Regular exercise is one of the most important needs for active dogs. Exercise not only helps to reduce or eliminate many of the undesirable behaviors frequently exhibited by bored or frustrated dogs, it also helps to protect your dog’s physical health. As most trainers and vets are apt to say, “a tired dog is a well-behaved dog.”
But while many owners understand the importance of regular exercise, few understand how much exercise is sufficient to keep them healthy and happy.
Most authorities agree that the average dog requires between 30 minutes and 2 hours of exercise each day, depending on your dog’s age, breed (or a mixture thereof) and health.
- Puppies should not be exercised too rigorously, as it can harm their developing skeletal system. Often, puppies benefit most from several short bouts of vigorous exercise, spread throughout the day.
- Senior dogs require less exercise than dogs who are still in their prime. Think more along the lines of a 30 to 45-minute walk, rather than a 2-mile run or an hour spent playing fetch.
- Short-nosed breeds, such as pugs, boxers, and bulldogs, are unable to breathe as efficiently as dogs with normally proportioned faces are. This means that they should not be forced to exercise for excessive amounts of time.
Dogs with health issues should only exercise in accordance with your veterinarian’s advice. While some health issues, such as obesity, are likely improved with reasonable exercise, others, such as bone diseases, may be exacerbated by exercise.
While each dog is an individual, breeds and groups often exhibit different exercise needs and preferences.
Groups and Breeds That Require Significant Amounts of Exercise
Most working dogs require copious amounts of exercise, despite the size they attain.
- Most Retrievers (Labrador, Golden, Flat-Coated, etc.)
- Most Pointers (German Shorthaired, Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, etc.)
- Most Herding Breeds (Australian Shepherd, Collie, Border Collies, etc.)
- Most Terriers (Jack Russel, Scottish, Rat, Fox, etc.)
- Most Hound Dogs (Bloodhound, Bluetick Coonhound, etc.)
- Most Sledding Dogs (Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute, etc.)
- American Staffordshire Terrier / Pit Bull
- Belgian Malinois
- Dogue de Bordeaux
- German Shepherd
Breeds with Modest Exercise Requirements
Most breeds that thrive without a great deal of exercise are on the small side, and they are frequently members of the toy group.
- French bulldog
- Chow Chow
- Chinese Crested
- Shih Tzu
- Saint Bernard
- English Bulldog
- Basset Hound
Long walks aren’t the only way to get your pup some exercise. There are a number of different ways to help your dog burn some calories and stretch his muscles.
In addition to walks, you can:
- Play fetch with your pooch. Many dogs love to play fetch, thereby providing mental and emotional benefits in addition to the physical benefits of the activity. Some dogs won’t care what type of toy you throw, whereas others may prefer tennis balls, for example, to Frisbees; so, be sure to try a few different options before assuming your dog doesn’t like to play fetch. Another great thing about playing fetch with your pup is that you can just sit there – you don’t have to exercise if you don’t want to.
- Take your dog swimming. Swimming is a great physical activity that helps dogs burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time. Limit your dog’s swimming to safe, shallow areas, that lack strong currents or hidden obstacles under the surface. Be aware that some breeds are poor swimmers and some dogs do not enjoy the activity, so pay attention to your dog’s body language and behavior.
- Play hide and seek with your pup. You can entertain and exercise your dog with a good game of hide-and-seek. Most dogs love the game and will run quite a bit while seeking the hidden prize, which can be a treat, a beloved toy or you. It may take your dog a little while to learn how to play the game, but most will grasp the concept relatively quickly. Small dogs may get an appreciable amount of exercise while playing the game indoors but take big pups outside so they have to search a large area.
- Jog or run with your dog. High-energy dogs in good physical condition often enjoy exerting a little more effort than they would on a casual stroll. Be sure to gradually increase the distance covered to avoid injuring your pup and try to run on soft surfaces whenever possible.
- Let your dog play with an automated toy. Modern technology has given dog owners a wide array of ball-launchers, treat dispensers and other games that are designed to work without your help. Such devices are unlikely to provide all of the exercise your dog needs, but they can become a useful component of a comprehensive exercise plan.
- Give your dog some social time. Many dogs love nothing more than playing with other pups, and they’ll usually begin running, jumping, chasing and playing when given the opportunity. This obviously isn’t recommended for dogs that don’t play nicely with others, but for those that do, there are few better activities to get them some exercise.
It’s always important to discuss your dog’s exercise needs and your plans before beginning a regimen. You’ll want to ensure that your dog doesn’t have any health problems to consider before starting, and your vet can advise you on the appropriate level of exercise to provide.
Additionally, remember to keep your dog on a leash anytime you aren’t indoors or in an enclosed space outdoors. Even the most well-behaved and obedient dogs are vulnerable to the “SQUIRREL!” instinct, which can cause them to run right out into a busy street or any number of other potential obstacles.
Also, be sure to keep the temperature and weather in mind when going outside with your dog, and be sure they stay adequately hydrated in the heat and warm in the winter.
As you can see, it is not only important to ensure your dog gets enough exercise, it is rather easy to do so – it just takes a little bit of effort and dedication. Accordingly, there’s no reason you can’t get your dog moving around more. Your pup will be happier and healthier for it, and it may even get you some much-needed exercise (humans rarely get enough exercise either, but that’s an entirely different subject).
How do you get your pup regular exercise? Do you take long walks? Let him chase squirrels in the backyard? Throw his ball until he’s tuckered out? Let us know in the comments below.