How Much Exercise Do Dogs Need Daily?
If you own a dog – or are considering bringing one into your family, you’ve probably wondered how much time and effort is needed to keep them happy and healthy. Some of the biggest time-consuming factors of owning a dog is playing, training and exercise – but how much exercise does your dog actually need? Frighteningly, around 40% of Australian dogs are overweight or obese.
Even if you have a large back yard, there are a few other reasons dogs should go for walks in the outside world to keep them happy and healthy. Not only do they get valuable exercise and build fitness, but being walked also gives them a chance to socialise with dogs, explore endless smells and refine all of their senses. Dogs are extremely optimistic creatures, which is why they might start jumping up and down when the W-A-L-K word is mentioned.
Regular exercise doesn’t just give dogs a chance to experience the outside world and meet with other doggy friends, it also builds the relationship they will share with you. People with strong bonds to their dogs are far more likely to exercise them, which is a great encouragement to get us out and about as well.
There is obviously no ‘one size fits all’ for dog walking, there are many factors you should consider such as breed, age, medical conditions and physical fitness. But on average you should aim for at least 30 minutes to 2 hours of physical stimulation a day – which can include getting out for walks and playing at home – but you may need to break it up depending on your dog.
Puppies, for example, will need several shorter bursts of exercise, rather than one or two long sessions. One minute they might be zooming around the house then the next they will collapse into a snooze. They will let you know when they want to play (they even might become troublesome). But make sure your puppy is getting proper exercise starting from a young age – it’s very important and helps develop their joints and muscles. A good rule of thumb is to try to exercise puppies in time blocks of 5 minutes per month of age, for example, at four months old you’d play for 20 minutes then give them a rest, doing this a few times a day if possible.
Older dogs, on the other hand, might only need 20 minutes at a slow tempo per day, but proper exercise is still very important, even if it’s just a walk now, rather than running and fetch. As your dog ages, you should watch for any struggles or pains that they may be experiencing. You will know your dog best because you can observe them daily, but if there are any serious looking issues check with your vet for information or to see if your dog has developed any conditions.
The exercise needs of a teen to adult dog will also vary, especially depending on their breed, Guide Dogs Australia encourage owners to take their dog for two 30-minute walks per day; one in the morning and one in the evening. This might seem like a high demand, but it can be helpful to try and share the load around your household, or you could even consider hiring a dog walking service.
There is a fun dog exercise calculator over on the Rover website, but remember it’s an estimation tool so don’t lock it in too seriously. You will be the best judge of how much exercise your dog needs, depending on their attitude at home, or if you need more help contact your vet.
Walking your dog will also help reduce the likelihood of them destructively chewing things around your house. It also increases the bond you’ll share with them and give them mental stimulation. Also remember, that like humans, dogs should be allowed to warm up their muscles before strenuous activity, a quick walk to the park is generally enough to get the blood moving.
As well as physical exercise, you should also endeavour to keep your dog mentally stimulated. This can include playing fetch or other types of games, especially puzzle type games or obedience training. These exercises will help your dog develop cognitively, and regular training will also give you the control and confidence to let your dog run free at the park.
Summer heat can sometimes get a bit much in Australia, for you and your dog (who can also be susceptible to heat exhaustion), so it’s generally a good idea to go for walks in the cooler morning or evening hours if possible. As well as checking the mercury and sun factor before venturing outside, ensure you keep your pooch hydrated with a dog water bottle.
You might also be deterred by cold or rainy days, but even if it’s grey and desolate outside you should still try to find time to walk your dog. Depending on the breed you might want to keep them warm, dry and comfortable with a coat or jacket. Of course, there are many breeds whose coat will be thick and warm enough, and they will probably enjoy getting some moisture on their fur (even if they get the dreaded wet dog smell). Weather in the U.K. is considerably worse – having far more cold and rainy days – however dog owners still show more commitment to walking their dogs than Australians.
If you can’t get outside to give your dog some exercise, there are still plenty of games you can play inside. If you have enough room fetch might be possible or you could set up an agility obstacle course out of brooms, hoops and furniture. If space is limited you could play tug-o-war, this can really get dogs excited and can get them to use a lot of energy and build muscles. Most dogs enjoy tug and there are lots of different toys available.