Dog Exercise Needs by Breed

Photo by Stephanie, Roslindale

Exercise recommendations for dogs range between 30 minutes and two hours of moderate to high-intensity exercise daily. The time and intensity vary so widely because different dog breeds have distinct exercise needs. Some breeds are natural athletes with an abundance of energy to burn throughout the day. Other breeds take life at a slower pace and don’t require the dog equivalent of CrossFit—a few daily walks do the trick.

Here’s a sampling of the exercise requirements of a few sporting breeds—the breed category most within our wheelhouse.

Exercise Needs for Sporting Breeds

Photo by Janie, Midland

Typically, sporting breeds are energetic and athletic dogs who require at least an hour of exercise each day. If you don’t give your gundog enough exercise, he may use up excess energy through destructive chewing, barking, digging, and other nuisance behaviors. The Clumber Spaniel is one of the few low-energy sporting dogs who doesn’t need frequent vigorous exercise.

Exercise Needs for Labrador Retrievers


Photo by Tim Bronson

Labrador Retrievers are affable, energetic dogs who need an abundance of daily exercise. Somewhere between one and one-and-a-half hours of vigorous activity is about right for the breed.

Because Labs are highly playful and eager, finding exercises for them is a snap. If you’re a hunter, field training and upland hunting are always excellent options for this versatile gundog. But most Labs also love swimming, hiking, agility courses, running, and a simple game of fetch in the back yard.

Though they’re energetic, food-loving Labradors are prone to canine obesity, which regular exercise and a healthful diet can combat. Finally, challenging exercises keep Labs mentally engaged, which is important for this intelligent breed.

As you might expect, Labrador puppies have an abundance of energy, as well. But when exercising puppies, the most important thing is to avoid overexertion, which can cause ailments in fast-growing joints and bones. When dogs are young, they get enough exercise through their eager explorations of the yard, your home, the neighborhood, and your local parks.

Exercise Needs for German Shorthaired Pointers

Another high-energy gundog, German Shorthaired Pointers need a full two hours of varied exercise every day. Though walks should be part of your GSP’s daily routine, leisurely ones aren’t enough activity for this athletic breed. Good exercise choices for the German Shorthaired Pointer include brisk walks and hikes, agility classes, flyball, and field training.

Because of the GSP’s short coat and lean build, he’s at elevated risk of hypothermia in cold weather and requires a warm dog jacket or coat whenever he’s outdoors in winter.

Exercise Needs for Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers need at least one hour of intensive exercise each day. Field training and hunting are good exercise choices that keep your Toller on the move and mentally engaged. If he’s not a hunter—or on his days off—good exercise options include games of flyball or hide-and-seek in the yard, in addition to his regular walks.

This rambunctious breed developed from a mix of high-energy dogs, including retrievers, spaniels, setters, and collies. An excellent family dog breed, your Duck Tolling Retriever will enjoy your kids’ involvement in his daily exercise.

Golden Retriever Exercise Needs


Photo by Dirk Vorderstraße, via Wikipedia, used by CC BY 2.0

If your Golden is a gundog, field training and hunting will take care of a lot of his exercise needs. If he’s a family dog, play fetch and other games with him in the yard along with his usual walks (which should extend beyond the end of the driveway).

Similar to Labradors, Golden Retrievers are at elevated risk of obesity. The issue is twofold—Goldens really enjoy their dog treats and, though high energy, they won’t dash around and get exercise on their own like some zippy breeds. They need an exercise routine that ensures more than an hour of vigorous exercise daily.

Another smart dog, your Golden will benefit from mental stimulation through puzzle toys, obedience training sessions, agility classes, and games of hide-and-seek, for example.

Other Dog Breeds That Need an Exercise Routine

Many breeds within the herding, terrier, and working groups have energy to spare, and benefit from structured and challenging physical exercise beyond daily walks and wandering around the yard.

Typically, these breeds have an athletic build, a certain bounce in their step, and energy that lasts throughout the day. They also often have an alert, engaged expression—a clear sign they enjoy being in the mix and on the move. Examples include Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Old English Sheepdogs, German Shepherds, Irish Terriers, Airedale Terriers, and Siberian Huskies.

Let’s take a closer look at the exercise needs of one of these high-stamina, enthusiastic breeds:

German Shepherd Exercise Requirements


Photo by: Flaurentine, used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Healthy adult German Shepherd Dogs require a minimum of one hour of exercise daily. This could be a combination of two brisk walks, and a dog sport, such as fetch, Frisbee, agility, running, or swimming.

Though originally bred for herding, German Shepherds have developed into versatile working dogs because of their keen intelligence, loyalty, even temper, and dogged determination. Often used as police and military dogs, drug and bomb detectors, search and rescue dogs, and service dogs, GSDs need to stay mentally engaged, as well, with puzzle toys, hide-and-seek games, or advanced training.

Often, it’s helpful to consider what your dog was originally bred for when creating his exercise routines. Many herding dogs enjoy Treibball, a sport in which dogs ‘herd’ large balls. If you have a small terrier, consider Earthdog training and trials, where the dogs ‘hunt’ rodents in cages placed within burrows. Scent-work trials give hound breeds the exercise and mental stimulation they need.

Beyond your dog’s breed, other important considerations are his age and health. Older dogs will not have the stamina they once had, and may also have ailments that limit mobility. Regular exercise is still important for an older dog, to keep him fit and engage his mind, but his routine may require modifying. On-the-go puppies usually give themselves enough exercise while they explore, play, and learn. Pushing puppies to over exercise can cause lasting problems in their fast-growing bones and joints.

When creating an exercise routine for your dog, move between high-intensity activities that support cardiovascular health and muscle building, and low-key activities such as walking, hiking, and training sessions for mental stimulation. Then make sure the activities are fun. The best exercises are always the ones you and your dog are raring to enjoy every day.

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