How Much Exercise Does a Dog Need?
by Amy Smith - 4/3/19
Like humans, dogs need to stay active for optimal physical fitness and mental stimulation. You probably have a general idea that it’s necessary to walk your dog, but do you really know just how much exercise your dog needs? Think beyond a quick walk by setting your goals in the right range for your dog and exploring some fun and innovative ways to get your dog moving every day.
The biggest reason to give your dog enough exercise is for physical health. More than half of dogs are now classified as overweight or obese, leading to a host of health problems including arthritis, diabetes, heart and liver disease and joint problems. Adjusting your dog’s diet to healthy levels is an important step in avoiding or reducing excessive weight gain, but experts agree that regular exercise is equally vital.
Besides the physical benefits, getting your dog moving more can be a game-changer when it comes to boredom and related behavioral problems. Dogs who don’t get enough exercise may show unwanted behaviors like chewing, digging, tail-chasing, licking, hyperactivity and unruliness. Many pet owners are amazed to see these problems subside or disappear altogether when the dog starts getting more regular exercise.
Aiming at the Right Target
Determining the right amount of exercise for your dog depends on several factors, including size, breed, age and health limitations. As a rule of thumb, dogs should get about an hour of exercise every day, but you should acquaint yourself with the needs of your dog and check with your vet as you work up to this amount of exercise. Puppies are not yet ready for long runs, so they should receive shorter “bursts” of exercise two or three times a day. Among adult dogs, short-nosed breeds like pugs, low-energy breeds like bulldogs and basset hounds and small breeds like chihuahuas and toy poodles will not require as much exercise as high-energy breeds such as border collies, foxhounds and retrievers. Dogs bred for hunting and chasing will need much more exercise than other breeds or mutts. An older dog should have reduced exercise periods to avoid overtaxing joints, lungs and an aging heart.
Mix it Up, Make it Fun
Tired of walking on the same street every day? A daily walk is a good baseline for fitness, but your dog may benefit from more variety, too! Try adding some games into your routine, like fetching a ball, dancing together, tug of war and learning new tricks. If you have a high-energy dog who can run for long distances, train him to run beside you when you ride a bike or go rollerblading. If you’re stuck indoors because of bad weather, try some of these activities that include obstacle courses, running up and down stairs and making a “treasure hunt” with treats to challenger your dog’s body and mind.
Most importantly, remember some exercise is a million times better than no exercise. Start by scheduling a regular exercise time for your dog every day. Once you have a daily routine established, try increasing that time until your dog is getting a full hour of vigorous physical activity. Walking is always a good bet, and you can even do it in the rain. But if bad weather or boredom are tempting you to skip your dog’s exercise time, change it up with any activity that gets your buddy moving.
Amy Smith is a writer, specializing in family and parenting topics. She teaches English, Latin, and music at a private school and lives with her husband and five children on a small homestead in rural Pennsylvania.