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How Much Exercise Does My Dog Need Every Day?

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Learn the exercise needs for your dog at every age.
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If you’re like a lot of dog owners, you want to do your part to help keep your pet healthy. In addition to a quality diet and adequate sleep, daily exercise is crucial to help your dog live their best life. Daily walks are tied to mental stimulation as well as physical health benefits, and fostering an active lifestyle can help prevent canine obesity, too. 

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Woman walking her beagle on a fall day

Dog Exercise: A Guide to Getting Started

The trick to dog exercise is knowing how much your canine companion actually needs each day. While the general rule is 30 minutes to two hours per day, the actual time can vary based on your dog’s individual needs. Considering your dog’s size, age, general health, breed and any other unique factors can help determine how much exercise time your dog needs. 

Activity Level Varies Based on Breed

Your dog’s breed isn’t the only tried-and-true factor to consider when it comes to exercise, but it’s an important piece of the equation.

A heavy-duty working breed, for example, is going to need more exercise than a lap dog. Consider how huskies and boxers were originally bred to pull sleds or protect property; this disposition influences their energy and strength, so they generally require more activity than a toy poodle, Dalmatian or Havanese. So get to know your dog’s breed background and note their particular needs. 

If your dog is a mixed breed, choose the breed and group that seems like the closest fit. To start, answer the following questions:

  • What’s your dog’s general energy level each day? In other words, is your dog a couch potato, or do they seem ready to run multiple times a day? 
  • Is your dog a miniature, small, medium or large breed? What is the general activity level of your dog’s breed? Small dogs generally need less exercise, while larger breeds typically need more. 
  • What breed group does your dog fall within? Is your dog part of the working, sporting, herding, nonsporting, hound, terrier or toy groups? Herding, sporting and working dogs tend to require more exercise than the others.

Factor in Age

Taking your dog’s age into consideration is important throughout their life. This number will help you understand their range of activity, and also gauge how much you can push them on a hot day or on an especially long walk. 
 

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A panting, senior dog standing in grass after exercising

Exercise Tips for Puppies, Adult Dogs and Senior Dogs

These general guidelines for each life stage can help you switch up the exercise routine for your puppy, adult or mature dog.

Exercise for Puppies

The average puppy is a perky, energetic bundle of fur and fun. But contrary to popular belief, puppies require less activity than adult dogs. Overdoing it with a puppy can come with harsh consequences, like joint or bone damage, so it’s important to provide appropriate activities without going overboard:

  • Walk time: Generally, puppies can walk 5 minutes for every month they have aged, up to twice per day. So if you have a 3-month-old puppy, try a 15-minute walk once per day, and work toward increasing to two times each day.  
  • Supervised free play: When supervised and off leash, puppies can be incredibly adventurous — whether in the backyard or exploring a dog park. They can make their own fun by exploring and enjoying sensory experiences: inhaling fresh scents, looking to you for encouragement, surveying the land to see what they can discover and even meeting new people or dogs as they begin socialization. Playing hide-and-seek and fetch are easy games that help puppies get their daily exercise. Just watch for signs that they are overheated or too tired, and take a break when necessary.

Exercise for Adult Dogs 

We know daily walks are critical to your dog’s physical and mental health, so how can you switch it up? A change in location, duration or activity may be the key to lifting your dog’s mood: 

  • Go with games: Fetch is a classic, but you can add variety by swapping a favorite ball for a flying disc or a rope toy. You can even turn training into a game that provides mental stimulation as well as physical exertion by teaching tricks like come, heel or spin.
  • Walk it out, inside: Bad weather doesn’t mean your dog has to skip their walk. With supervision and a very slow start, your dog can walk on a treadmill to build endurance. Your dog may also enjoy other forms of indoor exercise, from wrestling matches to obstacle courses.
  • Take a hike: Trail walking allows you to explore new terrain and change your dog’s environment. Just avoid difficult trails at first, and bring along plenty of fresh water.

Exercise for Senior Dogs

Senior dogs have a different capacity for exercise than their younger pup selves. But older dogs still appreciate variety and a change of pace. Consider switching up their activity routine, even if you just walk through a different neighborhood. 

  • Step up the scent work: Training your older dog’s nose to pick up the scents of a trail can be a low-impact and rewarding activity.
  • Get your fetch on: Try a gentle game of fetch — but nothing too strenuous!
  • Soothe with swimming: A little dip in a pool may be just what your aging pup needs to soothe their joints and fit in some movement.

The best way feel confident about your dog’s activity level and age-appropriate limits is to ask your veterinarian. Seek their help in outlining your dog’s routine based on their unique needs, whether they are a puppy, an adult or a senior. 
 

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