How Much Exercise Does Your Dog Need?
A  Jack Russell Terrier with a ball: how much to exercise your dog?
Do you exercise your dog enough?

How much exercise does your dog need? It can be tricky to figure out how much exercise is enough for one's dog. Every breed has its own exercise needs, and at the same time, every dog is an individual. So, is there any way we can get a breakdown of the exercise needs of different dogs as puppies, adults and seniors?

What to consider when choosing dog exercise equipment:

The first thing to consider when exercising your dog is safety. And, this means the proper equipment. Consider what kind of exercise your dog will be doing and investigate what you need participate. For example, if you are taking your dog swimming, it is wise to invest in a quality life vest.

Specific sports also involve specific equipment. A dog that is participating in agility, may eventually need some expensive obstacles to practice on at home. Similarly, a dog that is involved in weight-pulling will need a carefully fitted harness to prevent injury.

the right equipment for the sport is essential for any exercise you do with your dog

Take your time

If you are choosing a sport or activity to exercise and bond with your dog, take time learning about the correct equipment. Sled sports like bikejoring can be dangerous to you and your dog if you are not using the correct equipment.

Ensure that you speak with trainers and professionals before investing in any equipment to exercise your dog. Even if you are just going for walks or hikes, it’s important to understand the damage the wrong collar can do to a dog’s throat, and that harnesses can encourage pulling an and bad behavior.

Even extremely common equipment like the long retractable leashes are known to cause severe harm to pet parents and their dogs. So take your time researching any canine equipment and avoid buying something because it looks good.

Buy Quality Dog Training Equipment

Quality is always a factor when it comes to our pets, and it is no different when you exercise your dog. Agility equipment is properly made for the safety of the dogs navigating the course. To this end, homemade obstacles simply won’t be as safe or effective.

The same rule applies to anything you sue to exercise your dog. When jogging, a quality made and durable jogging leash can prevent snapping and your dog accidentally running into nearby traffic.

brown short coated dog on blue round frame
Dog agility is a great way to exercise your dog, but it needs the right equipment

Consider the agility performance of your dog

The amount of exercise your dog needs depends on their physical agility and health. A working dog like a border collie is far more athletic than a bulldog., and can take part in much wider variety of activities. You also need to consider your dog’s age, weight, and any underlying health conditions before deciding on the best exercise for your dog.

Generally speaking, an adult dog might need anything between 30 minutes and two hours of exercise every day. In addition, there are two main types of exercise.

Structured exercise

Structured exercise means that you are in control. For example, your dog is on a leash, and they go along with the activity at hand. Such activities include things like walking, running, and hiking. It also includes any sport or work such as agility, field trials, or service work. Generally speaking, structured exercise is routine and doesn't deviate from the given activity.

Unstructured exercise

Unstructured exercise is more like a routine of play and fun. Popular games like fetch and tug are great examples of unstructured exercise. This exercise is vital to a dog's mental health but can sometimes be overstimulating.

Ideally, one should find a healthy balance between structured and unstructured exercise.

What factors determine how much exercise your dog needs?

Before deciding how much exercise your dog needs, there are several things to consider before deciding how much exercise your dog needs. A one-size-fits-all solution would make things much easier, but unfortunately, every dog differs.

Furthermore, every dog differs in how much exercise they need. Still, they also need varying amounts of structured and unstructured exercise.

Age

It comes as no surprise that a Maltese puppy needs less exercise than a full-grown Greyhound. Likewise, a senior schnauzer needs far less exercise than a Parson Russell terrier in its prime. So, how do I figure out how much exercise my puppy needs?

Exercise you dog: how much exercise does a puppy need?

Exercise your dog: a running puppy
A puppy has very different exercise needs from an adult dog

For the most part, a puppy will do well with plenty of unstructured playtime, and fortunately, they don't need much convincing either. As a rule of thumb, puppies can handle only around five minutes of structured exercise, twice a day, per month of age. This means the average two-month-old puppy can walk on a leash for no more than 10 minutes a day.

The best time to start structured exercise is once your puppy's growth plates are closed. These are cartilage on the ends of the long bones on a puppy's leg. They are supposed to calcify as the pup grows. Strenuous exercise for puppies with unclosed growth plates can cause damage that will have life-long implications.

As one might expect, it is a process that varies for different breeds. For example, many large breed pup's growth plates close between one year and 18-months. Also, the process takes longer in neutered male dogs.

When it comes to smaller breeds, they tend to grow up a bit faster, reaching adulthood sooner than most large breeds. Therefore, a small breed's growth plates usually close between 8-months and one year old.

How much exercise does your adult dog need? Considering breed

A dog's breed probably has the most impact on a dog's exercise needs. For pretty much all of their history, domestic dogs were purpose-bred by humans. In other words, we manipulated their physical traits by choosing dogs with the desired traits to breed.

After thousands of years, selective breeding has made some impressively specialized breeds. These breeds catered to several of humanity's needs throughout the years. However, certain skills were more valued than others for most of human history.

Being idle and sitting indoors was not a very popular skill for a dog to possess. Besides, we had cats for that. So, it's no big surprise that most dogs need a 'job' and that their job informs the type and amount of exercise that will keep them happy and healthy.

Brachycephalic breeds

Exercise your dog: a running bulldog
How much exercise does a bull dog need?

Dogs with short snouts have shorter nasal passages like Pugs, Bulldogs and Bullmastiffs, are less equipped to keep themselves cool. Hot days can be especially demanding, but rigorous exercise can be too much for them.

Avg: 30 - 40 minutes light exercise per day

Sled dogs

Your husky needs a lot of physical exercise time, but if you have one, you likely know this already. Such breeds can change their metabolism, allowing them to sled about to no end. Furthermore, they are devilishly clever, so if you don't provide the exercise they need, they'll escape to find it for themselves.

Avg: at least 2 hours per day

Herding dogs

High-energy dogs like Border Collies will need much more exercise than most breeds

Herding dogs like border collies need the mental stimulation that they would get from their natural role in herding animals. Therefore, they do well with exercises that mimic herding and various agility-oriented training and exercise. However, suppose your herding dog does not get the mental stimulation. In that case, they are liable to start herding wherever they can, including your other pets.

Avg: 1 - 2 hours of focussed exercise per day.

Gundogs

Like herding dogs, your average German shepherd or Malinois needs a challenge. But, unlike herding dogs, these guard dog breeds have a natural job that is tricky to turn into a daily exercise.

Rather than mauling strangers for two hours a day, you might want to try simple running or hiking routines. Alternatively, they also do well in field trials.

Avg: 2 hours per day

Terriers

Terriers are pretty feisty and seem to have no end of energy. They enjoy digging, making earth trial a great way to burn off some of that excess energy. They are still a smaller breed, as chronically busy as these little guys are. Their size limits how much exercise they need.

Avg: 60 - 90 minutes; 30 minutes should be vigorous.

There is a second category of terrier that has its own rules. The pit bull, bull terrier, and the Staffordshire bull terrier are notably different from a Jack Russel terrier. Specifically, they are muscular breeds and are suited to exercise that needs short bursts of serious power.

These buff pups do best at activities like weight pulling and wall jumping.

Scent hounds

Scent hounds have the instinct to follow their noses, and as such, are liable to scamper off any time they're let off-leash. As such, it's better to engage them in exercise that allows you some degree of control. Walks and hikes are great and safe exercise options for these dogs.

Avg: 60 - 90 minutes of moderate exercise per day.

Toy or small dogs

It is no surprise that these little dogs need less exercise than their larger cousins. They adapt well to smaller living spaces and are frailer than larger dogs, but even so, they can often surprise one with how well they handle exercise.

Avg: 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise per day, preferable split over multiple short walks and play.

Giant Breeds

Giant dogs run the risk of strain and impact injuries. This is because they are often only considered adults at the age of 3, and their bone structure is at its highest risk when they are young. As such, giant breeds need constant exercise in measured amounts.

Avg: 30 - 45 minutes of moderate exercise daily.

Sighthounds

These dogs are excellent sprinters, but they are not designed to run long distances. Surprisingly, although they are very athletic, sighthounds are not usually hyperactive, and a good walk will often suffice. To engage their working instincts, an occasional visit to lure-chasing tracks will keep them healthy and mentally stimulated.

Avg: 1-hour walk per day.

Exercise your dog. How much daily exercise does a senior dog need?

An old staffordshire terrier runs after a toy
Old dogs will have lower exercise needs, but will still need to move

Older dogs eventually need to slow down. That said, exercise remains critical for their physical and mental well-being. The slowing process usually starts at around eight, but it is not an immediate, instant change.

Rather, you will begin to taper the amount of exercise that your maturing dog gets. Furthermore, the kind of exercise that your dog can handle changes.

In their prime, your dog might have benefited a lot from intense and demanding workouts. Still, as they age, anything too strenuous can damage their health. As time goes by, you'll notice these changes happen as your dog begins to struggle with their exercise routine.

It's important to remember that these changes are different for each dog. Some dogs will keep pushing themselves until their last, while others could slow down prematurely.

How to exercise your dog when you are stuck indoors

Some options for exercising your dog indoors include:

  • Moving up and down stairs
  • Playing hide ‘n seek
  • Teaching your dog to search for a toy or a treat
  • Play wrestling
  • Make a small obstacle course out of your furniture
  • Use treat dispensing balls
  • Play tug
  • Play a controlled game of fetch
  • Spend time teaching your dog physical tricks like dog yoga poses.

What are the signs and symptoms of overexercise in a dog?

  1. A dog may begin lagging behind or struggling to keep up
  2. Panting may be excessive and rapid
  3. Dog may seem exhausted after exercise and refuse to move
  4. Dog may seem stiff or have difficulty standing or walking the next day.

In extreme cases, overexercising a dog can cause heat exhaustion. Symptoms include:

  • Drooling
  • Rapid panting
  • Reddened gums
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion, a lack of coordination, and possible collapse.

If you suspect your dog has heat exhaustion, move them to cool area as quickly as possible and seek veterinary help.

Final thoughts

Exercise is a critical part of a dog's physical and mental well-being. However, the amount of exercise a dog needs depends on their age. Furthermore, a dog's breed is a big factor in determining the amount of exercise they need and the kind of exercise that will serve them best.

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