Pretty much all animals need exercise to be healthy. Dog are a species that is born to be highly active – some breeds more than others. Unfortunately, not all owners are willing or able to get their dog a proper amount of exercise and others may not be aware of their dog’s exercise needs.
In this guide, you will learn about a lot of aspects of dogs and exercise: why dogs need exercise, how much exercise your dog should get, the benefits of exercising your dog & the drawbacks of not doing so, and lots of great ways to fulfill the exercise needs of your dog.
Why Do Dogs Need Exercise?
There are a wealth of mental and physical reasons why your dog needs exercise to be happy and healthy. Keep in mind that animals in the wild exercise constantly while trying to survive. Dogs were bred from wild animals (wolves) and were bred for specific jobs. When dogs are given the resources to survive, they still desire a job and a purpose. Exercise helps to fulfill the mental and physical aspects of having a job to do.
Benefits of Exercising Your Dog:
- Combats anxiety
- Combats aging
- Strengthens your engagement with your dog (which is very important for training dogs)
- Healthier and happier joints
- Gives your dog a designated playtime (which leads to a happier life)
- Reduces tummy troubles
- Improves sleep quality
- Builds confidence
- And many more
These benefits alone should be more than enough to make you want to start implementing a schedule for exercising your dog. However, it’s also essential to know the drawbacks of not exercising your dog. A bored and under-exercised dog may decide to give itself a job that you won’t like.
Drawbacks of NOT Exercising Your Dog:
- High risk of being overweight or obese
- Can lead to joint issues
- Increases boredom or frustration
- Aggressive behavior with people or other dogs
- Rummaging through the trash
- Chewing things
- Excessive barking
How Much Exercise Should Your Dog Get?
So, now that you know why your dog should get the proper exercise they need. Let’s get to work and figure out how much exercise your dog should get. The easy answer is “at least 20 mins”. The more informed and and accurate answer is that it depends on many factors such as:
- Your dog’s breed
- Age and stage in life
- Personality traits
- How it was raised
- Medical conditions
- And many more
With that being said, the most crucial factor to consider and the one you should be focusing on is your dog’s age/life stage. There are three main life stages: puppy, adult, and senior.
Break up daily exercise in multiple shorter bursts. Puppies need a lot of rest so they can grow and develop. Alternate exercise and activities with nap time. Don’t overdo it as puppies need a lot of time for rest. Exercise and play should be very minimal at first and ramp up as they get older. If your puppy is tired, don’t force it to exercise.
Align your puppy exercise with dog training best-practices. Make sure you, as the alpha, is the one who is choosing when it’s playtime. If you let your puppy decide when it’s time to play, they could develop demanding habits that are undesirable.
Breed of dog matters. This is true for puppies as well, but the breed has an even bigger impact once dogs reach adulthood. It’s very important for you as a dog owner to learn about your breed’s nuances because this determines how much exercise it should get among many other aspects of pet ownership and their needs. Here is a chart with common breeds categorized into low, medium, high, and intense exercise needs. Notice that the categories are based on intensity and not based on time. This is because all dogs are built to exercise for at least an hour or two per day, but how intense the exercise is varies more by breed than the amount of time.
[Image Source: https://news.orvis.com/dogs/dog-exercise-needs-by-breed]
They are often known as brachycephalic and have a poorer activity tolerance due to their respiratory restrictions. Examples include Pugs, Bulldogs, and Shih Tzus. In hot temperatures, these breeds should be handled with extreme caution. They often cannot breathe well enough for appropriate heat exchange, so even 10 minutes in the sun on a hot summer day might be too much for them. If you’re concerned that your dog is overheating, read on for some advice on how to help them cool down.
Toy and tiny breeds.
These breeds weren’t typically bred for lots of high-intensity exercise, so they are more likely to fall into the medium intensity range. Keep in mind for walks, hikes, biking, etc, that short legs mean it’s more work for them to travel as far as larger dogs.
Retrievers, Pointers, Setters, and Spaniels
These are all sporting breeds. These canines were created to participate in high-intensity exercises. Try taking them running, hiking, or even swimming.
Collies, Shepherds, and Sheepdogs are herding breeds.
They are extremely bright and can quickly get bored without proper stimulation. These breeds love exercise that is also mentally stimulating to simulate herding.
Huskies, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Boxers, and Rottweilers
These are just a few examples of working breeds. Prolonged, steady exercise is beneficial to them. Take them on long walks or hikes. If you bring them to a dog park, let them play for a little bit of extra time to get that energy out.
Shorter stints of activity with breaks. Senior dogs still need regular exercise, at least 30 minutes per day, but the intensity should be reduced. Reducing the amount and intensity and adding in more breaks and rest is a great strategy as a dog gets into the senior years. You should also minimize high-impact activities like running – go for walks instead. This is especially true for dogs that are overweight.
How to Exercise Your Dog
We know that exercise is important and we’ve gotten an idea of how much exercise each dog should get on a daily basis. Now let’s discuss some different options for getting your dog the exercise it needs.
Exercise When You Do
If you’re someone who goes out regularly for exercise, consider bringing your dog along when appropriate. Here are some activities that can be dog-friendly:
- Walking or speed walking – a tried and true activity that allows your dog to get exercise and sniff around.
- Hiking – just like walking, but in more of a nature setting, like a wooded area or a mountain. Bonus if you can let them off-leash to run around and explore safely.
- Riding a bike – biking is a lot easier for the human than the dog running beside. Make sure you keep a speed that is realistic for your dog and be mindful of how much distance you cover.
- Stair climbing – this is nice change of pace that will really get both of your heart rates going.
- Swimming – a great form of full body low-impact exercise if you have access to water and your dog enjoys it.
Exercise Just Your Dog
Your dog most likely needs a lot more exercise than you do. Let’s explore some ways to get just the dogs some much needed exercise.
- Fetch – unless you’re an MLB pitcher, lots of throwing will probably tire your arm out before your dog. Ball throwers and automatic launchers are highly recommended if your dog loves to fetch.
- Frisbee – same idea as fetch, but with a disc.
- Tug of war – if your dog is on the larger size, this one may fall into the group above. Get a strong rope toy and go to war!
- Bring them to a dog park – if you have access to a nice fenced-in dog park and your dog is well-socialized, let them run around and play with other dogs for a while.
For all of these exercise ideas, make sure you provide plenty of clean water for them to drink!
Send Them to Doggy Daycare
If you don’t have time to get your dog enough exercise (or socialization) then dog daycare is a great option. A reputable doggy daycare service provider will make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise. Trust us, we do this every day!
You now have a better idea as to how much exercise your dog needs. From that information, take queues from your dog’s behavior and talk to your vet to determine how much exercise they need. Make a plan around that to ensure the proper amount of exercise is happening regularly. If you don’t have time, consider sending them to doggy daycare.