It’s an undisputed fact that dogs, like humans, need daily exercise and mental stimulation to be happy, healthy, and well adjusted. As any good vet will tell you, inactive, overweight dogs are at a higher risk for diabetes, arthritis, hip dysplasia, respiratory problems, and heart disease. Additionally, under-exercised dogs can develop destructive and annoying behavioral problems. But before you fret that your pom-pom should take up long-distance running, it’s a good idea to take a step back and consider the needs of your dog in particular.
Just because your dog can go the distance, doesn’t mean he always needs to. Going for a five-mile hike every day is not necessarily a requirement for a healthy dog. In fact, overexertion can be detrimental to your dog’s joints. Although frequent activity is rarely a bad thing, you may be surprised to learn that a nice walk around the neighborhood is usually enough to satisfy the majority of breeds.
Exercise needs are based on four main criteria: a dog’s size, age, breed, and general wellbeing. Puppies, for example, have crazy bouts of energy followed by periods of adorable naps. Several short walks and play sessions per day are ideal for these squishy, growing bodies.
Elderly dogs can also tire easily. It’s important to be mindful of your senior dog. If her body is aging, she may not be up for the same amount of exercise that she used to. And that’s perfectly okay. A senior pet can take a leisurely stroll around the block and be totally content to lounge around the house with you all night. In fact, it’s one of the best reasons to adopt seniors!
Babies and seniors aside, most dogs require somewhere between half an hour to two hours of exercise per day. Herding and working dogs like Collies and Retrievers are at the high end of the scale, where short-nosed breeds like Pugs and Bulldogs fall at the lower end.
Sound like a lot? Don’t worry. Playing fetch, walking up and down stairs, and practicing tricks all count. Anything that gets your dog moving is fair game. If you live in a very hot or cold climate, a dog treadmill (yeah, we said dog treadmill) can also help supplement your walks while giving your energetic buddy a chance to burn off steam.
At the end of the day, all of our canine companions are different. Be sure to pay attention and "listen" to your pup as you establish a daily exercise routine.