It’s common knowledge that humans need regular exercise to feel good and function at optimal levels. Exercise simply makes us live better lives. Is the same true for our dogs?
Many dog owners fall into the trap of assuming that dogs will regulate their own activity levels. It’s also easy to assume that the necessary walks outside that dogs take periodically throughout the day provide enough exercise.
How much exercise does a dog need every day? The answer technically depends on the dog. Take a look at what the experts have to say on the matter.
The Benefits of Exercise for Dogs
Some of the assumptions that owners make in good faith regarding canine exercise needs are actually wildly incorrect. The fact that a dog isn’t overweight or suffering from health problems doesn’t necessarily mean that exercise needs are being met. Let’s look at what dogs gain when they move!
Why is sitting around so bad for your dog? It turns out that physical activity stimulates the natural gene system responsible for maintaining insulin levels in canines. Proper insulin activity means that a dog’s cells are receiving the energy they need!
Strength and Stamina
The improved insulin resistance that comes from exercise can enhance health and biological age because cells are being fed properly. Proper cell activity and repetitive movement help to build muscle strength and stamina.
Sedentary living is problematic for healthy dogs. Canines actually have a lymphatic system that’s meant to eliminate toxins when muscles are worked. That means that a workout with your dog is literally draining the toxins out of his body!
Dogs are somewhat shielded by the effects of aging through regular exercise. That’s because toxin release and improved circulation are beneficial for preventing diseases. Common diseases or ailments found in inactive dogs include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, joint pain, high blood pressure, arthritis and cancer.
Does your dog carry out destructive behaviors like ripping apart shoes or knocking over objects in the house? Your dog may be bored or frustrated by pent-up energy. A restless, pacing dog often has a positive “personality change” overnight after getting the appropriate amount of exercise.
A happy, properly exercised dog leads to a happier owner. You may find that some of the behavioral issues plaguing your dog vanish once a regular exercise routine is implemented. In addition, a healthier lifestyle means fewer visits to the vet over time.
How Much Exercise Does My Dog Need Every Day?
It’s itinerary time! You’ll need to know exactly how much exercise your specific dog needs before you can commit to a daily number.
Exercise Needs for Puppies
Puppies don’t necessarily need rigorous exercise. However, regular exercise is important for building a puppy’s stamina.
The advice given by the U.K. Kennel Club is that a puppy needs five minutes of exercise for each month of age. Sessions can be done up to twice daily. That looks like 15 minutes of exercise for a puppy at three months.
Don’t forget to give your puppy rest if he sits down. In fact, you may need to carry your pooch back inside if he’s looking tired after a few minutes.
Exercise Needs for Adult Dogs
Exercise needs vary among adult dogs. The general rule is that an adult dog needs at least 30 minutes of exercise daily to stay healthy. Some might require up to 120 minutes!
Breed is the main determining factor behind exercise needs. Some dogs aren’t built for prolonged periods of intense activity. Some dogs thrive on “marathon” workout sessions!
Popular breeds like Labrador retrievers, Dalmatians and border collies famously need lots of activity. You’ll find that this is true among most large breeds.
It’s also important to take into consideration the build of your dog. Pugs and other dogs with short noses can actually be harmed by strenuous exercise because breathing difficulties could be triggered.
Dogs with narrow bodies and deep chests can actually experience pain if they exercise shortly after a meal. This includes Great Danes and German shepherds.
Most dogs will fall somewhere between that window of 30 minutes and 120 minutes. Your dog’s health state and breed will ultimately determine what’s advisable. Asking your vet what is suggested for your specific dog is highly recommended.
Exercise Needs for Senior Dogs
The amount of exercise a senior dog needs depends on things like the physical state of the dog and any underlying health issues. An older dog may only be able to do a few minutes of walking per day. However, you can still fill another 30 minutes with some stimulating activities that don’t require a dog to be moving on its feet.
You should ask your vet about exercise duration if you have a senior dog.
How You Can Exercise Your Dog
Walking your dog is the obvious go-to exercise. However, a canine workout can be an experience that works the body and mind!
Indoor Dog Exercises
You can still exercise even if you’re stuck in the house due to weather or a busy schedule!
Try simply running up and down the stairs with your dog. You can also work on agility using household supplies that your dog has to catch or move. Yes, you can even play fetch inside with a smaller dog if you have the open space.
One-on-one activities like a hide-and-seek game or tug-of-war match can be very fun. Just make sure your dog isn’t hurting his teeth or straining muscles during a tug-of-war game. Additionally, hiding treats around the house can be a fun way to get your dog moving.
Outdoor Dog Exercises
Walking is often a dog owner’s favorite exercise activity. This is great because you’re both burning calories and getting healthy! Don’t forget that cycling, skating and rollerblading can also be safely done with some practice.
Owners of larger dogs can easily train their dogs to keep pace with them on runs. Dogs also love hiking because there is so much to do, see and smell!
Swimming is a fun activity if you have a dog breed that loves the water. A game of fetching a stick in the water is a perfect way to let your dog cool off on a hot day. Of course, classic fetch on land is also perfect if you’re in an open space where your dog can run.
Do you have a breed that has a drafting history? Ask your vet about the possibility of introducing pulling or sledding into your dog’s workout routine. You might just see your dog come alive with new skills you didn’t even know were there!
The list of dogs that are good at drafting includes Newfoundlands, Bernese mountain dogs, Swiss mountain dogs and Saint Bernards.
Official dog sports can also be very fun. Flyball is a dog-specific sport where dogs actually race over a line of hurdles to reach boxes containing tennis balls. The dogs catch the balls in their mouths before running back to their owners.
Simply tossing a tennis ball up in the air for your dog could be enough to recreate this sport without any fancy equipment.
Activities That Awaken the Senses
Dogs also find activities like scent tracking and K9 nose work very satisfying because they utilize their natural abilities. Both allow your dog to be a “dog detective” on the hunt.
Obedience training combines physical and mental stimulation to create a perfect balance for a dog that needs to focus and burn off some energy.
Giving Your Dog the Right Amount of Exercise Is an Act of Love
Dogs thrive on exercise. Of course, each dog has its own definition of what an appropriate and beneficial routine will look like. The bottom line is that you’re at least putting in 30 minutes per day using some combination of physical and mental stimulation.
Don’t forget that the biggest benefit of all is the strengthening of the bond between you and your dog with every jump, leap or mile covered.