How Much Exercise Does My Dog Need?
Plus how to tell if your dog needs more exercise 🏃♀️
On those super busy days when you can only take your pup out for short walks, you might wonder if that’s enough exercise for him.
The amount of exercise a dog needs in a day actually depends on a number of factors. Some dogs need lots of exercise, while others are born to be couch potatoes.
The Dodo spoke to Dr. Katie Pagan, a partner veterinarian of Heart + Paw Fells Point, and Dr. Jamie Whittenburg, a veterinarian at Senior Tail Waggers, to find out the factors that affect how much exercise a dog needs.
How much exercise does an adult dog need?
There are a bunch of factors to consider when thinking about how much your adult dog needs to exercise.
“How much and what type of exercise is right for a particular dog varies greatly due to age, breed, size and health status,” Dr. Whittenburg told The Dodo. “As a general rule of thumb, most dogs need to be active (playing, walking, jogging) for 30 minutes to an hour daily.”
Some dogs (usually high-energy breeds) need a lot of exercise to get out all their energy, or else they can get easily bored — and take out their boredom by chewing up your furniture.
“[The amount of exercise is] very dependent on the breed of dog,” Dr. Pagan told The Dodo. “High-energy or working dogs will need much more exercise than a Maltese.”
Working, sporting and herding dogs will usually need at least 60 to 90 minutes of exercise each day. Some breeds that tend to need a lot of exercise are border collies, Australian shepherds, huskies and golden retrievers — but keep in mind that each individual dog’s different, so your pup might need a different amount of exercise depending on his personality.
And brachycephalic breeds — or dogs with smushed faces, like pugs and bulldogs — can’t go on really long walks or stay outside in hot weather because they’ll get overheated or have trouble breathing. “It is imperative that you monitor your dog to ensure they are not overheating or becoming too tired,” Dr. Pagan said.
Smaller dogs need a moderate amount of exercise, around 20 to 30 minutes a day. “Smaller dogs tend to do better with short sessions, once to twice a day,” Dr. Pagan said. But small breeds are actually prone to obesity, so just because they need less exercise doesn’t mean you forget about them altogether.
Giant breeds have similar exercise needs — around 30 to 45 minutes per day. They tend to be less active than medium-sized dogs because they have much larger bodies to move around.
If your dog’s overweight, he may need to exercise more than usual to help him lose weight, but you’ll also need to be careful about it so he can build up his tolerance. Your vet can help you come up with a diet and exercise plan that’ll work for your dog.
Other health issues, like arthritis, can affect your pup’s ability to exercise because painful joints make it hard for dogs to walk and run.
If you think your pup has a health problem that’s affecting his ability to exercise, take him to the vet to get checked out. Your vet can let you know how to safely help your dog get the exercise he needs without injuring him.
How much exercise does a puppy need?
While it seems like puppies are big balls of energy, they actually don’t need as much exercise as adult dogs. This is because puppies' bones and muscles are still developing, making them prone to injury. Giving your puppy too much exercise before his growth plates are completely closed could damage them, which can lead to lasting joint problems. His soft bones can also break more easily than an adult dog’s fully formed bones. And for large-breed puppies especially, going on too many long walks or runs can hurt their joints since they’re growing so much.
“Depending on the type of puppy you own, exercise can be as little as five minutes twice per day, but a higher energy puppy may need closer to 15 minutes,” Dr. Pagan said.
A good rule of thumb is that puppies can exercise for about five minutes per month of age at a time and twice per day. So you can take your 4-month-old puppy on about two 20-minute walks a day (plus potty breaks).
How much exercise does a senior dog need?
As your pup gets older, exercising can become more difficult, but it’s still super important to keep him healthy (especially since older dogs are more likely to be overweight). He should still get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, but it should be more low-key.
According to Dr. Pagan, try taking your senior dog out for multiple short exercise sessions that won’t tire him out or hurt his joints.
And keep an eye out for signs that your pup’s getting too tired, since he might not be able to walk as far as he used to. “A senior dog should always be monitored very closely,” Dr. Pagan said. “Underlying conditions, such as osteoarthritis, can make exercise difficult and uncomfortable.”
Signs your dog might need more exercise
Some signs that your dog hasn’t been getting enough exercise are pretty obvious, like getting chubby. But others might not be as clear. For example, exercise gives dogs mental stimulation, so dogs often get bored when they’ve just been lying around the house.
“Some patterns such as separation anxiety or destructive behaviors in the home can be a good indicator that your dog may need more stimulation,” Dr. Pagan said. “It is important to know your dog’s cues to ensure they are not getting too much or too little exercise.”
If your pup’s showing any of these signs, he may need more exercise:
- Weight gain
- Destructive behavior (chewing up your belongings)
- Difficult to control on the leash
- Acting depressed
- Rough play
How to exercise your dog
Here are some ways to make sure your pup stays healthy and engaged no matter how old he is or what size he is:
- Take your puppy on short walks and play with him using his toys.
- “Swimming, hiking, and obedience and agility classes are great recommendations for exercise for active/high-energy-breed dogs,” Dr. Pagan said. You can even buy agility training sets to train your pup at home.
- For your senior dog, take him on short walks and give him low-impact exercise that’s good for his joints. “Swimming is great exercise and good on the joints for our senior pups!” Dr. Pagan said. Dog treadmills and balance discs are some other useful ways to work out your senior dog.
- Get your pup interactive toys, like this KONG Wobbler, that’ll let him play on his own and tire him out. Interactive toys give your dog’s brain a workout, too.
- Take your dog to a dog park or play fetch with him in your fenced yard so he can run around.
Giving your pup the right amount of exercise is an important part of making sure he stays happy and healthy, so be sure to follow these tips and talk to your vet if you’re not sure how much is right for your dog.
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