As a dog person, you understand the importance of exercise. You know how important daily dog walks are for you and your pooch. You may even ascribe to the adage, “a tired dog is a good dog.” But different dogs need different levels of activity, just as one may do well with an old-school leather collar while another needs a sturdy no-pull harness. Do you ever find yourself wondering, “How much exercise does my dog really need?”
The main benefits of exercise for dogs are:
- Improved physical health
- Improved mental health
- Reduced unwanted behaviors done out of boredom or anxiety
How much exercise a dog needs depends on several factors, including age, breed, physical health/injury, and environment.
We’ve rounded up the general guidelines for dog exercise, but remember to consider your individual dog’s personality and abilities. And before you embark on an exercise program with your dog, consult with a veterinarian!
How much exercise do puppies need?
Puppies have a lot of energy, but they wear out quickly, and don’t need as much exercise as an adult dog. They’re growing nonstop, and take frequent naps, so plan on shorter bursts of energy from your puppy.
In general, puppies need several short (5-10 minutes) exercise sessions throughout the day. For a puppy, “exercise” is as simple as playing! The more time you spend with your puppy, the more you’ll be able to read their body language and behavior to know when they’re ready to play and when they need a break.
Long walks are hard on your puppy’s developing joints and bones, so if you’re ready to establish a dog walking routine, start small.
A good guideline is to walk five minutes for every month of your puppy’s life, up to twice a day. So a 12-week-old puppy can safely go on a 15-minute walk morning and night.
Exercise for adult dogs
It won’t surprise you to hear that breed plays a role in how much exercise your adult dog needs. While age and health are the two biggest factors to consider when exercising your dog, breed is an indication of their general activity level.
Some of the more active dog breed types that require more exercise include:
- Scent hounds
In general, an adult herding or sporting breed dog needs 60-90 minutes of exercise each day. This should include harder exercise like running, playtime with other dogs, or a hike. Extra-active dogs may thrive in dog sports like agility or flyball! Balance work is also increasingly popular with pet parents.
Some less-active dog breed types that require less exercise include:
- Toy breeds (Maltese, Yorkies, Chihuahuas)
- Giant breeds (Great Danes, Mastiffs, Newfoundlands)
- Brachycephalic, or smush-nosed, breeds (pugs, French bulldogs, shih tzus)
An adult toy or low-energy breed requires anywhere from 30-60 minutes of exercise a day. For some dogs, that means a slow walk around the neighborhood. For others, it’s a few games of fetch in the backyard. Of course, all dogs’ activity needs depend on their age and ability.
Exercise for senior dogs
As dogs age, their gait may stiffen with arthritis, and they may tire more quickly on walks. Your senior pup might not move as fast or far as she used to, but exercise is still a vital part of her everyday routine! Joint supplements can help with stiffness; talk to your vet about this option.
In general, senior dogs need about 30-60 minutes of exercise a day, broken into two or more “activity sessions.”
For some dogs, that may mean standard walks. For dogs with joint issues, swimming can be a wonderful alternative.
Mental activity matters, too
Exercise isn’t only about physical energy. Mental stimulation plays a huge role in a dog’s health. Like physical exercise, mental activity staves off boredom, improves mood, and keeps your dog healthy.
All dogs can benefit from mental stimulation, but it’s especially important for dogs who are injured or have limited mobility as they age. They may not need as much physical exercise anymore, but they still need a good brain workout! Mental activity may include:
- Puzzle toys (link goes to the well-regarded Swedish puzzle toys’ line, Nina Ottosson. Click here for a video review of some popular puzzle toys.)
- Obedience training
- Games like hide-and-seek, nosework, or treat hunt
- Quality time and eye contact with you
Your dog’s health is a family affair, so get everyone involved in the canine exercise routine. Family walks and play sessions help you bond to your dog and each other. Plus, they’re good for you, too; research proves it!
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