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How Much Exercise Does My Dog Need?

May 23, 2019 4 min read

Every dog is different, so the short answer is: it depends. Many factors impact your dog’s daily exercise needs, such as age, health complications, and breed (or a mix of breeds).

I hate to break it to you, but the likelihood of your dog exercising themselves in your backyard while you're working 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 couch.

In the words of a 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 more fun than you might think!

Mental and Physical Exercise For Dogs

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 use their brains, think critically, and solve puzzles, they are wearing themselves out.

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 stimulation 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. Chewing on raw bones is also a great way to give your dog mental activity.  

golden lab puppy at the dog beach

Exercise For Puppies

Puppy exercise ideas:

  •      Short walks
  •      Socialization with (human) friends and family
  •      Meet and greets with friendly, safe dogs
  •      Training
  •      Playing with toys

Puppies do best with lots of short bursts of play and walking; in this instance, puppies are much like human babies. They need mental and physical stimulation alongside 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: 5 Benefits of Socializing Your Dog.

Another great way to give your young dog mental exercise is to play with them with their toys or run 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!

Exercise For Adult Dogs

Adult Dog Exercise Ideas:

  •      Hiking
  •      Running
  •      Playtime with safe, friendly dogs
  •      Puzzle toys
  •      Training: Learning new tricks and maybe even a new skill like nose work or agility
  •      Fetch
  •      Doggy beach day
  •      Dog Sports

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 aging. 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 dog's breed during this stage of their life; working dogs like German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois will need much more exercise than breeds like 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 at the dog beach

Exercise For Senior Dogs

Senior dog exercise ideas:

  •      Tug
  •      Puzzle toys
  •      Walks
  •      Hide and Seek
  •      Training, dogs are never too old to learn something new!
  •      Swimming
  •      Playing with calm dog friends

Senior dogs still need both mental and physical exercise, 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 you're exercising your older dog, make sure to keep an eye on them and ensure they aren’t pushing their body too far.

Diet and Exercise

There are so many factors that contribute to a 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 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 food, 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

Read More:  10 Reasons to Quit Kibble & Switch to Raw Dog Food.

Most importantly, have fun and bond with your pup!

Happy exercising!

Marissa Sunny CPDT-KA is a behavior consultant and owner of a local dog training company, Epiphany Dog Training.