Everyone knows that owning a dog means going for walks, but how much should you take your dog out and can they adapt to different levels of exercise?

Why is walking good for dogs?

First, there is the obvious answer to this, walking is exercise for your dog. This keeps them physically fit, by burning off calories and keeping their muscles well-toned. Having time off the lead is important if you can manage it safely so that your dog has a chance to run around and explore. Otherwise, they are restrained to walking at your pace. Off lead walking allows for ball games which will help to expend even more energy than walking alone. Just make sure you use a ball or dog toy rather than a stick which has the potential to seriously injure.

Walking is also a great way of getting mental stimulation. This is important to ensure your dog doesn’t become bored and start to suffer from stress or anxiety issues. Mentally frustrated dogs may show negative behaviours such as excessive vocalisation (barking and howling), destruction of property, inappropriate toileting and pacing or restlessness.

How often should I take my dog out?

Most dogs will need to go out twice a day to keep happy, but the length of the walk will depend on the breed of the dog and their physical fitness level or health status.

For example, active working dog breeds will usually need to go out for at least 2 hours total per day. These dogs were built for stamina and need exercise to help them feel fulfilled, otherwise they could become difficult to train and manage. They would be the perfect companions if you want a dog to take out on hikes or runs. These breeds include –

  • Weimaraners
  • Hungarian Vizslas
  • Border Collies
  • Springer Spaniels
  • Dobermann Pinschers

Some other breeds would simply struggle to keep up with that level of activity. Whilst all dogs need to go out daily, the following breeds may be happier with just 30-60 minutes per day, depending on their energy levels –

  • English bulldogs
  • Pugs
  • Pekingese
  • Basset Hounds

What about puppies?

Puppies will struggle to do as much as their adult counterparts and it’s not healthy to exercise them too strenuously. The Kennel Club recommend 5 minutes of exercise per month of age (up to twice daily) as a rough guide. So a 3-month-old puppy could have 15 minutes twice a day, a 4-month-old 20 minutes twice a day and so on as it grows. That said, the evidence base this is built on isn’t entirely representative of normal healthy pet dogs, so some variation will be needed for your individual puppy.

Are there ways of exercising my dog other than walking?

As well as taking your dog for walks that are plenty of other great ways to give them some physical activity and mental stimulation. These include –

Agility 

This is the perfect activity for dogs of all shapes and sizes. Agility involves a mixture of training and physical exercise, with you and your dog having to negotiate various obstacles including tunnels, ramps and weaves.

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Flyball

This is traditionally an activity that attracted collie breeds due to their quick and agile movements. Flyball is high energy and involves your dog catching tennis balls in a race against other teams.  

Obedience classes

These classes are more focused on behaviour and training exercises rather than physical activity. But some dogs will find the concentration involved just as tiring. Getting a good handle on your dog’s recall will also help when exercising them off the lead in public spaces.

Hydrotherapy

Usually recommended for rehabilitation after an injury or surgery, hydrotherapy is an excellent form of low impact exercise. It is gentler on the joints than exercising on dry land and the water provides some resistance to build muscle mass. This can be a great way of exercising older pets, particularly those suffering from arthritis.

Puzzle toys and feeders

Certain toys and games can help encourage your dog to move more and will increase mental stimulation. Feeding him some of his daily kibble rations in a treat-dispensing ball will make him move around more without adding extra calories.

Do they get used to the amount of exercise they receive?

To a certain extent they do. If you only ever walk your dog for 20-30 minutes a day then this is all they will come to expect, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that this is the right thing to do. Over time your dog may start to gain weight or show behavioural issues due to the lack of stimulation.

If you are struggling to get out with your pet, then you should ask for help. See if you have any friends or neighbours that would be able to take your pet out for you or consider employing a proper dog walker.

If your situation has changed and you are no longer able to care for your dog and give them the exercise they need, then you may need to consider rehoming them. This may be the best long-term solution especially if your pet is struggling with his lack of exercise.

Similarly, if your dog has become somewhat of a couch potato, don’t expect him to suddenly go on a 5-mile run with you. You will need to gradually build his fitness up first.

Conclusion

Exercise is very important for dogs, but for us as well. Walking your dog will keep them physically and mentally fit. Make sure you can meet your dog’s activity needs and seek help if you are struggling to get your dog out often enough. Above all, don’t see walking your dog as a chore, it’s an excellent way of exploring, meeting people and keeping fit ourselves!

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