Dogs need between 30 minutes and two hours of exercise every day. The exact amount of exercise your dog requires will vary significantly, however, based upon her breed (or mix of breeds, if she’s a rescue), age, and health. Read on to learn how to keep your dog in tip-top shape, and how her exercise needs change over time.
Dogs Who Need a Lot of Exercise
A dog who needs a lot of exercise often has a lean, well-muscled frame, a natural spring in her step, and an alert temperament. When you let these canine athletes out into the backyard, they get the “zoomies” without fail. Without consistent obedience training, these dogs pull during walks because their people aren’t moving fast enough.
Many Sporting dog breeds—think English Springer Spaniels, Irish Setters, and Pointers—are born athletes who require a lot of exercise to stay physically healthy. In general, these dogs don’t take much convincing to head upland for field training, or to participate in agility training and other dog sports. They’re raring to go, and you’ll lose steam well before they do on most outings.
Bred to chase down fast rodents, Terrier breeds are bundles of energy. Whether your dog is a small Australian Terrier or a large Black Russian Terrier, she’ll need more than an hour of exercise each day. As a bonus, exercise settles down these spirited dogs so they’re easier to live with.
Dogs within the Working and Herding breed groups have strength, intelligence, and stamina to spare, but they vary more than Sporting and Terrier breeds in their exercise requirements. Evolved to keep flocks together over miles of land, herding dogs, such as Collies and Old English Sheepdogs, need lots of exercise. Meanwhile, some watchdog breeds, such as powerful Tibetan Mastiffs and Dogues de Bordeaux, don’t require much exercise to stay healthy.
Exercise needs also vary significantly within working breeds that evolved to carry loads, or pull sleds and carts. Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies require between one and two hours of vigorous exercise each day, while Newfoundlands and St. Bernards benefit from about 45 minutes of moderate exercise daily.
Though hounds range from low key (e.g., Greyhounds) to high energy (e.g., Redbone Coonhounds), they need more than an hour of exercise each day whether they’re gung-ho or not.
Exercise needs for dogs in the remaining breed groups—Non-Sporting, Toy, Miscellaneous—vary from the low end of 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day to the high end of two hours of vigorous exercise each day.
Couch Potato Dogs
Where other dogs bound outside for walks and game time in the yard, couch potato dogs would just as soon hang out on the you-know-what.
Notorious couch potato dog breeds include Pugs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, French Bulldogs, and Great Danes. These breeds are lap dogs through and through—even the Great Dane if given the chance.
How to Exercise Your Dog
Whether your dog is an agile athlete, a couch potato, or somewhere in between, she needs daily exercise. Here are some strategies to help establish and sustain an exercise routine for your dog:
Get your dog a checkup. Before making any changes to your dog’s exercise regimen, make sure your veterinarian gives you the go-ahead and helps you devise a plan that takes her age, breed, and overall health into consideration.
Avoid over-exercising puppies. Though puppies have boundless energy, it’s important to avoid overly strenuous activities. When pushed too hard, the growing bones and joints of puppies are prone to injuries that can cause problems later.
Start off slow. If your dog is accustomed to 10-minute walks, don’t suddenly extend her walks to an hour and more. Just like people, dogs need to improve their fitness over time.
Remember the dog warm-ups. Your dog is at risk of muscle strains if she’s chasing fly balls moments after she was lying on her dog bed. Before vigorous exercise, take your dog on a slow walk to stretch her legs and get her blood flowing.
Establish a routine. Whether it’s two long walks a day, boisterous games of catch when you get home from work, or agility training classes, your dog won’t balk when the schedule is consistent.
Don’t assume your dog exercises enough. Even dogs who get the “zoomies” won’t dash around the yard enough to get the exercise they need. And sniffing around the yard doesn’t count as exercise. You must be involved to ensure your dog exercises enough.
Exercise with your dog. Active people with athletic dogs often bike, hike, or run with their dogs. And even if your dog isn’t a natural athlete, you can toss her a ball in the house or yard when you finish your own workouts at home.
Think beyond fetch. Keep exercise interesting by introducing your dog to new sports, such as herding balls (Treibball) or carting. You can also visit the dog park so she can socialize with other dogs.
Remember the mental exercises. Your dog needs mental stimulation to prevent boredom and keep her sharp.
Sustain exercise throughout your dog’s life. Even older dogs need exercise. Your dog will slow down with age, but walks and exercise may help delay the onset of common canine geriatric ailments, such as osteoarthritis and dementia.
How Much Should a Pregnant Dog Exercise?
During a healthy dog’s pregnancy, walks and low-impact exercises are the best options, and strenuous, high-impact activities are best avoided. As the pregnancy progresses, your dog will probably slow down and you should follow her lead on exercise—she knows what’s best. Other circumstances requiring adjustments to your dog’s exercise routine include injury, illness, and recovery following surgery. Your dog’s veterinarian can suggest activities that are best for her issues.
Do Dogs Need Exercise Every Day?
Yes. Dogs need exercise every day and their routine should be as consistent as possible. For most dogs, however, the occasional exercise session missed to bad weather or a long workday isn’t a big deal. If your dog is lively, you can play inside before bed to expend her energy. Indoor game ideas:
- Stair fetch – toss the ball up the stairs so your dog has to run up and down.
- Hide and seek – tuck your dog’s favorite dog toys and dog treats around the house for her to find.
- Indoor agility – set up an agility course in the living room.
- Tug of war – a good choice only if your dog responds well to the “leave it” command.
Is Walking Your Dog Enough Exercise?
Daily walks are enough exercise for some dogs but not for others. Sporting dogs, for example, require vigorous and challenging exercises to stay physically fit and mentally sharp. Walking around the neighborhood won’t be enough for these dogs. But you can meet the exercise requirements of couch potato breeds with two or three short walks around the block each day.
Whatever your dog’s age, breed, health, fitness, and energy, she’ll thrive with an exercise routine tailored just for her. If she’s a layabout, encourage her to move by extending her walks incrementally and by playing fun dog games in the yard. If she’s the canine equivalent of a jock, give her ample opportunities to move and do your best to keep up.