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How Much Exercise Does a Dog Need?

Happy beagle getting exercise

Owning a dog comes with countless joys and responsibilities, one of the most crucial being ensuring they get the right amount of exercise. A well-exercised dog is not only a healthier one but also a happier companion. 

Exercise goes beyond just physical health — it plays a vital role in your dog’s mental well-being and behavior as well. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into understanding how much exercise dogs need, how breed, age, and health factor into it, and how you can create a beneficial exercise routine as their owner. 

From daily walks and playing fetch to games of frisbee and visits to the dog park, we’ll provide you with a wealth of knowledge on maintaining your pet’s health and vitality through appropriate physical activity.

What Factors Influence Exercise Requirements for Dogs?

Like humans, dogs need regular exercise to lead a happier and healthier life. However, the amount and type of exercise can vary significantly depending on several factors. 

It’s essential to understand these factors to provide the right amount of exercise to your canine friend:

Age

A dog’s exercise needs will naturally evolve as they age. For example:

  • Puppies are bundles of energy and require several short play sessions to burn it all up. You should aim for at least five minutes of exercise per month of age, twice a day.
  • Adult dogs, particularly active breeds, have the highest energy levels and can require more than an hour of exercise each day.
  • Senior dogs, on the other hand, may not be as energetic but still benefit significantly from regular, less strenuous activity. Regular, gentle exercise can help keep older dogs lean, limber, and mentally sharp.

Breed

Different dog breeds have different exercise needs:

  • High-energy breeds like retrievers, border collies, labradors, and huskies are built for vigorous exercise and may require several hours of activity each day.
  • Sighthounds such as greyhounds, despite their impressive speed, often enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle and require less exercise time than you might think.
  • Brachycephalic breeds, such as pugs and bulldogs, struggle with intense exercise and overheating due to their short noses and compact skulls. A brisk walk around the block might be more than enough for these pups.
  • Smaller breeds like chihuahuas or toy breeds may be content with a half-hour to 45 minutes of exercise daily.

Health and Medical Conditions

Your dog’s health and existing medical conditions can also affect their exercise needs. Dogs with certain health conditions may require modifications to their exercise routines. For example, a dog with joint discomfort might benefit from short, gentle walks rather than strenuous hikes. 

If your dog has a medical condition influencing their ability to exercise, it might be a good idea to consult your vet before starting a new exercise regimen. For dogs with joint discomfort, try supplementing with a CBD and CBDA product to soothe their joints, getting them the exercise they need. 

A good rule of thumb is that dogs should get between 30 minutes and two hours of exercise each day. However, as the above section spelled out, the exact amount will largely depend on their age, breed, and overall health. Therefore, it’s crucial for you to properly observe your dog and adjust their exercise routine so that it better suits their individual needs.

For example, if your dog still seems energetic after a long walk, then you might want to add a more strenuous activity to the routine like a game of fetch or tug-of-war. On the other hand, if your dog is exhausted or reluctant to exercise, it might be time to slow things down a bit. 

The key is finding a balance where your dog can expend energy without becoming overly tired. Also, remember that mental stimulation, like training sessions or puzzles, can tire a dog out and should be included as a part of their routine — especially if your dog has limited physical abilities due to an injury or health condition. 

What Are the Physical and Mental Benefits of Exercise?

Dog exercise extends beyond just tiring them out. It significantly impacts their physical and mental well-being, creating a ripple effect that enhances virtually every aspect of their lives. 

Here’s a more detailed look at these benefits:

Weight Management

Regular exercise is an extremely effective tool for managing your dog’s weight. Dogs, like humans, can develop obesity if they consume more calories than they burn. Obesity in dogs can lead to various health issues like diabetes and heart disease and even shorten their lifespan. 

A good mix of regular exercise, play sessions, and a balanced diet can keep your dog within a healthy weight range. Whether it’s a long walk, a quick run in the dog park, or a game of fetch, daily physical activity can significantly contribute to your dog’s weight management.

Cardiovascular Fitness

Exercise is just as good for your dog’s heart as it is for yours. It helps to increase cardiovascular fitness, boosting their endurance and overall physical health. 

Regular exercise increases the heart rate, improves circulation, and can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Remember that active dog breeds, like retrievers and border collies, need lots of activity to keep their heart healthy and happy.

Joint and Muscle Health

Regular physical activity can also strengthen your dog’s muscles and help maintain joint flexibility. This is particularly crucial for older dogs, who can suffer from age-related mobility issues. 

Regular, gentle exercise can help alleviate symptoms of joint discomfort, maintain a healthy range of motion, and improve your dog’s overall mobility. Plus, strong muscles support your dog’s joints, which can help prevent injuries.

Mental Stimulation

Physical exercise is one way to provide mental stimulation for your dog. Yes, that game of hide-and-seek or tug-of-war is doing more than just tiring them out — it’s also making them think! 

Mental stimulation helps keep your dog’s mind sharp, alleviates boredom, and can even slow cognitive decline in older dogs. A lack of mental stimulation can often lead to destructive behaviors, as pent-up energy finds an outlet in chewing, digging, or excessive barking. 

Regular exercise that challenges your dog, like agility training or fetch, can keep their minds active and engaged.

Behavioral Management

Regular exercise can contribute significantly to better behavior in dogs. Dogs with high energy levels can become hyperactive or anxious if they don’t get enough exercise. This pent-up energy can lead to unwanted behaviors like chewing or digging. 

On the other hand, a well-exercised dog is usually a well-behaved dog. Physical activity can help dogs burn off excess energy, leading to calmer behavior at home. Additionally, exercise can also improve focus in dogs, making them more receptive to training.

How To Design an Exercise Routine for Your Dog

A well-rounded exercise regimen is essential to meet your pet’s physical and mental needs. It’s not one-size-fits-all — what works for a border collie may not work for a pug, and puppies have different requirements than adult or senior dogs. 

The key is to tailor your dog’s exercise regimen to their breed, age, health, and individual personality.

Considering Breed and Energy Levels

  • High-energy breeds: Huskies, retrievers, and other highly active breeds are well known for their boundless energy and require ample daily exercise to meet their needs. They thrive on activities that challenge them physically and mentally, such as long walks, runs, agility training, or participating in activities like flyball.
  • Giant breeds: Great Danes, mastiffs, and other giant and large breeds have unique exercise requirements due to their size and growth patterns. While they may not require the same intensity as high-energy breeds, regular exercise is still essential to maintain their muscle tone and overall health. Leash walks, gentle play sessions, and controlled activities that minimize strain on their joints are recommended.
  • Herding dogs: Border collies and Australian shepherds have been specifically bred for herding livestock and possess high energy levels. These dogs excel in activities that engage their natural instincts, such as herding trials, where they can showcase their intelligence and physical agility.
  • Small breeds and low-energy dogs: Chihuahuas and basset hounds often have different exercise requirements as they’re not quite the same as their larger brethren. Short walks, interactive play sessions, and mentally stimulating activities like food puzzles can help meet their needs without overwhelming them.

Age-Appropriate Activities

  • Puppies are bundles of energy but need careful management to prevent joint stress. Short walks and play sessions throughout the day can suffice.
  • Adult dogs, depending on the breed, might need more than an hour of intense exercise each day. The exact activities, intensity, and duration will largely depend on the preferences of your specific dog.
  • Senior dogs, while less active, still benefit from regular, gentle exercise to maintain joint health and overall well-being.

Variety in Exercise Activities

  • Walks: Good old-fashioned walks are the cornerstone of any dog exercise routine. A daily walk helps your dog explore their environment, provides mental stimulation, and is a great bonding time. The duration and intensity can vary depending on your dog’s age, breed, and health. For instance, a Labrador might enjoy a long walk, jogging, or even going on a hike, while short walks are more suitable for brachycephalic or small breeds.
  • Interactive Play: Interactive games such as fetch, tug-of-war, flyball, or frisbee provide both physical exercise and mental stimulation. These activities can be a fun way to mix up your dog’s exercise routine while strengthening your bond.
  • Dog Parks and Socialization: Dog parks offer a fantastic opportunity for dogs to socialize. They can run off-leash, play with other dogs, and explore a new environment, providing both physical exercise and mental stimulation. Ensure the play remains friendly and all dogs involved enjoy the interaction.

Special Considerations

  • Hot Weather Safety: When exercising your dog in hot weather, take precautions to prevent heatstroke. Exercise during cooler parts of the day, provide plenty of water, and watch for signs of overheating. Certain breeds, particularly brachycephalic ones, are more susceptible to heatstroke, so extra caution is necessary.
  • Senior Dogs and Medical Conditions: Older dogs or dogs with medical conditions need specially tailored exercise routines. Short, gentle walks, swimming, or therapeutic exercises might be ideal. Always consult with your vet before starting any new exercise regimen in these cases.
  • Professional Services: Professional services like dog walkers or daycare centers can be lifesavers for busy pet parents struggling to meet their dog’s exercise needs. These services can provide your dog with regular exercise and socialization when you cannot.

Nurturing Your Pet’s Health and Happiness: The Exercise Connection

Regular exercise is more than just a tool to manage your dog’s energy levels. It serves as a cornerstone for their overall physical and mental health and their happiness. 

Taking into account your dog’s age, breed, and health status allows you to tailor an exercise routine that perfectly suits their needs. This attention to detail ensures that your dog is not just exercising but thriving.

Exercise plays a preventative role, warding off behavioral issues that often stem from boredom or excess energy. It helps keep your dog’s weight in check, promotes heart health, and strengthens their muscles and joints. But it also offers mental benefits, providing mental stimulation and helping to alleviate anxiety and improve behavior.

Being mindful of your dog’s exercise routine can significantly elevate their quality of life, making them happier, healthier, and more balanced. As a pet parent, seeing the joy and exuberance in your pet during playtime, their contentment after a good day of activities is a reward in itself.

Remember, a healthy lifestyle for your dog goes beyond exercise. It’s also about the right nutrition and holistic care, which can include the use of CBD products like the ones offered here at ElleVet. For senior dogs or those dealing with joint discomfort, CBD and CBDA can support their joints and soothe any discomfort so they can get back out there. We invite you to explore our range of pet health products that can complement your dog’s active lifestyle. 

Each of our products is created with your pet’s wellbeing in mind, to support them in living their best life. Together, we can ensure that every day is a good dog day!

Sources:

Variation in Activity Levels Amongst Dogs of Different Breeds: Results of a Large Online Survey of Dog Owners From the UK | PMC

Walking the Dog: Yes, It Counts As Exercise | Harvard Health

Canine Hyperactivity, Impulsivity, and Inattention Share Similar Demographic Risk Factors and Behavioural Comorbidities With Human ADHD | PMC

Exercise: 7 Benefits of Regular Physical Activity | Mayo Clinic

How Can I Prevent Heatstroke in my Pet? | AAHA

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