Dogs need exercise for many of the same reasons humans do. But figuring out how much exercise your dog needs depends on size, age, and breed or body structure. For example, an Australian Shepherd has much more energy to run off and the body type for exercise than a French Bulldog. So, how do you know what kind of exercise and how much is needed for your pup?
Keep reading for our Dog Exercise 101 guide. Whether you’re a new dog owner or need a refresher course, you’ll learn the basics and more. Let’s jump in!
Do All Dogs Need Exercise?
All dogs need exercise, but some require more than others. Exercise promotes good behavior, reduces stress and anxiety, and can strengthen the bond between you and your dog. It also helps maintain a healthy weight, increasing your furry family member’s life expectancy.
Puppies often have the most energy, and exercise helps them burn it off. Canines in the puppy and adolescent stages, up to two years old, will require the most time and energy on your part for walk time and playtime.
Adult dogs also require exercise but usually not as much as a puppy. However, it differs depending on the dog and its unique circumstances. Once they reach their senior years, many dogs slow down, but it’s good for them to continue exercising as much as they can to keep their joints and muscles healthy.
Seniors may slow down, but they are still full of love! Learn the 5 great reasons to adopt a senior dog.
What Happens If You Don’t Exercise Your Dog?
Not exercising your dog can affect its health, life expectancy, and overall quality of life. An unfit dog may become overweight, which can lead to serious health issues. Also, being sedentary for long periods can lead to stiff joints and muscles, significantly reducing a dog’s quality of life.
A lack of walks or playtime can potentially make dogs anxious and destructive. Exercise helps them release energy and keeps their bodies and brain fit. It’s much like how physical activity provides humans with physical and mental benefits.
How Much Exercise Does a Dog Need?
Most dogs need at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, but getting in 60 minutes is recommended. The amount and intensity of exercise needed will vary depending on breed or body structure, age, and overall health. This can include walking, running, playing fetch, swimming, or games that require movement and muscle building. If you are unsure how much exercise your dog needs, definitely consult with your veterinarian.
What Kind of Exercise Do Dogs Need?
Walking and running are the most common kinds of good exercise for dogs. But, similar to humans, adding in more complex physical activity to work on strength, balance, and flexibility is good for a dog’s quality of life and overall health. For example, you can play games like hide-and-seek with your dog to get it to use different muscles than it might when going for a casual walk in a straight line.
Rotate between the types of exercise you do so different muscles get attention. Just walking your dog doesn’t provide the variety they need. So, mix it up with walks, fetch, swimming, agility training, or games.
Also, make sure you’re doing age and breed-appropriate exercises. For example, Pugs have a short, flat noses that can cause some restrictions with breathing. So, keep a Pug’s exercise routine light and give breaks as needed. Also, avoid exerting them outside in hot and humid weather.
What Is the Best Dog Exercise Equipment?
Using dog exercise equipment may seem intimidating initially, but consider adding some in little by little. You don’t have to go all in with agility training gear. Equipment like an exercise ball or interactive dog toys can help your pup. The idea is to get your dog to work different muscles and joints so that it gets well-rounded workouts throughout the week.
From the Ground Up is a dog fitness company that offers online training and incorporates exercise equipment. We’re not an affiliate, but you can check out their courses by clicking here.
Is It OK Not to Walk Your Dog Every Day?
You don’t have to walk your dog every day, but making sure it gets some type of exercise each day is important for its health and quality of life. A dog will be happier and calmer when it’s active regularly. But don’t be hard on yourself if you miss a walk from time to time. There are other games you can play close to home, like catch, fetch, and training sessions, that will stimulate and exert your dog.
Where Can You Exercise Dogs?
Finding a place to exercise dogs is quite easy, no matter where you live. If you live in a large city, you may have to get creative, but it’s always possible to find somewhere for your dog to get physical activity.
One of the most common places to exercise dogs is in a backyard. If you have one, you can let your dog run, toss a ball, play games, and more. In the summer, do fun things like running a sprinkle for your pup to jump through. Changing things up will help keep it interested and excited for exercise time.
Neighborhood Walks and Hiking Trails
Going on neighborhood walks and nearby hiking trails is a great way to get you and your dog moving. If you frequent specific routes or paths, your dog will likely become familiar with the scents in the area and will be excited to go. Try using a command like “Let’s go for a walk” every time you go.
Dog parks are an opportunity for your pup to exercise and socialize with other dogs. If you live in an urban setting or place without access to open spaces or trails, dog parks are an excellent alternative. They’re also good places for you to meet other pet parents.
Exercise pens are suitable for some dogs, but not all. They can be small and restrictive for larger dogs. But, a pen can be a great option if you have a small to medium-sized dog and don’t have an enclosed space outside for it to run or play fetch.
You can also try SniffSpot, a rentable dog space. It allows you to rent a space by the hour for private, off-leash play.
Playing Indoors (Sometimes)
Playing indoors can sometimes be a good form of exercise. However, it depends on the size of your indoor space and the size of the dog. A high-energy puppy or working breed like Border Collies will likely not be able to get the exercise they need in your home’s indoor space. So while you may have to resort to staying inside on rainy days, getting your dog outdoors for physical activity is best.
Indoor exercises are definitely more hands-on and require more of your attention than going for walks or visiting the dog park. To keep you and your dog engaged, try some indoor games like fetch, tug-o-war, and catch. Many dogs also love to chase, so if you’ve got a clear path through your house, you might be able to run off a little bit of the energy inside.
Related: Read about the importance of chew toys for exercise and mind stimulation in dogs.
Science Says People With Dogs Are Healthier, Too!
Exercising your dog has the added benefit of improving your own health. Scientists have concluded that people with dogs are healthier. It can actually decrease our levels of cortisol and lower blood pressure. Pets can also reduce loneliness and boost our moods. You may have noticed how easy it is for your dog to put a smile on your face.
Dogs also increase our physical activity, and data shows that dog ownership is associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease. The University of Michigan reported on a 12-year study that followed the health status of 3.4 million men and women between the ages of 40 and 80 living in Sweden and whether they owned a dog. The study found, “For people who lived alone, owning a dog decreased their risk of death by 33 percent and their risk of cardiovascular-related death by 36 percent, compared to single people living without a pet. The chance of having a heart attack was 11 percent lower.”
Pro Tip: Check out the best dog-walking apps to inspire your next adventure.
Exercise With Your Dog for Its Health and Yours
Our dog’s exercise goes hand in hand with our own health and well-being. Even though you might not feel like taking a walk, a dog sometimes forces you to get up and do it. We’ve found that, more often than not, we’re glad to have been forced up onto our feet and outdoors. Without dogs, many people would never go for walks. So, take your pup for a walk today and feel the benefits. It’s sure to strengthen your bond and create lasting memories, too.
What exercises do you do with your dog? Share in the comments below.
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