How much exercise does my dog need? The short answer is it depends. There are many factors that impact your dog’s daily exercise needs such as age, health complications, and breed (or mix of breeds).
I hate to break it to you, but the likelihood of your dog exercising themselves in your backyard while you are at work is slim to none. Dogs typically sleep while you’re gone, and if they are “exercising themselves” they are probably creating a hole that rivals the local landfill or shredding your brand-new beautiful couch. In the words of dog trainer and author Jean Donaldson, “Dogs are not space intensive, they are time intensive.”. Dog’s need for exercise is right up there with food, water, and air. The good news is that exercising your dog can be a lot easier and fun than you might think!
Mental and Physical Exercise
When we think of exercising our dogs we typically think of walking, hiking, and playing fetch, but there is so much more to it than that. Just like us, if dogs are using their brain; thinking critically and solving puzzles they are wearing themselves out. Personally, I have two high energy breeds and love any kind of exercise I can give them without feeling like I need to be an Olympic level athlete, that’s where mental exercise comes in. Some examples of mental exercise are giving them a Kong frozen with goodies inside they have to dig out, letting them sniff out treats in the yard, training, food puzzles, a small plastic pool filled with plastic balls and treats, and more! Mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise to a dog’s overall wellbeing.
Puppy exercise ideas:
Puppies do best with lots of short bursts of play and walks, puppies in this instance are much like human babies. They need mental and physical stimulation but also need a lot of rest throughout the day. Since puppies are typically still learning, socializing, and exploring exercising your puppy can be very easy and fun! Once your puppy has their shots and it is safe to venture outside, take them on short walks in different areas exposing them to different sights, sounds, people, friendly dogs, and different surfaces. For more information on socialization check out my blog,5 Benefits of Socializing Your Dog.
Another great way to give your puppy mental exercise is to play with them with their toys or running around the house or backyard. We all know that training is important for our pups, so take this time to teach them the basics as well as some fun tricks!
Adult Dog Exercise Ideas:
Dogs typically need the most exercise during the adult years of their life. Their body is fully developed, and they have not yet started slowing down from ageing. Dogs will often get very bored during adulthood so do not forget to keep up with that mental exercise as well! Keep in mind your dogs breed during this stage of their life; working dogs like German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois will need much more exercise than breeds like an English Bulldogs or Basset Hounds.
To determine if your dog is getting the right amount of exercise for their breed, age, personality, and health requirements I recommend keeping a log of how much exercise he or she got, what kind of exercise (include mental and physical), and their behavior and temperament for the day. Exercise is an innate need of all dogs and if that need is not being met they will not be healthy or well behaved, it is up to us to make sure their needs get met before we hold them to high expectations. Once you have found a good balance you can stick to that approximate amount of exercise for your dog.
Senior dog exercise ideas:
Senior dogs still need exercise both mental and physical, but keep in mind if your pup has any medical issues such as hip dysplasia that could make typical physical exercise more difficult. I recommend discussing with your vet the appropriate amount and kind of exercise that would be good for your dog. One of the best low impact exercises for senior dogs, especially pups with hip or joint issues, is swimming! When your exercising your senior dog, make sure to keep an eye on them and make sure they aren’t pushing their body too far.
Diet and Exercise
There are so many factors that go into dog’s overall health and one of the biggest is food, when you quit kibble and switch to a species appropriate raw food diet you may notice your dog has more energy and more stamina to stay out on the hiking trail much longer than they used to. Do not worry, just like us a healthy diet makes them feel great! Research shows that with a kibble diet dogs have spikes of energy from the sugar and then have a crash of lethargy later, with raw their energy is more stabilized and therefore easier to manage! Raw will also help keep your pup nice and lean, meaning that they will build more muscle and keep the extra weight off. For more information on the benefits of raw feeding on your dogs health check out the blog10 Reasons to Quit Kibble & Switch to Raw Dog Food.
Most importantly have fun and grow your bond with your pup!
Marissa Sunny CPDT-KA is a behavior consultant and owner of local dog training company, Epiphany Dog Training.