If you landed on this page, you probably fit into one of three categories. You’re a new dog parent and are confused about how much exercise your dog needs every day. Or, you’re here to compare notes and see if you’re on the right track. Finally, the last group is fully aware that you’re not giving your dog enough exercise. You’re at your wit’s end, especially after finding a pair of your favorite shoes left chewed up in the corner of a room.
Fortunately for you, I have something of value to offer everyone. There is no cut and dry answer to this question. But the bright side is that it’s not that complicated either. Here at The Dog Care Guide, we want to offer you sustainable tips for providing care for your beloved pups.
So even if you are the dog parent of a high energy working dog, don’t worry, I won’t suggest that you run five miles a day to meet your dog’s exercise needs. Because that’s not sustainable unless you’re an athlete, and it’s apart of your daily routine. And running long distances may not be healthy for your dog. Also some dogs have boundless energy so they often require more than just physical exercise.
So skip the exercise calculator and breed exercise charts. A computer can’t determine how much exercise your dog needs. But you and your vet can. So continue reading as we explore how you can determine how much exercise your dog needs and a simple way to implement a workout into your dog’s daily routine.
Start By Consulting Your Vet:
While assessments can be made based on trends across a particular breed, at the end of the day, your dog is an individual. One brushstroke of advice for an entire breed of dogs may not be appropriate, especially if your dog has unique health needs. It’s best to begin by consulting your vet. Even if you have an exercise routine in place, it’s always best to check-in with your vet during your next routine visit to see how your exercise plan is working.
Take It a Step Further With an Embark Breed + Health Test:
It would also benefit you to take an Embark Breed + Health Test. I know I am a major advocate of Embark tests, but it’s because they genuinely help save dog’s lives. Embark tests for things that your vet may not test for during an annual wellness exam. So it’s a perfect supplement to your dog’s overall health care.
So while yes, the Embark Breed + Health kit is approximately $200, it tests for over 180 health conditions. And genetic testing is sometimes the only way to discover specific health-related issues.
Also, a single vet visit can run you an average of $200. That’s just for your dog to see the doctor and before any tests or medications are prescribed. Meanwhile, the Embark test is a one and done fee. Your dog only has one set of genetics to test. So all you need is one test, and you can email the report directly to your vet from your profile on Embark’s database.
From there, your vet can more accurately provide recommendations for your dog’s care. From that perspective, a one time fee of $200, for the lifetime of your dog, is totally worth the investment.
Embark’s Exercise Related Tests:
Embark also tests for some critical health conditions. One of those conditions is exercise-induced collapse
What is Exercise-Induced Collapse?
Exercise induced collapse is a condition that is exactly how it sounds, and it can be fatal. So if a dog carries the genes that predispose them to this condition, they could collapse or worse from intense exercise like running or from too much exercise in general.
In What Breeds is this Condition Common?
Our dog Mina is one of the breeds where this condition is common-The Labrador Retriever. It’s one of the reasons why we upgraded from Embark’s Breed test to add the Health Test. It cost us extra money to purchase the kits separately, so it’s best to buy the full package.
But again, we felt it was worth the investment since our dog is part Lab. I was also a little concerned because we give her a ton of exercise, which we attributed to the Lab breed.
How Common is This in Other Breeds?
It was surprising to learn that Labs are predisposed to exercise-induced collapse. So, I felt it was important to share with you, my fellow dog parents because again, this is not something you’d discover during a routine vet exam.
Here is a screenshot from my Embark report of other related breeds that they discovered have genes that predispose them to this condition. So again, taking the tests with Embark allows them to continually collect data from the DNA samples that customers like you and I mail in. It helps them to identify trends like these other breeds that tested positive for the condition.
If your dog is for certain one of these breeds, it’s beneficial to take the test. Because dogs with this condition are otherwise normal and healthy. The only treatment advised is to minimize or eliminate intense exercise to prevent complications from occurring. So if you have concerns, the Embark Breed + Health Kit is worth it. You can also learn more about the benefits of testing with Embark by visiting us here.
General Exercise Guidelines:
As previously mentioned, there is no cut and dry answer to this question. It does depend on your dog’s health, size, breed, etc. Most articles recommend at least 30-minutes total per day. I think that’s an excellent benchmark for an absolute minimum, but I don’t think that’s enough for an entire day.
And this is not coming from the perspective of a dog mom with a dog that loves her walks. This is coming from my perspective as a Pet Care Specialist. If you’ve read the about page, you’ll learn that I have a pet care company based in New York City. It’s called The Golden Leash.
Our primary service is to provide exercise for our client’s dogs via dog walks. The average walking service requested, regardless of the breed or size of the dog, is 30-minutes. But our service is not it for the day for my pups. We live in the city-no backyards, so city dogs usually get 3-4 walks a day on average.
Each walk may not be 30-minutes long. Some walks are shorter, while some are 45-minutes or 60-minutes long. Except for tiny breeds, each dog gets between one to two hours of moderate exercise per day, on average, through walking.
That’s a general guideline that I recommend. But again, it’s always best to consult your vet before you establish a more rigorous exercise routine for your dog.
Create an Exercise Schedule for Your Dog:
The one to two hours of exercise is best if distributed throughout the day via a schedule. Here is an example of a typical schedule for a dog whose parents live in the city with a 9-5 pm workday.
Four Walks Per Day = A walk approximately every 6 hours between:
- 7:00am-8:00am: 15-20 minutes
- 12:00pm-2:00pm: 30 minutes- focus: exercise
- 6:00pm-8:00pm: 30 minutes- focus: exercise
- 10:00pm-11:00pm: 15-20 minutes
Three Walks Per Day = A walk approximately every 8 hours max between
- 7:00-8:00am : 30 minutes- focus: exercise
- 3:00pm-4:00pm: 30 minutes- focus: exercise
- 10:00pm-11:00pm: 15-20 minutes
- 7:00-8:00am : 15-20 minutes
- 3:00pm-4:00pm: 60-minutes- focus: exercise
- 9:00pm-11:00pm: 15-20 minutes
Once a routine schedule is established, you can just highlight which walks focus on exercise. In contrast, the other walks concentrate on providing a bathroom break while offering minimal exercise. And the schedule is beneficial because dogs thrive on routine. They like it when things are predictable. It gives them a sense of stability.
The scheduled breaks provide more structure to you and your dog’s day and will give your dog something to look forward to throughout the day. And even if you have a backyard where your dog can walk himself, it doesn’t offer an opportunity for quality exercise as compared to an exercise-focused walk. In that case, it’s best to grab the leash and head out at least once or twice a day with your dog for some exercise. It’s an excellent way to bond with your dog while burning a few calories yourself!
Adjust Your Walking Pace Based on Your Dog’s Pace:
Energy Level & Pace:
I like to focus on the energy level and natural walking pace of the dog. Because in my experience as a Pet Care Specialist, that’s what matters.
I’ve walked an 11-year old Pit-Bull with her neighbor’s six-year old Chihuahua. Not just because they got along so well, but also because they walked at the same pace.
The Chihuahua’s quick tiny steps matched the Pit-Bull’s slow but more extended steps. One didn’t slow down the other, or force the other to speed up.
The only adjustment that needed to occur was on my end. I have a naturally fast-paced walk, especially when working. So I have to walk at a much slower pace when walking my senior or tiny breed dogs. However, I keep the time frame the same. Walking at a moderate pace for 30-minutes with a few breaks is good exercise for an otherwise healthy adult or senior dog.
High Energy Dogs:
But if you have a high-energy dog, they may have a faster walking pace, and therefore require a faster-paced walk to expend their energy. Therefore, instead of getting frustrated that your dog is pulling, you have to observe and learn your dog’s natural pace.
It’s excellent behavior when your dog learns how to “heel,” but for dogs that fall under this category, you’ll have to make the necessary adjustments on your end and walk faster, particularly for the walks that focus on exercise. Otherwise, your dog won’t get a good work out. And as many of you know, that can result in destructive behaviors.
Additionally, you’ll find that when you walk at a faster pace, you can cover a much farther distance in 30-minutes with your dog, than someone who is walking very slow for 60-minutes with their dog.
It’s about how you utilize the time. Some of my clients thought their high energy pups needed an hour walk until they were surprised when I would send them pics from the destinations of our walks. They would ask, how did we get so far and back in only 30-minutes, when they could barely get around the corner in that time.
Purpose is Key:
So when your walk is focused on exercise:
- Adjust your pace based on your dog’s energy and natural walking pace
- Focus on a destination that takes about half of the time of your planned walk. For example, walk 10-15-minutes away from your home if you want to complete a 30-minute walk.
- Take lead of the walk by dictating the designated stops for sniffing and bathroom breaks
Too Much Exercise:
These guidelines also prevent you from giving your dog too much exercise. There is such a thing. That’s why I recommend distributing the exercise throughout the day and at a moderate pace. Moderation, in general, is key.
And again, if you’re here just to compare notes, this article here will provide some insight into determining if you’re giving your dog too much exercise. But everyone should read it because you want to avoid the negative impact that can result.
I can’t count how many times I see certain dogs running that shouldn’t, because they have a hard time breathing. Or, I’ve had clients who try to put too much rigorous exercise on their dogs in a single day when their dog is not conditioned for intense workouts.
Also as a former Big East Track & Field athlete at Rutgers University, I can tell you that you need continuous conditioning for intense workouts, coupled with a few days to rest. Waking up one day to suddenly decide to run 10-miles is not a good idea for you or your dog. So again, always consult your vet if you want an exercise routine for your dog that is more rigorous than walking.
What About Puppies?
Too much exercise is a perfect segue into the topic of exercise for puppies. Because new dog parents are sometimes not used to how much energy a puppy has. Therefore they tend to make the mistake of providing too much exercise for their puppies.
While the old adage that a tired dog is a good dog sounds good, it’s not good when the exercise is too long and intense. And this is especially true for puppies because they are still growing.
Too much exercise can negatively impact their growing bones and joints.
So don’t send your puppy to doggy daycare for hours on end or take them on really long walks without the adequate amounts of breaks because it’s too much for their growing bodies.
Just because they can or want to play for hours on end doesn’t mean they should. Short bursts of exercise are fantastic, with lots of naps throughout the day.
Again, this is where a schedule is beneficial. You can just schedule a few 15-20 spots for playtime everyday for your puppy.
Playtime = Exercise for Puppies:
A focused 15-20 minute session of playing fetch in a hallway of your home or tug with a stuffed animal is perfect. They’ll be ready for a nap in no-time, especially if it’s scheduled before or after a meal.
Because very young puppies are not going to “walk” on a leash properly. You’re lucky if you can get pass your block between their constant flopping down, or the continuous stops for people that want to say hello to your adorable pup.
Indoor workouts are lovely during this time while you reserve the outdoor time primarily for potty training until they become adept at waking on a leash. I’ve written an article here for walking tips for puppies. It’s only applicable once they become of age for outdoor walking. That’s when you can adapt them to an exercise schedule following the previously mentioned guidelines.
Additional Exercise Tips:
Mental exercise is often an overlooked aspect of providing exercise for dogs.
But for some breeds-it’s critical. For instance, Australian Shepherds have so much energy that physical exercise alone cannot extinguish their needs. At the same time, other breeds like French Sheepdogs like Briards can get depressed if they are not also mentally stimulated regularly.
So teaching and practicing commands with your dog is a great way to stimulate them mentally. Or buying them mental stimulation toys like puzzles, or brain-buster toys is also another way to keep them busy. Here is an article from The American Kennel Club that offers some great ideas for ways to mentally stimulate your dog.
These are great options for when the weather is terrible because you don’t want to walk your dog in extreme temperatures (hot or cold.) Therefore, you’ll need a back-up plan, and mental stimulation games and toys are an excellent alternative.
In closing, to keep your dog healthy is to keep your dog happy. And giving your dog adequate daily exercise does just that. If you have a great workout routine with your dog, please share it with us in the comments below! We’d love to know:
How do you keep your dog physically healthy?
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