It's true for humans and dogs alike: When it comes to staying healthy, nothing beats a good diet and regular exercise. You're able to hit the gym, join a boxing club, go for a jog around the block ... but what about your canine companion? How do you provide your pooch with the exercise he or she needs, and how much exercise does a dog need every day?
Regular exercise helps your furry child at every stage of life, and it turns out that it's about a lot more than just remaining at a healthy weight. Exercise helps dogs to burn excess calories, yes, but it also provides much-needed mental stimulation, improves your dog's behavior, and even strengthens the bond that you and your dog share. Simply put, exercise is a must for your beloved pet's overall health.
How Much Exercise Does a Dog Need Every Day?
Every dog needs to go outside a few times a day, but just how active do you need to be with your pup? Just how much exercise does a dog need every day? Dogs of every age, every breed, and every shape and size need regular exercise to stay healthy. Your particular pooch's exercise needs depend on breed, age, and health.
The first thing to consider is what breed of dog you have. Some dog breeds are just more naturally active than others.
Breeds of the working and herding varieties — the Labrador retriever, Australian shepherd, border collies, scent hounds, and sight hounds, to name a few — will require more exercise. They should be receiving 30 minutes of vigorous exercise a day, plus at least an hour of other physical activity like walking to stay healthy.
Other dogs don't require nearly as much exercise. Brachycephalic dogs, for instance, can actually experience health trouble if they exercise too vigorously or for too long. Brachycephalic dogs are those with squashed faces, flat noses, and bulging eyes like the pug, Boston terrier, Pekingese, and French and English bulldog. These breeds, thanks to their unique facial structure and airway construction, can become exhausted and overheat easily when they exercise too much. They'll be fine with a quick walk around the neighborhood, perhaps twice a day.
The next factor to think about is your dog's age. Adult dogs have different exercise needs than puppies do, and there are special considerations to make when it comes to older dogs.
- Puppies — Puppies will be very active all on their own, so all you'll really have to do is keep up. Let your puppy play as much as he wants, but remember to supervise him closely to make sure he doesn't get into anything dangerous.
- Adult dogs — Dogs enjoying middle age must receive daily exercise to remain healthy. Again, the exact amount will depend on the breed and other factors, so consult with your veterinarian for an exact figure.
- Senior dogs — It's only natural for your dog to slow down a bit as he ages. Still, make sure he gets daily exercise to keep the joints limber and get rid of those excess calories that could contribute to obesity.
Don't forget to take your dog's general health into account. If your dog is a relatively young, high-energy working breed but suffers from a respiratory problem, strenuous exercise on a daily basis might not be the best choice. A dog with a heart condition is another example — while dogs suffering from heart-related ailments may tolerate short walks, overdoing it could prove very dangerous.
All things considered, the best course of action is to check with your veterinarian to find out precisely how much exercise is healthy and necessary for your dog.
The Dangers of Avoiding Exercise
The amount of exercise your dog needs can vary, but we've seen that it's an essential part of your dog's good health. What happens if you don't exercise your dog enough, or avoid it entirely?
When a dog doesn't exercise enough, he's placed at a high risk for obesity. Obesity occurs when a dog doesn't burn off the calories that he intakes during a day. The only way to burn off those calories is through daily exercise.
Obesity is so dangerous because when left unchecked, it can result in a whole host of other health concerns, including arthritis, joint problems, and back pain. It also places dogs at an increased risk for heatstroke, reduced respiratory function, and even tracheal collapse. As cute as you think your pudgy pet might be, obesity is no laughing matter — it's one of the leading causes of health trouble among domesticated dogs, and there's no way to reverse or avoid it without regular exercise.
When dog parents don't provide their canine companions with enough exercise, the dog becomes restless and irritable. In time, a dog who doesn't receive enough physical activity will start to act out in undesirable ways. Here are just a few of the behavior problems that under-stimulated dogs tend to demonstrate:
- Attempted escape
- Loud vocalizing or barking
- Aggression toward owners or other pets
- House soiling
It's easier to prevent issues like these ahead of time rather than deal with them after the fact. So will a walk around the block be enough to keep your pup happy? Read on for suggestions for high-activity and low-activity dogs.
How to Exercise Your Dog
We've seen why exercise is so important for our canine companions, and what happens if you avoid it. You may be wondering about the best exercise routine for your dog. What exactly should you do to get your dog the exercise he needs?
Give your high-activity dog exercise by going for long walks (45 minutes to an hour or longer) on a daily basis, and play vigorously for at least an hour on top of that. You might also consider taking a trip to the dog park and letting your pooch run off-leash for a few minutes — your dog will thank you! Dog sports, like agility training, also work well to maintain your dog's high exercise needs.
Running with your dog is another way to provide him or her with great physical exercise, but it's best to check with your veterinarian before going out for a jog with your canine friend. Certain breeds are better suited to endurance running than others, and any dog can become exhausted if you overdo it.
Low-activity dogs will also need daily walks, but they don't have to be quite as long. A 15- to 20-minute walk, or two 10-minute walks per day, should suffice. Aside from that, other low-impact activities like gentle play and fun games like hide-and-seek or fetch can round out your dog's exercise regimen.
Whether your dog is a high-energy working breed with a lot of energy to burn, or a laid-back senior who is content with a few short walks a day, the important thing is not to overdo it when it comes to exercise. Your dog should be pleasantly tired out, not exhausted or on the verge of collapse, by the time you're done exercising.
When your dog starts losing interest in exercise and is panting heavily, it's time to call it quits! Allow them to return home, get a drink of fresh water, and relax.
Maintain Your Dog's Great Health
When asking "how much exercise does a dog need every day," remember: Exercise is a key part of a healthy lifestyle for your beloved pet, and it can’t be overlooked. Provide your pooch with the exercise he or she needs based on breed, age, and overall health, and you’ll enjoy a lifetime of health and happiness with your canine companion.