions into your walks to make them more interesting and exciting for your dog.
Avoid over-exercising your dog. As we wrote earlier in this article, it is important to not over-exercise a puppy, however, this is also true for older dogs. If your dog is struggling, is exhausted when you get home, or refuses to go out at all, it may be a sign that you need to cut back on the exercise. It may also be a sign that your dog is suffering from some sort of health complication or injury, so it may be worth getting them checked out by your veterinarian.
Keep your dog on a lead in busy or built-up areas. Only let your dog off a lead when you know it is safe to do so. This will prevent your dog from running in traffic, harassing other people, or just being a general nuisance. You should also be careful about letting your dog off a lead around livestock.
Get them socialised early. It is important to get your dog used to other dogs, animals and humans as soon as possible.
Watch the conditions. In summer try to avoid walking your dog on hot tarmac. Tarmac can get incredibly hot and can easily burn your dog’s paws. For the winter months, watch out for ice and be on the lookout for anything like antifreeze.
Summing Up How Much Exercise Does a Dog Need?
As you can see, the amount of exercise a dog needs can depend on a whole host of different factors. Some dogs are energetic and will need lots of exercise, while other canines are more placid and don’t need as much.
You should always be careful about over-exercising a dog, especially puppies, and always be mindful of an elderly dog’s condition and ability. Over-exercising a dog can lead to serious injuries or permanent damage, so be careful.
Dogs that are in the prime of their life will be able to exercise lots, especially more active breeds such as Border Collies. You will probably find that these dogs can out-perform you and can seemingly go all day.
If your dog seems particularly energetic or destructive, try upping their exercise. You may find that this will fix their behaviour problems.
Let us know how much you exercise your dog in the comments below.