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Know the Facts: How Much Exercise Does a Dog Need Everyday?

May 20, 2019

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It's no secret that the United States, along with many other developed nations, is undergoing an obesity epidemic - but did you know that the problem is even worse when it comes to our canine population? According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, an astonishing 55.8% of dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese!

Should dogs go on diets? How much exercise does a dog need every day? Join us as we take a look at the factors that contribute to canine obesity as well as ways to combat it and keep your pup healthy.

How Much Exercise Do Puppies Need?

Are you about to bring home an adorable little puppy? It might surprise you to learn that they actually need less exercise than their fully grown counterparts. Too much activity can overtire a puppy. It can also pose a risk to their joints, which aren't yet fully developed.

A good rule of thumb is to estimate five minutes' worth of exercise for each month of the puppy's age, twice a day. So a six-month-old pup can handle 30 minutes in the morning, and another half-hour in the afternoon or evening.

Another important tip regarding puppies and their activity level is to never exercise a puppy immediately after a meal. That can lead to bloat. So walk first and then have a bite to eat, or wait for at least an hour after mealtime.

How Much Exercise Does a Dog Need Every Day?

Of course, the amount of physical activity a dog requires to stay healthy depends a lot on its size and breed. What's suitable for a Saint Bernard or Great Dane is much different than the required exercise for a chihuahua or Maltese.

In general, larger breeds and working breeds have a higher energy level and require more exercise. And on the other side of the coin, small, toy breeds like Yorkshire terriers and Bichon Frises aren't called "purse dogs" for nothing. They don't require a lot of activity, and in fact, their little legs simply aren't up for the task of long walks or rigorous hikes.

Terriers, hounds, retrievers, and shepherds are among the dog breeds that really require a significant amount of daily exercise. These are working breeds, and it's in their nature to spend a lot of time running and romping. If you have one of these dogs, expect to provide your pooch with a minimum of 60 minutes' sustained activity each day. Often, 90 or even 120 minutes is par for the course with a working dog.

What Kind of Exercise Does a Dog Require?

Unfortunately, many people confuse exercise with going outdoors for sanitary reasons. Letting the dog out so he can pee and poop is not the same as exercise, however. If you put your dog in the backyard for half an hour and call it a day, you are doing your pet a disservice.

To make sure that Fido gets in a good workout, you will have to take him for a walk or run, play a nice long game of fetch, or head to the dog park where he can frolic with his friends to his heart's content.

Some breeds will be able to go for a run with you, but for others, your pace might not be fast enough. If that's the case, consider taking a bike ride or donning your inline skates and let Rover run alongside you.

Another option, although it's not available to every pet parent, is to take your dog swimming. Most dogs love being in the water, and just as with humans, water-based aerobic activity is easy on the joints. If you have a breed that is prone to joint issues, or even if your canine companion is simply getting up in years and isn't as mobile as she once was, a swim might be just what the veterinarian ordered.

A rousing game of tug-of-war, whether with a Bos ton terrier dog toy or a length of rope, is always fun too.  

Keeping Your Dog Safe and Healthy

There are a few additional precautions to take as you ramp up your dog's activity level.

  • If your dog is unaccustomed to asphalt, concrete, or gravel surfaces, be mindful that he doesn't overdo it and hurt his delicate paw pads.
  • Dress your doggo for cold weather if necessary.
  • Limit your dog's outdoor activity in extreme heat. Watch for s igns of heatstroke and take immediate action if you think your pup is in danger of overheating.
  • Breeds with short noses like Boston terriers, French bulldogs, and pugs may be extra cute because of their squished faces, but their anatomy can also compromise their ability to breathe. They also can't cool themselves off by panting as easily as other breeds.

Can't Devote That Much Time to a Walk?

It's important to understand the requirements of dog ownership, and any particular needs of the breed you're considering, before bringing an animal into your life. If you can't devote the necessary time to exercising your dog, you're better off with a lower-maintenance pet like a cat.

However, life happens. Maybe you have a big project at work, or you come down with the flu. When you're in a pinch, there are a couple of options.

You can hire a dog walker - or just the tween girl who lives next door. Or sign your pup up for doggy daycare. Many dogs relish the opportunity it provides to meet new friends and play all day!

Another creative option is to put your dog on the treadmill! It's not ideal, but it will do for a day or two until life gets back to normal. 

Final Thoughts About Dogs and Exercise

Just like humans, dogs need to take steps - literally - so that they won't gain weight, especially as they get older. How much exercise does a dog need every day? That depends largely on their breed, but also on their own personality, so you'll have to figure it out together with your pup.

As a dog owner, it's up to you to facilitate their workouts. Take your dog for walks or to the dog park, make sure his paws are protected against rough surfaces and inclement weather, and most important of all - have fun!

Want some high-energy music to listen to on your walks with Rover? Check out the lineup of featured Christian bands for tunes to get you moving!