How Much Exercise Does My Dog Need?

A small dog playing with a rope toy

As it is with humans, staying active is an important part of keeping your dog as healthy as possible as long as possible, but it's not always clear how often and how far you should walk your dog. This guide can help if you're wondering, "How much exercise does my dog need?"

3 Factors to Consider When Deciding How Much Exercise a Dog Needs

When it comes to exercising your dog, there's no one-size-fits-all answer on how much walking your pooch needs. Every dog is different, but focusing on these three main factors can give you a good starting place to ensure your exercise routine is supporting your dog's overall health and keeping their weight in check.

1. Breed

Your dog's breed is probably the most influential factor when it comes to how much energy they naturally have and how much exercise they need to get it all out in a healthy manner. Working and sporting breeds, such as German Shepherds, Siberian Huskies and Labradors, generally have the highest energy levels and need the most exercise. These breeds often need a solid hour of moderate-intensity exercise daily — at a minimum — to stay healthy and happy. If you're trying to get out of the walking rut, looking at your dog's breed can also give you some ideas for other activities, such as agility, hide-and-seek or advanced obedience training.

2. Behaviour

The saying goes that a tired dog is a good dog. If your dog is exhibiting problem behaviours such as excessive barking, chewing on clothes or furniture or getting into things around the house, it could be because of a build up in energy, indicating a need for more frequent or longer exercise.

3. Balance

When you're figuring out how much exercise a dog needs, it's important to balance intensity versus duration. If you're currently taking your dog for a half-hour leisurely stroll once a day but having behaviour problems once you're back home, upping to a longer, more intense one-hour walk or doing another walk in the morning or evening could make a big difference in keeping your dog calm. Jean-François Savard, Purina pet behaviour scientist, also recommends talking to your veterinarian before beginning any new exercise plan to ensure it's OK for your pet.

4 Tips for Exercising Your Dog

1. Start Slowly

If you haven't been taking regular walks, it's important to not jump right into 2-mile hikes every day. Just like you do when you start a new exercise routine, your dog will need time to adjust to the physical demands of a more intense exercise routine. Start with short distances or slow speeds and gradually increase as both you and your dog adapt.

2. Pay Attention to Timing

If you're trying to fit your walk around your work schedule, you may be limited in when you can head out. However, it's important to avoid walking a dog — or engaging in any other intense movement like a frantic game of fetch — around meal times. Exercising immediately after eating can cause digestive upset and serious problems for your dog. If you're looking at your exercise routine as a way to help your pooch lose a couple of pounds, switching to a healthy weight dog food may help as well.

3. Be Wary of Weather

Most dogs need daily exercise, and that means there will be times when the weather isn't ideal. Most dogs are just fine with a little rain, but excessive heat or cold and icy or snowy conditions can pose a real hazard. If you're walking in the summer, always check the temperature of the pavement with your hand first to see if it's too hot for your dog's sensitive paws. In the winter, it's important to watch out for salt and ice-melting chemicals that can pose a danger for your pet.

4. Keep It Exciting

Many people talk about how much more fun and enjoyable it is to take a hike outside than to walk on a treadmill, and your dog probably feels the same way. Break up your exercise routine by varying your route (so your dog gets to experience new sights and smells) or try a new activity such as hiking or agility training to engage your dog's mind and further strengthen your bond.

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