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How Much Exercise Does My Dog Need?

Susana Bradford
January 12, 2024
March 15, 2023
7 minute read
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March 15, 2023
August 29, 2023
7 minute read
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The amount of exercise a dog needs varies based on factors like age, size, breed, and agility. Learn how to determine the right amount for your dog's specific needs.

Although all dogs need some exercise, not all require the same amount. It's also important to remember that dog exercise comes in various forms not regularly practiced by people.

This differentiation is because dogs have different bodies and physiologies from us. And even amongst themselves, numerous variations determine the amount and kind of exercise each will need. There is no one-size-fits-all formula. While some dogs love hiking and being outdoors, others may enjoy playing a light game of fetch indoors.

How to Determine the Amount of Exercise Your Dog Needs

Certain breeds are built and able to handle rigorous exercise, such as running, hiking, biking, and even racing. Others, however, have not genetically adapted to suit those lifestyles and prefer to lounge around while playing fetch indoors for a few minutes before preferring to play by themselves with a squeaky toy. 

Your Dog's Breed

The most important factor in determining how much exercise your dog needs is its breed. For example, Jack Russell Terriers and Shelties often begin to misbehave when given too few exercise opportunities. On the other hand, a mastiff and many other large dogs may be happy with a couple of daily walks in the park or a 15-minute game of catch.

Many working dogs benefit from having another dog companion. They also will benefit from visits to dog parks. A 30-minute to one-hour visit to a dog park each day frequently gives the dog as much exercise as he needs because playing with other dogs requires exertion. Also, expect to walk or jog with bigger dogs daily.

Since many dogs are mixed breeds, it may be hard to know what type of exercise requirements they have. Once you get a mixed-breed dog, observe its behavior. If the dog enjoys basking in the sun most of the day, it probably does not need as much exercise. 

Conversely, if the dog appears restless and wanders around the house or yard relentlessly, its needs may be better met by more activity. Also, older dogs tend to have fewer daily exercise needs than younger dogs.

Your Dog's Size

Little dogs quite frequently require more exercise than larger dogs. Many of these needs can be satisfied in an apartment or backyard. If the small dog has adequate toys, or a dog or cat companion, it can generally meet all its activity needs. However, don't miss walking the dog daily, too; a walk proves healthy exercise for the dog and its owner.

Mid-size breeds also vary in their need for exercise. Expect dogs that are natural hunters or herders to require more activity. Beagles, hounds, border collies, Alaskan sled dogs, and Australian shepherds will be restless if cooped up. They need time to run around, catch things, chase things, and walk or jog.

Your Dog's Age

Dogs have different energy needs throughout their lifespans.

Your dog will likely be restless as a puppy, running madly all over the house and playing aggressively with other pets. Puppies have more energy than adult dogs and hence require more short bursts of exercise. 

But because puppies are actively growing, taking multiple short walks or playing sessions throughout the day is a better option than taking one long walk. This long-duration exercise can be too taxing on your puppy's maturing body. However, each puppy is unique, and the more time you spend with your pup, the more you will discover how much activity they require.

A senior dog will also have unique exercise needs. The older your dog gets, the less energy it will have. Your senior dog may be unable to run as long as she once could, and you may eventually have to limit your run to a walk. But adequate exercise is just as vital for your senior dog as it is for your puppy. So, make sure you challenge them as much as possible, but do not strain them.

Remember that mental exercise, like humans, is essential for aging dogs. These exercises help them stay alive longer by preserving their cognition.

Your Dog's Fitness and Health Condition

If your dog is sick or injured, it will require less exercise. Resting will be more critical for their recovery. Rest them as often as your veterinarian recommends, and find other ways to keep them amused, so they don't become bored and frustrated.

You must also remember not to go from zero to a hundred with your dog if they have never exercised. If you want your dog to start exercising more or join you while running or skating, you'll need to increase their fitness to avoid injury or illness gradually.

What Your Dog Enjoys Doing

Every dog, like us, has their personality and preferences! It's necessary that your dog likes the exercise you make them do. Therefore, they will be less resistant to exercise time, and they will not feel stressed out while exercising.

If you notice your dog acting strange when it's time to exercise, it could be unhappy about the exercise. Try something new, like switching up playing fetch with swimming. Consult your vet if your dog looks uncomfortable doing all kinds of activity.

Dog Exercise Safety Tips

Just like humans, exercise can be dangerous for your dog. Here is how to keep your precious pup safe as they exercise: 

  • Always check your dog's physical condition. Ensure your dog is fit enough for the exercise you want them to do. If they were recently injured, make sure you get a go-ahead from the vet first
  • Be careful about what your dog is playing with. Do not let your dog play with items such as sticks because they can splinter and injure your dog's mouth or even eyes. Make sure that you are not playing catch with a ball that is small enough to fit down their mouth and throat
  • Exercise with your dog in safe places. Be careful around roads with heavy traffic or places with winding alleys that they can get lost in. Avoid water sources such as ponds and rivers as well. You can get them a visibility jacket if you're exercising in the evening.
  • As with people, be wary of providing too much exercise in hot temperatures. During hot months, allow your dog to take breaks and bring along water. Also, schedule activities during the coolest parts of the day, like right before sunrise or right after sunset.

Physical Exercise vs. Mental Exercise

While physical exercise is excellent for dogs, mental exercise can equally be challenging and beneficial for your dog. 

Dogs, like people, can get bored. Certain dogs get bored enough to engage in undesirable behaviors like destroying potted plants or eating your shoes and furniture. New toys that require some work to earn rewards are fantastic for dogs needing mental challenges. Also, daily interaction with your dog will help satisfy some mental needs.

Toys that allow you to hide treats in them can be beneficial, and can also work as a mental workout for your dog. There are also toys in which smaller toys can hide, which help your dog learn and enhance scavenging behaviors.

Be sure to talk to your breeder about exercise models best suit your precious pooch. You should also take at least a few exercise sessions as an opportunity for your dog to meet other dogs. Many breeds will be happier with a few furry friends.

Final Thoughts

Dogs love to exercise, no matter their breed. The tiniest Wiener Dogs to the biggest of St. Bernards will love getting outside and finding new places to explore, making new friends at dog parks, and running off excess energy. Just like humans don't like being cooped up inside all day, neither do dogs. Playing fetch in your backyard or going for a walk outside can help curb any destructive behaviors from excess energy while getting you and your pup both active and healthier.

Visit Pettable's blog to learn more about how to best care for your sweet pup.

Meet the author:
Susana Bradford

Susana is an avid animal lover and has been around animals her entire life, and has volunteered at several different animal shelters in Southern California. She has a loving family at home that consists of her husband, son, two dogs, and one cat. She enjoys trying new Italian recipes, playing piano, making pottery, and outdoor hiking with her family and dogs in her spare time.

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