How Often Should I Walk My Dog?
Here’s how to find the ideal dog walking schedule 🦮
Your dog probably loves going on walks with you — so much so that he might want to go out all the time.
But how often should you actually walk your dog? And what’s a good dog walking schedule?
The Dodo spoke to Dr. Crista Coppola, Ph.D., a certified dog behaviorist at Senior Tail Waggers, and Dr. Jamie Whittenburg, a veterinarian at Senior Tail Waggers, to find out how often to walk your dog.
Factors that affect how often you should walk your dog
In general, most dogs need around 30 minutes to an hour of exercise per day, which includes walks. This can be divided up into two to three walks a day (or more, depending on your schedule and preference).
But there are a number of factors that affect how much you’ll need to walk your dog, such as:
- Age — Adult dogs need more exercise than senior dogs.
- Breed — Some dog breeds are more active than others and require more exercise. Breeds that are typically high energy include herding and working breeds, like border collies, Australian shepherds, huskies and terriers (but this could be different for every individual dog).
- Health — Dogs with health problems or underlying medical conditions, such as arthritis or obesity, might have trouble walking for long periods of time. But overweight dogs might need more exercise to help them lose weight, so your vet can help you come up with a weight loss plan that’s safe for him.
- Where you live — If you live in a small apartment, or if you don’t have a fenced yard for your dog to run around in, you might need to take him on walks more frequently to make sure he gets enough exercise and doesn’t get bored.
How often should you walk a puppy?
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 for exercise, plus three to four shorter walks a day for potty breaks.
Puppies don’t need as much exercise as adult dogs because their bones and muscles are still developing, making them prone to injury. Giving your puppy too much exercise before his growth plates are completely closed can 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.
But you may need to go on more short walks with your puppy because puppies need to go to the bathroom a lot.
“Many need to eliminate more often (either because of smaller bladders or to aid in housetraining),” Dr. Coppola said. “This may require younger dogs to need to have more frequent walks throughout the day.”
How often should you walk a senior dog?
Senior dogs need at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, just like adult dogs. But if your older pup has health problems, you should plan to take him on more frequent, short walks so he doesn’t get too tired or injured. And similar to puppies, as dogs get older, they may have trouble controlling their bladders and need to go out more often.
“Senior dogs may have far less energy and may also be less physically capable of long walks, so their walks may need to be shortened and/or [at a] lower intensity, but they may actually need more frequent, short potty walks if they are less capable of waiting for an extended period for a time to relieve themselves,” Dr. Coppola said.
When should you walk your dog?
You should walk your dog whenever he needs to use the bathroom and get some exercise.
“Dogs should be taken for walks to eliminate first thing in the morning, just before bedtime and after extended periods of not having access to relieve themselves,” Dr. Coppola said.
This dog-walking schedule is especially important for puppies since they won’t be able to hold it for that long, and getting them into a routine is a great way to potty train them.
If you’re heading out and need to leave your pup alone for some time, you might also want to take him out for a little bit to get out some energy before you go.
“Walks can also be super helpful as a form of mental and physical stimulation just prior to being left alone for the day (or other extended periods),” Dr. Coppola said. “The more activities a pup can engage in prior to the human departure can help facilitate the dog resting during the absence.”
Why your dog needs exercise
Just like people need exercise to stay healthy, dogs need it to stay in shape, too.
“Exercise increases muscle mass, helps dogs stay trim, builds healthy joints and improves heart and lung function,” Dr. Whittenburg told The Dodo.
Taking your dog on plenty of walks will keep his weight in check, which helps prevent other health problems, such as diabetes and cancer. Walking also keeps your pup’s joints and muscles healthy, which will help his mobility later on in life.
Giving your dog exercise every day will also prevent him from getting bored. If your pup gets bored, he might find ways to entertain himself, such as chewing on things he shouldn’t (like your shoes or furniture).
“Dogs require exercise, not just for their physical health, but also their mental well-being,” Dr. Whittenburg said. “Exercise is also vital as mental stimulation to keep dogs happy and to avoid boredom.”
In addition to keeping your pup entertained, you’ll bond with your dog when you take him on walks.
“Walking also facilitates the human-animal bond, which is an integral component to every dog's pet relationship and overall welfare,” Dr. Coppola said.
How often you need to walk your dog each day will depend on your individual pup, but be sure you get in lots of walks to keep your dog healthy and to give him time to bond with you.
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