“How much exercise does a dog need?” is a question many dog owners have probably googled or asked their vet at some stage.
The facts are that all dogs, big and small, need regular exercise. And as dog owners everywhere will attest – they usually enjoy it immensely as well.
No matter how much we humans might be drawn to a couch, there is usually no issue getting our dogs wagging enthusiastically at the mere hint or suggestion of a walk!
What a walks and play means for your dog
Exercise is essential for dogs because it strengthens their muscles and keeps them in good condition. It also engages their minds and gives them a chance to explore their neighbourhood.
But while a walk may seem like exercise to us, from your dog’s viewpoint it means different sights to see and smells to sniff, and a chance to meet other dogs and people. Also, if your dog gets to have time off-leash in a dog park, they get to play freely and hone their skills in catch or fetch – games that some dogs could play long after their owners have tired of it!
Best of all though, for your dog a walk means the chance to spend time with their favourite person in all the world – you.
How much exercise does a dog need?
The amount and type of exercise depends on the breed, age, size and condition of the dog.
- Exercising puppies: Generally speaking, puppies need to be gradually introduced to regular exercise, as being in the baby-stage they can tire easily. This means starting with short walks (e.g. 15-20 minutes), as well as allowing them to rest when they need to. Puppies also need time to learn a bit of walk-etiquette – such as road and social “rules” – so they will need a lot of supervision in the early stages. If you have a new puppy, speak to your vet about the best exercise program to keep them in good condition.
- Adult dogs: This depends a lot on the size and breed. For example, bigger and more active dogs will need more exercise than, say, a small lap dog. This could involve up to two hours a day of walking, playing or training. If your dog is overweight or obese however, you risk them becoming injured or sick if you suddenly get them onto a vigorous exercise routine. It’s important to ease your dog back into being active with shorter walks. Always get an unfit dog checked out first, and ask for your vet for advice on exercise.
- Senior dogs: It’s important to not neglect exercising your older dog, within their capabilities of course. Even if your older dog has some arthritis, gentle exercise helps to keep their joint’s mobile and more flexible. If you think your senior dog is experiencing pain while out walking, discuss this with your vet.
What kind of exercise and how often?
Most dogs love a good half-hour walk but there are also other ways to get them active and to stimulate their minds. This includes jogging, games in the garden or park (such as fetching sticks or catching balls), or even more advanced training.
The RSPCA doesn’t recommend tethering dogs to a bicycle however, as this can overexert them. Instead they recommend allowing dogs to move at their own pace.
Also, while dogs generally love routine, taking your dog on a new route or to new places can help keep their mind engaged and stimulated.
The regularity of your dog’s exercise is important – such as daily walk or trip to the park. Allowing your dog to be sedentary all week and then overactive on the weekend could do more harm than good.
Too much or too little?
There are usually tell-tale signs of too much or too little exercise in a dog. Generally, signs your dog might be overdoing it include being overtired, soreness or stiffness in the joints or worn paw-pads.
On the other hand, inadequate exercise can lead to weight gain and loss of muscle strength. Your dog could also become bored from lack of stimulation, which could in turn lead to mischief – such as chewing your best shirt or digging up your favourite flowering plants!
A dog who isn’t exercised or engaged with can also end up showing signs of being sad, or maybe moping around looking like they feel unloved.
One thing’s for sure – if your dog isn’t getting as many walks as they want, they will soon let you know!