All dogs need to be active daily, whether it be a walk you both go on or allowing them to go for a run or game of fetch around a suitable field as you watch on.
But just how much exercise does your dog need? It mostly depends on breed and size, but when factoring in that activity is essential for their weight management, overall health and their mental health too, it may work out as more than you’d imagine.
So grab their lead and harness/collar/headcollar, pop your trainers on and start getting active!
Benefits of dog exercise
It can be hard to find time in a busy schedule to take your dog for a walk, but it is vital to their wellbeing. In 2019, PDSA’s Paw Report found that 1.3 million dogs in the UK do not get daily exercise, which is a whopping 13%.
This is not good news, as a good dog walk can not only help keep your pet able to manage their weight and tackle obesity but can also help to keep their brain active and is great stress relief. This may be vital as seeing they probably spend most of the day in your home otherwise.
Not getting enough exercise can lead to behaviour issues. A dog who is not mentally stimulated can lead to an animal who is bored and decides to start chewing, barking excessively, or over-grooming.
Exercise can also help your dog to maintain joints, as the movement can ensure the risk of arthritis and injuries are lessened in later life.
How much exercise does my dog need every day?
The breed, age, overall health and personality of your dog all need to be factored in.
You can speak to your vet about your pet’s specific needs and search online for breed-specific tips, but as a rough guide:
30 Minutes Plus Play Time
- Bichon Frise
- Yorkshire Terriers
1 Hour Plus Play Time
- English Bulldog
- Border Terrier
- Bull Terrier
- Saint Bernard
- Staffordshire Bull Terrier
2 Hours Plus Play Time
- Siberian Husky
- German Shepherd
- Golden Retriever
Adjusting the time to suit your dog
As you can tell, the idea that a Pug may need the same amount of exercise as a Whippet may seem odd, but it also depends on body build, how prone they are to weight issues, how active their breed is naturally and how ‘clever’ their breed is.
If your pooch is older or a puppy, their daily amount will need to be lessened or altered. Older dogs won’t be able to go as far, and it could be detrimental if they’re pushed too far. Young puppies prefer “zoomies”, as in short bursts of intensity.
It also needs adjusting if they have issues with breathing or pain. Talk to your vet if they have medical issues, who can recommend how long to take them for, and which activities you shouldn’t do.
Bringing your four-legged home from a walk and they are still running around and ready to play? You’re probably not giving them enough time to stay active.
What counts as dog exercise?
Anything which gets them moving, their heart rate going and makes them tired can count as exercise.
The most common dog exercise is a good old-fashioned leash-walk. This can be on the roads around your home, or through woods or fields. It is important to allow them to sniff, as this can help with their mental stimulation, so taking them somewhere which they can do this is best.
If they are good at walking off the lead this also counts of course, but you will have to ensure they are safe and not bothering other animals or humans.
You can also allow them to run freely around in a safe, controlled environment if they are trained off the lead, or purchase a long lead if not. This could be great for any dogs who need hours of intense exercise and you’d rather not have to join in.
Incorporate a game of fetch if they need stimulation, and if there are other safe dogs around who they can play with, this could help them too. There are dog fields you can rent for an hour or so throughout the UK with safe fencing and plenty of space, including group sessions.
Indoor exercise can top this up and can include actively playing such as chasing a ball around or trying to get a rope toy from you. This boosts mental activity.
Alternative dog exercises
Your dog may hate going on walks and leaving the house so you need something inside only. They may be older so can’t go as far (if out at all), or younger so need to develop before their first hike. You may need to keep them purely inside due to ill health, post-operation or the inclement weather.
All of these factors are just some of the reasons why you may not be able to give your dog the conventional exercise of walking or running outside. But they still need a certain amount per day. In which case, you need to rethink.
Dogs need the mental benefits of walking as well as the physical, which is one of the easiest swaps to make. There are many games and tasks which can be completed with your dog, such as hunting for food or dedicated puzzles, in the comfort of your own home.
Look into scent work, which also gives a physical element. Hide small boxes of treats around the house, and you can gradually replace these with essential oils or certain perfumes like the one you wear.
Then there is the fact that your dog can never know too much. There’s a wealth of tricks out there to learn, from shaking their paw to rolling over – if you both have the patience.
Physical exercise at home
The physical change can be harder, especially if they don’t have the space to move about in your home or you are stuck for public space.
At home, a game of physical hide and seek can mean you are in control of where they go, and it will get both your heart rates pumping. It will likely keep their attention too – they will really want to find you if they don’t know where you are.
Try incorporating the stairs into your exercise. You go to the top, tell them to stay at the bottom and wait, and then call them once they’ve been patient for long enough. It works as mental training, but they will also probably quickly come up the stairs to meet you.
If you have a garden, try a flirt pole with their toy attached to the end, which acts as a bit of a huge fishing pole toy more likely found with cats but still does the same job. Try holding it at different heights, and moving at alternate speeds.
Physical Exercise Outdoors
Should you live in an appropriate area and your pet will happily leave the house, they can also go swimming in dog-safe water or play with other dogs. A day boarding kennel or controlled dog-friendly park may be ideal for the latter if you’re concerned about the safety and how they are with other dogs. Agility training and classes are also a big hit amongst pet owners whose pooches are really active.
If they are happy to go outside but it is the distance which is an issue, you can keep their walk short, somewhere where there are plenty of places for them to mostly sniff, and is undisturbed from distractions. Varied walking is a good idea, where you sprint walk for 30 seconds then go slowly for a minute and repeat for as long as they can.
You can work on some concentration training such as simple sitting, giving the paw or recall if they’re off the lead, and take them as much as possible – it doesn’t have to all be in one big block.
What if I don’t have time to take my dog for a walk?
You should purposely set aside time every day, otherwise, a dog may not be the pet for you. As mentioned above, the whole exercise period doesn’t need to be outside and strenuous but you will have to make up for this with indoor activities.
If you really don’t have time, a daily professional dog walker or day boarding could help. It is also important to mention that if you are only looking into getting a dog, certain breeds need much less exercise in general than others. If you only have an hour spare every day, a Chihuahua makes more sense than a hyper Staffy.